Home Diocesan News Why we send our kids to Catholic school
Why we send our kids to Catholic school Print E-mail
Written by Louise McNulty, Special to the Exponent   
Friday, 12 January 2018 15:00

They live in different counties, belong to different parishes and their children range in age from third- to twelfth-graders. Yet Diane and Jeff Harwood, Melissa and Dan Rowland, and Jeena and Michael Anness have one big thing in common. They have chosen to send their children to Catholic schools and are more than happy to tell you why.

As a matter of fact, Diane Harwood, who lives in Canton with Jeff and their four children, said recently, “It’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made as parents.”

Currently the couple has three boys – Samuel, Christian and Jack – at St. Thomas Aquinas High School and a daughter Olivia in the seventh grade at their parish school, St. Paul in North Canton.

Sending their offspring to Catholic elementary school was a fairly easy choice. Diane describes St. Paul’s as “a well-oiled machine and a great environment.” Deciding on a high school was harder.

Diane confesses that she and Jeff “were worried if we could afford to send our boys there,” since their sons – currently 17-year-old seniors – are triplets.

So while the couple conferred about finances, they had the boys “shadow” students at various high schools and “they decided they wanted to attend St. Thomas,” Diane said.

Their reasons were sound, she added. “They mentioned not liking the chatter in public school classrooms; they appreciated the disciplined environment and expectation of order and manners in parochial classes, and one,” Diane said, “was disappointed to learn [when he asked] that he wouldn’t be able to take a religion class in public school.”

St. Thomas also offered good sports programs – the boys play football, soccer and tennis – but their mom said they are serious about education, one of them carrying greater than a 4.0 grade point average.

And with the boys’ great experience of what Diane and Jeff call “a Christian family community with a strong Catholic identity,” it seems Olivia is likely to follow her brothers’ footsteps in another year and a half.

Like the Harwoods, Dan and Melissa Rowland, members of St. Rose Parish in Girard, have also chosen Catholic education for their children all the way through high school.

Their youngest, Luke, is a fifth-grader at their parish school. Their daughter Colleen is a freshman and son Johnny a sophomore at Ursuline High School, Youngstown.

Dan called sending their children to Catholic schools “a commitment and a sacrifice – but it is important to our family values. Both Melissa and I grew up in the Catholic school environment and we wanted the same for our kids.”

“When looking at [the children’s education] it was important that the schools we chose would be faith-based, provide a family environment and have excellent academics,” he said. All of this is borne out in the schools their children attend, Dan added, citing the fact that the older children now take Honors and Advanced Placement courses, which will give them a head start on college.

But the Rowlands don’t expect the schools to do their jobs as parents. “For us,” he said, “it’s not just about our children attending Catholic church and school, it’s also about participating.”

For the Rowland children, that includes the older two being lectors at St. Rose and at Ursuline and being on the liturgy committee at school. Luke is an altar server at their parish, and setting the example as well as paying the tuitions, Dan and Melissa are Eucharistic ministers.

Jeena and Michael Anness are members of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Basilica/St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Youngstown, but it no longer has a school, so they send their daughters, third-grader Norah and seventh-grader Sophia, to St. Rose School in Girard.

Asked about their choice to send their children to Catholic school, Jeena said, “My husband and I wanted a strong faith-based community to educate our children. On our first visit to St. Rose, it was apparent that that was what we would get. Not only would the girls have a solid education, but they would be involved in daily religion classes, prayer, preparation and receiving sacraments, and feel the comfort of being a part of a ‘family’ outside of their home. Touring the school, initially, we felt a sense of respect from the principal, the teachers, and the students.”
Since Catholic education can take a chunk out of the family budget, parents sometimes wonder if the sacrifice is worthwhile. Jeena’s response to that question was a resounding “Yes.”

“Our daughters demonstrate to us a sense of independence, understanding, and unbiased attitudes towards their peers and other family members,” she said. “Their relationships and ability to forgive, support, and grow with their friends is truly remarkable.”

She added that Catholic education is also “absolutely” beneficial in today’s society. “The religion classes my girls attend provide them with a strong foundation for growing into positive role models for others. It allows them to be confident with their decisions … as they are gaining the insight into how to deal with difficult choices and issues. So many [young people] these days listen to others’ opinions without thinking deeper.”


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