A Catholic Education for Every Catholic Kid: Education at Non-Catholic Secondary Schools

This is the sixth in a series of columns on the importance of giving all Catholic kids a Catholic education (Part one, Part two, Part three, Part four, Part five.)  When our children were toddlers, many of us parents put nightlights in their rooms.  This was an age-appropriate way for us to push back the darkness and all the insecurities of a looming bedtime.  Now, as our children enter high school and prepare to leave our homes, we can similarly push back shadowy uncertainties of the oncoming adult life by enlightening their minds and souls to the One who is the Light of the World, Jesus, and his Church.

As maturing teens, our children still need to receive heart, hand, and head knowledge about the Catholic faith, but during the high school years, head knowledge is of special importance.  In order for the Light to illuminate their adult lives as brightly as possible, they need to know the truths revealed to us by Jesus, have at least a rudimentary knowledge of Catholic history, and be familiar with the lives of Saints and the Catholic people and events that have shaped and continue to shape our world today. 

Here are some areas to focus on in bringing the Light of the World to our teens in non-Catholic high schools.

First, teachers and curricula.  Stay on top of what is being taught in health, history, and science.  In Health Class, our children will probably be exposed to moral relativism.  This means that we will need to present Catholic teaching at home about health and medical issues like pre-marital sex and chastity, homosexuality, and birth control.  In today's secular history classes, it is popular to elevate native cultures and native religious beliefs, to dismiss or demonize Catholic contributions to Western civilization, and to minimize the Christian faith of many of our nation's forefathers.  We will need to introduce our children to Catholic and Christian historical figures from sources other than their secular history books.  Parent-assigned summer reading books are a great way to do this.  In science class, they will probably never hear about God, the One who created every little detail that scientists study.  This gives us the privilege and responsibility of discussing at home bioethical issues and humankind's use of scientific technology from a positive, Catholic point-of-view. 

Second, parish programs. We will need to take full advantage of parish Confirmation programs and diocesan-wide youth and family ministries.  Teenagers are aching to change the world, so give them that chance by taking the diocesan bus to the annual Pro-Life Walk in Washington D.C., serving with them at a local soup kitchen, and taking them on retreats and mission trips.

 Third, home life.  I believe family dinnertime remains both our defensive and offensive frontline when it comes to staying connected as a family and keeping our kids Catholic.  We, and our children, may need to pass up some good, evening activities in order to keep family dinnertime from morphing into "Mom's Take-Out Deli" or McDonalds every night.  In making these hard choices, don't forget that "discipline is remembering what you really want."  Reading books by Christian authors or books of the Bible and discussing them with our teens has been a favorite faith-building activity for our family during the summer months. 

In addition to what I've suggested, a good friend with children in the public high school advises Catholic parents to encourage their teens to apply basic Christian behavior to school situations both in and out of the classroom and to interject Catholic beliefs and teachings into their children's school curricula and take-home projects whenever possible.  If you have questions about the Catholic perspective on a topic, talk with a knowledgeable priest, a person in a religious order, or consult a good Catholic website.

Having promised to be the "first and the best teachers in the ways of the faith" when we had our children baptized, we must remain committed to illuminating their lives with the light of Christ as they go through high school and step onto the path leading toward mature, Catholic adulthood.  In the next column, we talk about giving all Catholic kids a Catholic education.

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  • Guest

    Thanks for another great perspective. While I currently teach in a Catholic school, I went to a public school all my life and valued good, hardworking teachers who knew their subject and had a great care and concern for the student regardless of their religious tradition. Now as a teacher, I know that if what I teach in Theology class is not spoken about and lived out in the home, I become know more than a 'nice guy' or 'good teacher.' The impact of a praying, faithful and communicating family is indispensable in the faith formation of our children. Certainly the seeds of faith I sow are important but faith is often more 'caught' than 'taught' and this happens primarily in the home. For families where Catholic school is not an option what goes on in the home is one hundred times more important in my humble opinion. As a side note, the word home appears 30 times in the Gospels and the word House appears 99 times! So much of Jesus' healing, teaching, forgiving and sharing meals take place in the Home. If it's important for Jesus to be present in the home how can we make Him present in our own homes is a good question. Peace, Allan


  • Guest

    Our parish is wonderful in many ways, but does not offer any formal religious education program to high school students.  There is a youth group, but it meets only once per month and attracts a relatively small group, most of whom are attending Catholic high schools.  Our sons attend an independent Catholic high school affiliated with Opus Dei, which also sponsors weekly high school "seminars" at its centers in the DC area.  These seminars are open to all students, not just those attending Opus Dei schools or from Opus Dei-connected families.  My son invited a friend who attends a secular private high school to sign up for the seminars, and it was a wonderful opportunity for his friend to keep up with his Catholic formation while attending an aggressively secular school.  I would encourage anyone who lives near a center of Opus Dei to contact them about high school programs.  Not all centers offer such programs, but those that do not might consider adding them if there seems to be enough demand.  

  • Guest

    Thank you for these suggestions. They are very good.


  • Guest

    Great artilce.  Still better to not put them in public school if you can though.

  • Guest

    Thank you for supporting those of us who have our students in public schools.  Sometimes Catholic school is not an option and it is a blessing to read these articles and know that there is support for us out there.  These articles are both informative and supportive.