I went to the first grade at St. Ambrose, where I immediately fell in love with my teacher, who was a Benedictine sister. The sisters who taught me there set the course for my life.
Part of our curriculum was daily Mass, and we were taught to know, love and serve God, to be concerned about others, to support the foreign missions, to tell the truth and to respect and love our parents. I received a solid Catholic education in Grades 1-8, and those early days resulted in some lifelong friendships.
My master’s degree is from Notre Dame, so Catholic schools bookended my education. I was trained to teach, and I taught at Catholic schools and served as a principal. Those were great days because I found myself surrounded by bright students, dedicated teachers and parents interested in their children’s education.
Working in Catholic schools – St. Pius X and Christ the King in Indianapolis, Transfiguration in Florissant Missouri and St. Columba in Columbus – made me aware of the sacrifices made by parents and teachers who are committed to Catholic education. As principal at Christ the King, I was always amazed when I went to the school on a Sunday afternoon and found most of the faculty preparing their lessons for the coming week. Teachers of all denominations would groom the children for proclaiming the readings at school Masses, choose the hymns and attend liturgies with fervent devotion.
There was never a time I called on a parent to assist with playground duty, field trips or lunch monitoring that I did not receive a wholehearted response. It is with great fondness that I look back to those people and those years.
The Catholic school system in the United States was founded in 1783 at St. Mary’s in Philadelphia and grew to include thousands of primary and secondary schools and universities across the nation.
Indy’s Southside is no exception to the greatness of the influence of Catholic education. The schools in the archdiocese’s South Deanery – Holy Name, Our Lady of the Greenwood, SS. Francis & Clare, Central Catholic, St. Mark, St. Roch, Nativity, Roncalli, St. Barnabas and St. Jude – educate thousands of young people while preparing them in faith for lives of service. Add to that the tens of thousands alumni who have gone on to live lives of service in our community, and the impact of what goes on in the classroom is staggering.
The theme for the annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” As I look back on my Catholic education and my years working in Catholic schools, I can attest to experiencing strong, healthy communities that focused on those three important elements. I am grateful to my teachers who played such a significant role in my life and who, because of their dedication to Catholic education, passed on to me that same love and devotion.