This blog post originally appeared on the blog for West Virginia Voices for Choices.
The Roman Catholic Church has been operating non-government schools in the United States for more than two centuries. Our schools were founded to ensure the continuation of our faith, promotion of the common good in our society, and to provide disadvantaged families a leg-up through an excellent education. Those three goals continue to inspire Catholic schooling today and are what drive Catholic Education Partners’ mission.
Our organization is (obviously) Catholic, meaning we believe in and promote the truths of our faith. That does not close us or Catholic schools off to those who do not fully share our beliefs. In fact, according to the National Catholic Educational Association, 15% of Catholic school teachers and 20% of students are not Catholic. Jesus commanded his followers to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19), and Catholic schools have served as the frontlines of our evangelization efforts in America.
That evangelization comes in part through a confident teaching of the faith to students, but the more noticeable witness of our schools is how they serve the common good of all society. For instance, in Milwaukee, WI, 40% of participants in the city’s long-standing voucher program attend a Catholic school. This program has positively impacted generations of students, improving lives by reducing crime and other harmful behaviors. These types of outcomes are the result of Catholic schooling’s long track-record in raising up disadvantaged communities.
New York City in the mid-19th Century was not overly hospitable to the massive influx of poor, Catholic immigrants from Ireland. But under the leadership of Archbishop John Hughes, schools were constructed and funded to provide education to these outcasts of society. The effort was so successful that the Irish became leaders of the city in a generation and their ignominious beginnings are nearly forgotten.
The radical success of Catholic schools to help disadvantaged communities, while serving the common good and spreading the faith, are exactly what excite our group about our work. It is also what should encourage all supporters of parental choice in education that we will succeed in our mission and that the results of our work will benefit generations to come in West Virginia and throughout the nation.