I’m proud to say I’m a product of 12 years of Catholic education. Thanks to my parents and their commitment to Catholic schools, my siblings and I attended Blessed Sacrament School and Pius X High School, both in Lincoln.
While I may have taken my Catholic education for granted at the time, looking back, I know it made a real difference in my life. Not only did I receive a quality education, but Catholic schools – along with guidance from my parents – also established a strong foundation on which to build my faith. There I learned about church teachings, prayers and saints, as well as values and morals based on the Gospel of Jesus and the importance of having a servant’s heart. Everything was centered on Christ and being Christ-like to others.
This week is National Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration of Catholic education in the U.S., and it’s a good time to reflect on the impact Catholic schools make on the lives of so many. Catholic school students at St. Albert in Council Bluffs, Iowa, the 117 Catholic schools in Nebraska and others across the country have been celebrating this week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and the community at large.
The following are comments from Catholic school alum about the impact Catholic education had on their lives.
Greg Zuerlein, placekicker for the St. Louis Rams
Attended St. Joseph School and Pius X High School, both in Lincoln
“My life has been greatly impacted by my Catholic education and by many of the great teachers that work in them. Looking back on my grade school days, I realize the great value that a Catholic education gave me. What I was being taught at home was reinforced and built upon at school, which is not the case in public schools where God is not talked about and sometimes even shunned. The foundation my Catholic schools gave me of faith, family, morals and treating all people with respect set a great foundation for the rest of my life from a young age. I don’t think it is a coincidence that my best friends are the friends I grew up with in grade school and high school. The Catholic school system in Lincoln set me up to grow with my peers in a Catholic setting, making it easy for all of us to share our beliefs and talk to one another.
“Another, and in my opinion the most important, part of why a Catholic education is so great is because of the ability to regularly receive the sacraments. In grade school our whole school would go to Mass every single day of the week! We also went to the sacrament of reconciliation once a month. I feel that being able to regularly receive the sacraments and receiving God’s grace is imperative to grow each individual’s relationship with God. Going to Catholic schools fulfilled all of this for me, and while I am by no means even close to perfect, I feel the Catholic school system set me down the right path.”
Patrick Slattery, superintendent of Catholic schools for Archdiocese of Omaha
Attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through his undergraduate degree at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass.
“I credit my Catholic education, along with the spiritual guidance provided by my parents, with allowing me to become the Catholic adult I am today. That is to say, my strong faith life, my commitment to church teachings, and my general desire to build a stronger relationship with Jesus Christ all stem from the foundation I received in Catholic schools.
“Catholic education strives to bring our students to a realization that possessing strong values and character, having compassion for the marginalized, knowing God, and understanding and living out church teaching are all superior goals than is scoring well on the ACT.”
Sarah Kroenke, junior high English Language Arts teacher at Westside Middle School in Omaha
Attended St. Wenceslaus School in Dodge
“My teachers at St. Wenceslaus Catholic School in Dodge were the best. They taught us how to sing, how to be creative artistically, and gave us a strong foundation academically by making us write, read and compute! My favorite spiritual activities mostly happened in fourth grade when Sister Monica Kopecky taught us how to act out the stations, read ‘The Miracle of Marcelino’ to us aloud, and led prayer services with us where we would go into our ‘heart room.’”
Father Scott Hastings, priest of the Archdiocese of Omaha in graduate studies in Rome
Attended St. Wenceslaus and Creighton Prep schools in Omaha; Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, N.C.; University of Dallas; St. Louis University and Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, both in St. Louis; Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. Taught at Norfolk Catholic Schools and St. Leonard School in Madison
“I’ve been in school for 23 ½ years. I’ve been in Catholic schools for all but three of those. That’s almost two-thirds of my life sitting in a desk. Most of my closest friends come from those times and so many rewarding experiences as a priest come from the classroom or from school life. I did not expect to be studying again after ordination, but being in 23rd grade is still lively and interesting. What I’m aware of, having taught and having been a pastor, is that there is a great deal of selflessness in our teachers and administrators. They really are interested not just in imparting information, but forming the whole person sitting in front of them. What separates Catholic schools from other schools is that they can use Our Lord as their model. When that works well, it gives the student a tremendous gift.”
Jeremy Petry, dealer service manager for Exeter Finance Corp.
Attended St. Albert Catholic Schools in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He is the head baseball coach and 5th grade girls basketball coach at St. Albert, and his three children attend St. Albert.
“I feel the Catholic education I received from St. Albert helped me pave the path to where I am today by providing me the support of not only my classmates and the administration but my faith to help me make the right decisions.
“One of the many things I like about St. Albert is the family atmosphere throughout the school. I also like the cradle-to-college philosophy at St. Albert with the daycare and the high school all under one roof.
“We moved from West Omaha in 2009 to Council Bluffs and there was only choice for us for our children for school and that was St. Albert. We like the faith-based education our children received at St. Albert with the religion classes and Mass every week.”
Gabi Feldner, senior at Kearney Catholic High School, Kearney
“The teachers at Kearney Catholic have been with me every step of the way, and I love how every one of them knows me by name. I was definitely able to make some great friends and lasting memories. But Kearney Catholic was able to offer me even more in the ways of my faith. Every student has religion classes at least three times a week, and during the junior and senior years are required to do service projects outside of school. We also have the opportunity to attend an additional weekly Mass on Thursdays, and reconciliation twice during the year. I have learned so much from my experiences and classes at Kearney Catholic, and I know it has prepared me for the next step in my life. I am so glad to have been able to call it my home away from home for the last six years.”
Wallace Kruce, operations general manager at Chicago Union Station for US Equities Asset Management
Attended St. Wenceslaus School and Bishop Neumann High School, both in Wahoo, and DePaul University in Chicago
“My Catholic education, through the gift of faith, prepared me to make sacrifices for those I love. This confidence to look beyond short-term discomforts has allowed me to achieve important goals in life, like an education, establishing a fulfilling a career and most important starting a family.
“To pass this opportunity on to our children, my wife and I send ours kids to our parish school.”