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September Article for The RI Catholic

Sr. Patricia McCarthy, CND

The weather in new England is still summer but the season is all about back to school – the stores, the ads in newspapers, the number of school buses, the long lines of cars dropping off children at school, the sports fields filled with young athletes. It’s all about school. Even the nightly world news reports on UNICEF-sponsored schools in refugee camps of Syria, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Children work all day picking potatoes and then go to school at night. A year ago these children were living in middle class neighborhoods with parents who were professionals. They haven’t yet lost their health or their enthusiasm for life, but it will happen after time. New York City and many other large cities have schools filled with children who will be the first in their families to attend high school and to go to college. Education is still the mark of making it in a new country. Teachers, of both public school and Catholic school, are purchasing all kinds of supplies for their students, preparing their classrooms and looking forward to a new start. With all the technology and online education available today, there is no substitute for a good teacher to provide that spark of initiative for new ideas, the love of learning that goes far beyond the ability to read and write and know information. A 94 year old man told the story of having to drop out of high school at fourteen years old in order to help his widowed mother with the cost of raising five children alone. He hustled around doing odd jobs until he was old enough to work in a factory. He still cried when he told about having to leave school. He loved learning, but he did high school at night and then read a book a week for the rest of his life. He had some excellent teachers in the years he was able to attend school and caught the spark of learning. It never left him. These are particularly difficult years for Catholic schools because of the cost of tuition. The middle class, who are the bulwark of the system, are struggling with the ever rising costs of living. For those who are able and for those who make life style decisions to allow them the financial resources for Catholic education, the sacrifices are well worth it. Generous donors help with scholarships and schools give a great deal of financial aid. A recent conversation between a 3 year old girl and her Mommy after the second day of Pre-K 3 reveals one of the many benefits of Catholic schools. Mother: “What do you like to do with your friends at school?” Child: “… name of the Father, of the Son, and Holy Spirit AMEN!!” (as she makes the sign of the cross) Mother: “Oh you pray together?” Child: “Yes, I like to pray with my friends like at church.” Theologians talk about Church, community and God. A 3 year old gets it without a sermon.

Article originally published in The Rhode Island Catholic.



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