There are certain moments of transition in our lives that signal growth and development. The very first day of school can be as traumatic for the parent as it is for the new little scholar; tears were shed by both. But it is a moment that calls for the parent to surrender control over their little one. Eighth-grade graduations meant a decision must be made as to which high school one would attend. Of course, the ultimate decision is made by the parents but not after excessive lobbying on behalf of the personal choice by the potential high schooler.

Certainly, high school is one of those important moments. Although the freshman is at the bottom of the proverbial high school totem pole, it commences a process that will lead to a remarkable development in just four short years (the physical and intellectual growth). For the most part, it will be an introduction into a responsibility for the high school community. The student will be encouraged to contribute to school “spirit,” to support and participate in the various school events. During the four years, there is usually a focus on an academic area which will be either a career commitment or a personal interest for the rest of one’s life. The high school years are usually the first introduction to a political process where elections to school offices are accompanied by campaigns which present issues for consideration. Each year presents unique challenges to expand intellectual growth and social maturity. Can there be any doubt as to the importance of the high school years?

The choice of a Catholic high school may present a difficulty for some families because of the cost and at times the burden of transportation. Recently a member of our Archdiocesan Pastoral Council emphasized to me the importance of a Catholic high school education. He told me many will complain about the cost. But he offered a significant argument. It is the best investment one can make for the future success of one’s child. From a business prospective, no one would hesitate to invest their money in a high-yielding IRA. They know that their return will be worth the money they spend even though that return will not be realized for a number of years. A Catholic high school education will assist the student in developing not only a strong academic appreciation but more so, it will contribute to the formation of the student in his or her responsibility to invest their time in the social well-being of their community. This responsibility is grounded in the faith life of the student and reflected in the person of Jesus Christ.

In the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we are privileged to have 16 Catholic high schools. Some of these schools are governed by religious orders (Jesuits, Dominicans, Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida, Pallotine Fathers, School Sisters of St. Francis, Capuchins and Sisters of the Divine Savior — Salvatorians) as well as archdiocesan lay Catholic boards. All are involved with providing quality education in an environment that is mindful of their religious basis, ensuring the dignity of the human being. It has not been an easy task given the demands of spiraling costs and shifting demographics. But even in this era of challenges the archdiocesan high schools have not only maintained their populations but, in some instances, have increased their numbers.

The archdiocese applauds the great work of our school administrations, faculty and staff for the efforts in creating these special communities and the sacrifices made by the parents who understand that their investment will bring dividends for their children, not only in this world but the world to come, establishing a pathway for them to life eternal.

In my personal life, it was 52 years ago that I had the honor of being a member of a wonderful Catholic high school, which provided a sense of direction and interaction with talented students, some of whom would be my lifelong friends. Throughout my life, I viewed them successfully navigating our secular society. I attribute many of my academic interests and sense of leadership to those years that challenged my abilities. Later, as a priest (1975-79), I was assigned the position of dean of students and returned to the high school environment. One thing that did not change in those intervening years was the emphasis on living the faith as essential to a fully developed life. The sacraments, recollections, retreats and prayer life were a given.

There was a confidence in a God who accompanied you throughout the journey of your life. Although every faith life is primarily supported by the family, just imagine how important it is for that faith life to be reinforced by a school community that values faith. Many of us will talk about the importance of faith that was modeled by our parents and grandparents. Faith was the glue that held us together through the tough times in our lives. Why would anyone deny their child the formula for successfully integrating faith into life’s vision? This is what a Catholic high school provides and, like my Archdiocesan Pastoral Council friend offered, it is a great investment.

Our young people need an educational environment where they don’t have to apologize for their faith. A place where they can exercise the faith they profess and individuals who will willingly assist them in growing in their relationship with God. This is the difference and it’s a difference that you’ll utilize throughout your life.

Join with me on Saturday, Oct. 19, at Mount Mary University. I’ll don my red Converse All-Star gym shoes and we’ll proudly walk in support of Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. We will share stories reflecting our great affection for the years of academic and spiritual formation that we experienced in Catholic education and we’ll pledge to do our best to keep the Catholic school tradition available and affordable for all our Catholic families. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!


Learn more about Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: https://www.archmil.org/Education/schools-admin.htm