Catholic education has been a part of my entire life. As a 3-year-old, I went to Montessori preschool at St. Camillus Academy in Corbin, Ky. Once homeschooling began, I not only had a religion class but countless discussions with my knowledgeable parents about my faith. I used to joke that any questions I had about the Church were answered in “homily” form by my dad. Every year that I can remember from the Kentucky-to-Minnesota-back-to-Kentucky days, I attended some form of faith formation or Bible study or first Communion class — basically always being provided with a Catholic learning environment.
After our move to Iowa, I attended All Saints Catholic School in Davenport where we not only had religion class, but religion was tied into almost everything else. Besides the uniforms, complete culture shock and being terrified of the other students (even though they were all welcoming), I found a familiar religious atmosphere that was comforting. And yet I rebelliously tried to ignore it in protest to the move. Every Wednesday we had a school Mass, each grade taking its turn with the parts.
However, I found it strange that in a place where everyone was so free to practice their faith, it seemed like no one really wanted to — maybe because it wasn’t “cool” to sing at Mass or everyone else felt the need to rebel. I’m not sure. I do know that after spending so much time in Williamsburg, Ky., where our parish had five middle school/high school-aged kids — including my brother and I — I was excited to find so many other boys and girls to share my faith with at All Saints, only to be slightly disappointed by their lack of enthusiasm. I don’t mean to be judgmental because after the move I was one of the “church-is-boring, I’m-not-going-to-participate, oh-my-gosh-my-parents-force-me-to-Mass” kids, too.
Two years later I moved on to Assumption High School. Bigger school, bigger classes, bigger people and bigger work load. But, I was also happy to discover a bigger emphasis on Catholicism. Religion classes, community service, NCYC, worship team, weekly and monthly Masses, all contributed to the rejuvenation of my faith. I started to take for granted the safe setting I was in: a place that I could ask any questions about religion, worship freely, pray every morning, and talk about my faith without fear of rejection. I don’t think I realized how truly special that was, all my years in nurturing Catholic environments, until I found myself here in Trieste, Italy.
There are no Catholic schools, no Sunday school or youth groups here, and no parents to have theological discussions with over dinner. Just me, Mass every Sunday, and a whole lot of time to think, which led me to this: in the fall I’ll be attending Loras College, an openly Catholic college in Dubuque. So this is my one year without Catholic School. We all get thrown out of the nest sometime; for me it just came a year sooner than expected and I landed in a not-so-typical spot.
But, as you know if you’ve read my previous blogs, this year has been indescribably amazing and life changing, eye opening and mind blowing. And in all honesty, without the education and support I received from my Catholic schools — on both the academic and spiritual level — I think I would be drowning here. OK, that’s slightly dramatic, but I do believe that my Catholic education has helped me to make good choices and has given me the strength to stand up for what I believe in.
So, if there are any students reading this, if you take anything away from my ramblings, take this: you may hate the uniforms, dread religion class and complain about Mass like everyone else, but you are learning so much more than just academics, things that will influence the rest of your life. I’m positive that if I hadn’t received the Catholic education I did, I wouldn’t be in Italy today. So, thank you Sister Mary from St. Camillus, thank you parents, thank you All Saints Catholic School, and thank you Assumption High School — you have my undying gratitude.
Happy Catholic Schools Week!
Your sister in Christ,