The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Catholic schools build community over a lifetime

Published: November 11, 2016   
Vernell Bowen

Several weeks ago I attended my husband’s 50th high school reunion from Hot Springs High School. In connection with the high school reunion, the students who had graduated from St. John in Hot Springs gathered together for their own reunion. Of the 14 in attendance, one journeyed from as far away as New Zealand.

As I listened to each one share their memories of attending St. John, a common theme resonated. They all spoke about the closeness of the families in the school, the community building and the concept of the “Little Red School House” where everyone knew each other. They all stated that they came back to Hot Springs not so much for the high school reunion but for their elementary reunion.

The opportunity to listen to this group as an outsider and one who strongly believes in Catholic education provided affirmation as to what Catholic schools provide in building community. Catholic schools provide a common vision and sense of belonging. This vision helps to develop a society in which similar opportunities are available to all and in which the diversity of people’s backgrounds and circumstances is valued.

Catholic schools help create strong networks, based on principles of trust and respect for local diversity and nurture a sense of belonging and confidence in local people. Eventually, these principles learned and lived in Catholic schools help tackle the fractures in society.

When Catholic schools create a community school climate that provides a warm and intimate atmosphere of family life, then it helps promote a willingness to be collaborative and to strengthen solidarity that carries into adult life.

Close cooperation with the family is especially important. I heard many of the St. John graduates share that the parents were strong supporters of the school. They grew up with parents who made sure that their children behaved and respected authority. If they got in trouble at school, they were in trouble at home. Their parents were not quick to defend their child’s behavior.

It is important in Catholic schools that the educators, administrators, parents and clergy guide schools to make choices that promote overcoming individualistic self-promotion, solidarity instead of competition, assisting the weak instead of marginalization and responsible participation instead of indifference. This is what builds community that will last a lifetime.

Because our Catholic schools are a mission of the Church there is already solidarity for teaching the faith and our spirituality. St. Paul states that our spirit and the Spirit of God “bear united witness that we are indeed children of God.” We cannot simply journey alone in our faith. Through the Catholic faith we are able to find our true selves, know forgiveness and be nurtured in compassion for others.

We all belong to a greater community than just on this earth, more importantly to a heavenly community with God, our Father and the saints who have gone before us.

Please read our Comments Policy before posting.

Article comments powered by Disqus