Once a year, our diocese celebrates Catholic Schools Week and our parish joins in with gusto. We reportedly have the largest school in the diocese. For homeschooling kids, it's an awkward moment since we are also a Catholic school in our parish but not recognized in the same way. It's a time to give thanks and recognition to the parish school but also a marketing campaign to draw Catholic families to a faith-centered education through the diocesan institutions (as opposed to public schooling). I don't have a significant problem with this. I understand. And am happy that we can work and worship alongside a community that professes the same spiritual goals. But the kids feel the isolation a little more during these events. In spite of our efforts to maintain an active and positive connection with our parish community they know they are different because of the choices their parents have made.
A few years ago, we took them to the parish school open house to show them what they were missing out on. Prior to that they had storybook visions of what "school" away from home would look like. We decided to let them see for themselves that this was no Dick and Jane panacea. The result (not surprisingly) was that their idealistic bubble was burst and they settled down with a new appreciation for their home-based education.
It has been said and written in my community that "the school is the heart of our parish". As a homeschooling mother who loves her parish home, I agree that this does seem to be the case from an activity, financial and population point of view. I do wonder though if that perspective ever strikes anyone else as being a bit topsy-turvy.
The parish church is and aught to be the heart of the school and entire faith community. This is where Christ comes to us through the Sacramental life and transforms us. The families of the school children keep the parish lively. They comprise a large chunk of our parish population. They help provide a great deal of the church revenue (over $1,000,000 of which went to subsidize the school last year). But the "source and summit" of our faith resides in the Presence of Christ in the parish church. Words are important. If our school fails, have we lost the "heart of our parish"? I hope not.
The Church teaches that each family is a Domestic Church or Ecclesia Domestica (1656 CCC) . A microcosm and symbol of Christ's larger Church. My home is also a Catholic school and the school is almost inseparable from our family identity. But the heart of our family is not our school; the heart of our family is Jesus Christ.
I exhaled a sigh of resignation as I began reading the Catholic Schools Week edition of our parish newsletter. We are friends with many of the students at the school and with their families. Our kids play sports for the school and have had a wonderful experience in the CYO program. We are on a parallel journey spiritually and academically but with different methods. Alas, newsletter highlights of the school are generally very shallow and boring, bypassing the real meat of what it means to be educated in faith. It's always this way because it's perceived that computers and field trips interest people and project "success" more than catechism class. My kids were glued to it while I yawned shamefully.
But on page ten I discovered a treasure. Father Richard Bona submitted an article entitled "Parents: Primary Teachers ." While recognizing the valuable contribution of the parish school, it searches beyond the identity of the particular school to foundational truths of Catholic education as a whole. Father writes:
"As we remember the Catholic educational programs and in particular our own parish school, let us remember that they have only a secondary role. The biggest and most lasting impact of faith is achieved only through a HOME LIFE."Please read it here and pass it on.
Regardless of where our kids go to school, the home, our Ecclesia Domestica, provides the foundation for the faith our little ones will carry with them through time and eternity.
Parents: Primary Teachers