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 | By Father Chris Smith

Ask Your Priest: Catholic School Edition


What’s unique about what Catholic schools offer and emphasize that parents can’t find in non-Catholic alternatives?

When children go to a public school, it is a public service for the common good. For Catholics, education is a ministry that guides children to develop their God-given potential. Both are worthy endeavors, but Catholic education flows from the idea of the human person as the image and likeness of God destined for something greater than this world. That mind-set permeates everything we do. Catholic schools are not just good secular schools with a crucifix on the wall and Mass once a week — we live and breathe a culture of truth, goodness and beauty.

What suggestions/advice do you have for parents considering homeschooling/classical school for their children?

Parents are the primary educators of their children; Catholic parishes and schools are in a supporting role to them. There are numerous resources out there for homeschooling and classical models of education. Pastors who spend time with homeschoolers and are familiar with the various models can positively influence their parishioners’ decision-making process.

Why Are Non-Catholics Teaching in Catholic Schools?

We educate children, not because they’re Catholic, but because we’re Catholic. When non-Catholic children are present in our schools, it gives opportunities for dialogue, ecumenism and evangelization that others of the public sphere cannot provide. When non-Catholic teachers bring professional skills into our schools, as long as they are formed in an authentic Catholic vision of the human person and education, they can also be a part of that mission. It remains vital for all who work in our schools to understand who we are, why we do what we do and respect the values and traditions of our faith.

Why is tuition so expensive? If everyone tithed, would it be affordable?

If every baptized adult Catholic gave the biblical tithe of their income to the Church, I am convinced that every Catholic child in South Carolina could receive a Catholic education. But we have a long way to go in forming our people to that level of stewardship. As it is, tuition never covers the full cost to educate a child: fundraising, grant writing and direct subsidies from parishes and the diocese all provide a significant amount of revenue.

We must be able to attract competent faculty and staff with competitive compensation packages if we are to continue to excel in an increasingly diversified marketplace of education. We have to be bold enough to create new models of education and sell our people on its value, all of which requires hard work and creative financing. Catholic schools must consistently communicate that they are worth the sacrifice on the part of parents, parishes and institutions, and then deliver on that unique value.

If our schools are true communities of faith that connect, inspire and form people, they will flourish. When we fail to do those things, faithful to our identity and purpose, we falter and miss out on our mission: to get as many people to heaven as we can and change the world for God on the way there!

Father Christopher Smith, Ph.D., STD, KHS, is pastor of Prince of Peace Church and School in Taylors.