Why Catholic schools matter

Archbishop Paul S. Coakley

The Archdiocese of Oklahoma City recently completed a research study on our Catholic schools conducted by The Catholic University of America. The results of this comprehensive study will be unveiled in the coming months after we have had a chance to digest and prioritize the findings and recommendations. One thing is clear. In spite of the many challenges that our Catholic schools face, they are a sound investment. And, they are bearing good fruit. This issue of the Sooner Catholic provides an annual profile of our Catholic schools. We have a great story to tell and we ought not to shrink from telling it!

Catholic schools in Oklahoma and nationwide are doing quite well! Here are some interesting facts to consider. Based on the average public school per pupil cost of $12,054, Catholic schools provide $24 billion in savings each year to taxpayers. Graduation rates at Catholic schools are 99 percent, the highest among public, private and other religious schools. The same standard of excellence is evident in the fact that 85 percent of Catholic high school graduates attend four-year colleges, a rate greater than private, public and other religious schools.

These are impressive facts. But, they certainly don’t tell the whole story. Our Catholic schools offer academic excellence and a faith-filled education. By focusing on faith, knowledge and service, Catholic schools are forming well-rounded students who will be prepared to take their places in the life of the Church, in the community, in higher education and in the workforce.

Part of the uniqueness of the Catholic school experience is that Catholic schools do not compartmentalize faith, but strive to integrate the riches of our Catholic faith and values into every segment of the total curriculum, including sports, the arts and community service.

At the heart and center of the mission of Catholic school education is the person of Jesus Christ. While Catholic schools have traditionally educated students regardless of creed, the mission is inspired and sustained by our faith in Jesus Christ as lived out in Catholic Church.

Our mission is to educate the whole person and to provide at least the opportunity for every student to hear and respond to the Gospel. The mission of Catholic schools is not merely to pursue academic excellence, nor simply to provide a firm foundation for work or for higher education. These are important. The purpose of Catholic schools, however, is to awaken faith in students by proposing, teaching, celebrating and living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in all that we do. Other than the family, there is no more conducive setting for achieving such a goal. We will have failed in our mission if we are not intentional about forming disciples of Jesus Christ, who will be good stewards with servant hearts who pursue excellence in whatever vocation God calls them to embrace.

In the 1800s, Catholic schools were established in virtually every parish of the United States as a vital expression of the Church’s mission to evangelize, to teach and to form Catholic young people who would be prepared to take their place as productive members of society in the great American experiment in freedom and democracy.

Catholic schools have made priceless contributions to American society by educating principled young men and women who have taken their places in public service, the professions, health care, business and the trades, education and the arts, Church and family life.

Catholic schools today are part of this rich heritage and will leave a rich legacy for those who come after us only to the extent that we value its fruits as much as those who came before us.