This week we had a couple of families visit our school discerning whether or not to move here to join our school community. I can tell you this is not uncommon. I try not to be a salesman nor overly haughty about what we do here. That is no easy feat. But as I reflect on some of the idioms that continually come out of my mouth, I always wonder how true they are.
Common questions we field are: Why is this school thriving? What is the long term sustainability? Why do families choose us over other schools? Where do you think the school needs to improve? --- gosh, these are hard questions.
One bottom line denominator is authenticity. I like to think we say who we are, what do we do, and what we really want in our mission.
For some reason I keep saying we are not like what else is out there: we do not value technology; we are not big on programs and clubs; we like to keep it humanizing which means prioritize what we can do well with what we have; the best thing we can do is have good meaningful relationships and teach the truth about our human nature. I vividly recall when we went for all those programs and I remember how it is not worth doing something unless it can be done well. There is also such a frenetic pace to life now that I wonder if we need all those programs when we can't even do the first thing right anymore sometimes - focus on what is directly in front of us.
Catholic Schools' Week always presents an opportunity to be grateful for our mission and the people who make it up.
I wanted to share a couple of other thoughts - not mine originally but I do think they characterize how we should think here at Mount Royal. These come from an article entitled, "How to Save the Soul of Our Catholic Schools":
"The Catholic faith must be the heart and soul of the school, not an add on. A few accidental elements, however important they may be, are not enough to make a school Catholic. Catholicism should permeate everything the school does, not in an exterior and artificial way, but by naturally shaping the approach to education and formation. There are two general ways of conceiving this. First, the school should form a distinctively Catholic environment or culture. Second, the curriculum must flow from and lead to a Catholic worldview."
On the first point, Pope Benedict XVI made clear that “Catholic schools should therefore seek to foster that unity between faith, culture and life which is the fundamental goal of Christian education” (“Address to the Participants in the Convention of the Diocese of Rome,” June 11, 2007). Note, the goal of education is not employment or practical skills. It is to unite one’s faith and life, to provide integration that should last into adulthood. We could say that Catholic education should teach us how to be a Christian in the world, or to go even deeper, how to be a saint."
One current senior student who will not be named was lamenting how we do not have a senior lounge at our school but another diocesan school (my alma mater) has a senior lounge. I said that based on my own experience, such a lounge is useless. The majority of the students I knew did not love Jesus nor stay faithful to his Church, so what difference does a lounge make. I would say the vast majority of our high school students love Jesus and are faithful to his Church - how else can you explain how many went on the March for Life last week? We even had three alumni tag along. A guest chaperone commented how she thought everything went so well and all I could muster for a response was: "Well, we have good kids here."
We teach first things first. We teach virtue and vocation over college and career ready. We teach what it means to be human, and we teach that God made us for a purpose. I am thankful to each person who has, who does, and who will steward this mission for the Kingdom of God.
Most sincerely in Christ,