Monday January 30, 2017

How Catholic Education Has Enriched My Life

As we celebrate National Catholic Schools Week, there are many thoughts that come to mind as an individual, parent, and employee of the Center for Catholic Education.  I grew up here in Dayton, Ohio and attended Ascension School.  One beautiful memory I have from elementary school is the annual May Crowning.  This Catholic tradition not only paid homage to Mary, our Blessed Mother, but it united all grades together in procession, prayer, and song.  It was the one time of year that I got to wear my Sunday shoes to school, and that also added to the feeling of respect and honor for this special occasion.  From the youngest student through the eighth grade, one-by-one, we left our classrooms and processed in line singing beautiful songs of thanks and praise to Mary.  We assembled outside around the statue of Mary, offered prayers, and watched the crowning.  How wonderful to look around at the whole student body and know that we were united in our faith, one steeped in beautiful traditions.

Years later, as a parent of two children, my husband and I made the decision to send our children to Catholic elementary school and high school.  It was not easy for us to afford, but it was worth doing without some extra things in order for our children to have a Catholic education. It was important for us to see our children not only learn curriculum but also develop a faith life with their peers.  When our children began preparation to receive the sacraments, their school brought the parents together which reminded us how wonderful it was to be part of our children’s Catholic faith journey within the context of our parish.  Over the years we had many opportunities to talk with our children about what they learned in school, their various projects, and homework.  We also had occasions to discuss respect for others, moral issues, service opportunities, and the importance of faith and prayer.  I am thankful that our children received an excellent education and faith formation in Catholic schools.

Now in my 17th year of working at the University of Dayton Center for Catholic Education, I have an even deeper appreciation for Catholic education.  The Center collaborates with our local Archdiocese of Cincinnati as well as other dioceses to provide resources, programs, and professional development to support Catholic educators and help them meet the needs of their students. We have facilitated training sessions on curriculum mapping, professional learning communities, graded course of study workshops, and literacy support for struggling readers, just to name a few.   Our two core programs are Lalanne and ECHO (Empowering Children with Hope and Opportunity) and they provide on-going direct support to Catholic schools.   Lalanne is a post-graduate teacher service program for those who have a passion for teaching in Catholic schools. During their two years as a Lalanne teacher they receive professional development, live with other new teachers in a faith-sharing community, and earn their Master’s degree. They witness God’s love and infuse fresh ideas, energy and commitment into the schools where they serve. ECHO is a highly effective program that addresses the non-academic issues that often get in the way of students achieving academic success.  ECHO provides highly-skilled licensed clinical counselors and social workers in schools so they can help students’ overcome social and emotional obstacles thereby developing successful skills for life. It is truly a blessing to witness the impact the Center is making on the lives of teachers, students, and families who value, lend their talent to, support, and enjoy the benefit of Catholic education.

May God continue to bless all those who serve, support, and attend Catholic schools.  This week please take time to count your blessings, thank a teacher or principal, and perhaps share your feelings of appreciation for Catholic education on our blog.  Happy National Catholic Schools Week!

By Barb Miller

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