I received word second-hand that Father Oriol, Priest of St. Patrick Parish, Elkhorn, delivered solemn news at Mass on Sunday, that the parish’s school would have to close its doors at the end of this year. I was told there were many tears shed and hearts heavy, as is mine.
I am a supporter of Catholic schools and private schools, in general. I have nothing against public schools, per say. I am a product of public schools. Yet it is important to give children and their parents options when it comes to their education. Also, the contribution of these schools to the community is often overlooked. Catholic schools alone save taxpayers across the nation approximately 21 billion dollars a year by educating would-be public school students.
I show my support by sending my own children to St. Andrew Parish School in Delavan. It was important to me that God, Who is creator of everything, not be a taboo subject in my children’s education. In fact, I wanted to make sure the beliefs we had at home were only reinforced by the people that surrounded them in their daily lives–even taught, as its own subject. This was crucial to me. But even after I decided that’s where I wanted my kids to go, it was a difficult sell at first to my husband, who is not Catholic. He is supportive in raising our children as Catholics but to ask him to consider paying what would ultimately become the monthly equivalent of a car payment to send four children there? When they could go somewhere else for no cost? It was a difficult task but I lobbied mercilessly and got my way.
Still it hasn’t been easy. Sometimes I feel people think those of us who send our kids to private schools are rolling out of cash-stuffed mattresses each morning. Some may be, but not this family–or many of the families I know doing the same in our community. No, we are struggling each day and making sacrifices along the way. We are putting in hours of volunteer time to save money and raise money for our kids’ schools, trying to keep tuition affordable and the doors open.
But sometimes it still isn’t enough–circumstances, economic lows, and demographic shifts can become the perfect storm leading to a school closing. Nationwide, 150 Catholic schools will close their doors this year and it has hit home for the people of St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn. For this, I grieve, along with the people of St. Patrick and their students.
These usually small, yet profound little communities within a community, are essential in creating a well-rounded generation. Please support your local private schools and its children, and please pray for St. Patrick Parish.
“The things that we love tell us what we are.”
-St. Thomas Aquinas, Patron Saint of Catholic Schools