Source: The Corydon Democrat

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The value of a Catholic education
My Opinion

by Stephanie Ferriell

January 21, 2014

The importance of hard work, of always doing one's best, of helping others and, most importantly, always trusting that God will be there no matter what, these are a few of the things my Catholic school education instilled in me.

As students, we prayed several times a day, took part in Mass and had religion class. Faith wasn't something we practiced on Sunday mornings; it was part of every single day.

St. Joseph Catholic School in Corydon has been providing a faith-based education for 50 years; my father-in-law, Joseph Ferriell, was a member of the first graduating class. When we had our children, my husband, Darin, and I knew they'd attend St. Joseph just as we both had. We agree that our St. Joseph experience was absolutely vital in shaping us into the adults we are now and in making our faith truly part of our daily lives.

Our daughter, Sylvia, is in the pre-kindergarten program at St. Joseph. I love that there's a section on her progress report for religion, including such items as "shows awareness of Jesus in one's world" and "participates in prayer time." Please don't misunderstand; the preschool program is very academic and she is also writing and learning all the letters and sounds as well as numbers. Preschool parents have the option of enrolling their children full time. Our oldest son, Hays, is a kindergarten student at St. Joe.

Choosing a private school education does mean some measure of financial sacrifice but not nearly so much as one might think. Thanks to recent measures adopted by the Indiana Legislature, many families qualify for vouchers or Choice scholarships. St. Joseph principal Julie Crone says, "Eighty percent of our families are receiving vouchers or scholarships." A family of four can make $76,507 and receive half off their child's tuition. Those at higher income levels often qualify for Choice scholarships, typically $1,000 or $500 a year, depending on income.

Crone said the two measures "have made a significant difference for families. The whole premise is that a certain amount of money is set aside for education for every child in Indiana."

Previously, if a child attended private school, the money remained in a pot in Indianapolis. "It just wasn't used," said Crone, explaining that the money was never directed to the public school district in which the child's family resided.

Legislators decided the money should follow the student and parents should be able to decide that those dollars be directed toward a private school education if that's what they choose. "They've made it affordable for almost all people," said Crone.

Parents who think they can't afford a private school education definitely need to educate themselves; many will be pleasantly surprised.

A faith-based education is the answer to what many bemoan is missing from today's public schools. Until the 1960s, prayer was common in public schools and morality and values were clearly taught. With the increasing diversity of our nation, however, how do you choose which religion to endorse? Clearly, you can't, and religion disappeared from public schools.

But, in a Catholic or other private church school, "faith is integrated," said Crone, who's taught in Catholic schools for 35 years. "We nurture not only the mind and academic side, but also the spiritual being. We can teach morality; that there is right and wrong and things you shouldn't do. We're able to deal with the child in a more holistic nature."

That's what we value about Catholic education and why we're so grateful our children will have the same experience we did. I don't know any parent who doesn't want their child to grow into a caring, considerate adult, and most want their child to love God and make faith a part of his life. A Catholic school education enhances what parents are working so hard to instill in their children.

In recognition of Catholic Schools Week, St. Joseph School will host a chili supper and open house Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Anyone interested in learning more about the school is encouraged to attend. There is no charge. Parents are also encouraged to call Crone at 738-4549 for more information about the school.

Editor's note: Stephanie Ferriell is president of the St. Joseph Catholic School PTO.