Monday, August 30, 2010

Catholic High Schools and the Parish, Part I: A Few Random Questions to Get the Discussion Going

This week, I will be examining some aspects of the relationship between a Catholic parish and the Catholic high schools where that parish's young people are enrolled.

First of all, is there a relationship?  As I begin my assignment this summer as Pastor of Transfiguration Parish in Oakdale, Minnesota, I am eager for a most active relationship with Hill-Murray School, Cretin-Derham Hall High School, Saint Agnes High School, and the other Catholic high schools attended by Transfiguration's youth. 

I am sure that these high schools are eager to have a positive relationship with our parish, and that they expect to foster an unambiguous Catholic vision, presented to us by the Church and, locally, by Archbishop Nienstedt, for a sound Catholic education and formation.

I do not intend to devote enormous resources to the Catholic education of our young parishioners through eighth grade, and then pay no attention to the religious results of their next stage of faith formation.

Here are some of the questions I will ask our local Catholic high schools:

1. What statistical evidence do you have that your graduates attend Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation more frequently than those young Catholics who attended non-Catholic high schools?

2. What statistical evidence do you have that your graduates observe the Catholic moral directives regarding sexual morality, temperance, and detachment from worldliness more faithfully than those who attend non-Catholic high schools?

3. Do your religion teachers and campus ministers have a proven track record of leading my young parishioners to a more knowledgeable, positive and committed identity as Catholics, including a mature obedience to the Pope, the Magisterium, and the countercultural teachings of the Church regarding materialism, marriage and family life.

4. Have your graduates developed habits of traditional Catholic spirituality, including devotion to the Blessed Mother and the Saints, to the Eucharist, to asceticism in their lifestyle choices.

5. How many of your graduates have entered the seminary or religious life in the past 20 years?

Ah, just a few random questions ... and tomorrow, we will consider why so few pastors ask such questions.


  1. Great post Father,

    If the statistical evidence is not significant, would there be any reason to promote the local Catholic school to your parishoners?

  2. One might also ask about the teachers themselves, and what sort of Catholic identity they are inspiring in their students.

    I taught Catholic HS (as a lukewarm Catholic, and very young) and wish someone would have challenged me to learn more about living my faith (faithfully & fully).

    Just a quick suggestion from a former Catholic HS teacher, now Catholic homeschooling teacher to 3 future priests!

  3. Father,

    These are tremendous questions that, as a parent of children in the Twin Cities, would also like to see answered. Can you post the answers on your blog at some future time?

  4. Thanks, "Anonymous." Yes, if the various schools answer these questions, I will post their responses. If the schools do not answer these questions, I will also post that.

  5. From my experience with Catholic High Schools it seems that they lack any coherency insofar as they teach what they want rather then appeal to any orthodox teachings.

    It would seem that the majority of students either don't care and fall into a sort of moral/religions entropy, become a pseudo-protestant catholic with an overwhelming temporary zeal but fall apart latter or become advocates for a sort of liberal-social utilitarian catholic that cares for only social justice for the here and now.

  6. Father,

    It doesn't appear that you are asking the most important questions in a Catholic education: Does the school---and the local parish for that matter--- do an effective job of teaching folks to "Love thy Lord with all thy heart, with all thy soul...? ...and thy shalt love thy neighbor as thyself...? It seems like all your other questions and statistical evidence is pale to these great commandments.