Catholic schools’ marketing departments spend thousands of dollars on slick, four-color brochures, fliers, websites and advertising encouraging parents to choose a Catholic education for their children.

Who would have thought the decision might boil down to a backpack and a stuck zipper?

That’s all it took for Donna and Brian Jensen about eight years ago when they were looking to enroll their 4-year-old son, Michael, better known as “Phin,” in a Catholic school.

As you’ll read on Page 4, they toured several Catholic schools in their Waukesha County community, and knew immediately that Queen of Apostles School in Pewaukee was the place for them when Donna saw a young boy struggling with his backpack.

The zipper was stuck and, try as he might, he could not get it to budge. Donna saw the frustrated youngster lower his head, put his hand to his forehead and make the Sign of the Cross.

He then looked up and successfully zippered the backpack. So moved by the action, Donna decided on the spot that Queen of Apostles was the school for her children.

She explained that if the school was teaching its students to handle challenge and conflict through prayer, this was the message she wanted for her children, too.

Little did she know then how much prayer and faith in the face of challenge would support her family.
The Catholic Herald introduced readers to the Jensen family in April 2013 in a story titled, “Family prays for miracle for Phin.”

Just before he was to enter fifth grade, he was diagnosed with Grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) or brain cancer.

His school and parish community – as well as his grandmother’s Lutheran community of First Lutheran in Ogema, Wis. – rallied around the youngster and his family, praying for a cure.

In fact, the story the Catholic Herald ran about Phin detailed a “Community vs. Cancer Basketball Classic,” staged at the BMO Harris Bradley Center last February, pitting Queen of Apostles against nearby St. Joan of Arc in Nashotah to raise money for the Jensen family.

Phin, described by his mother as kind-hearted, easy-going and happy all the time, battled cancer for about 14 months, but sadly, on Oct. 4, lost his battle.

Earlier this year, as we were preparing our annual Catholic Herald Family salute to Catholic schools to coincide with the national celebration of Catholic Schools Week, we received a note from a parent at Queen of Apostles suggesting that Donna Jensen might make a good story supporting Catholic education.

Was she right!

I met Donna recently, and while she’s still deeply grieving the death of her son, she offered an amazing outlook on the role Catholic education played throughout her family’s ordeal.

Read her story and see why she and Brian view Catholic education for their children as an insurance policy for the future.

This month’s Catholic Herald Family includes a glimpse into some of the other success stories in Catholic education in our archdiocese.

For example, in rural Eden, as enrollment grows, Shepherd of the Hills Elementary School found itself outgrowing its facilities. See Page 8 to read more about this building project.

On Page 12, you’ll meet Divine Savior Holy Angels basketball standout, Arike Ogunbowale, who is wowing the sports world, but her parents credit the “fine young woman she is becoming” to DSHA.

Academics takes precedence in this family, according to her dad, Greg. “We’re going to yank all this basketball,” he said, if she doesn’t do well in school.

In the classroom, on the basketball court and at service sites, Arike is not only making a name for herself, but she is another example of a Catholic school student on the path to becoming a future leader.

Catholic Schools Week is a time to recognize the undeniable success of the Catholic school system. Nationally, there are more than 2 million students enrolled in 6,685 Catholic schools.

Closer to home, the archdiocesan schools office reports that for the second time in three years, enrollment in its schools has increased!

In southeastern Wisconsin, 94 elementary and 14 secondary Catholic schools educate more than 31,000 students.
For Catholics – even those not currently involved in Catholic schools – that’s something to celebrate.

The schools, which are serving as communities of faith, knowledge and service – in the words of the 2014 Catholic Schools Week logo – most certainly will have a positive impact on society as a whole.