A few years ago, my husband and I made the decision to take our son out of public school to enroll him in Catholic school. We also decided I would quit my teaching job to teach at St. Joseph in Fayetteville, the school our son would be attending.
What would cause us to take our boy out of the only school he had ever known, our hometown school where our older children had attended, where I had attended from first through 12th grades? The closest Catholic school was an hour away.
The short answer is that we made this difficult, life-altering decision simply because we are Catholic, and we had always wanted to give our kids a Catholic education. So when the opportunity presented itself, despite the sacrifices it would take, we went for it.
Here’s why enrolling our son in Catholic school was one of the best decisions we ever made.
He got to experience Catholic culture. Going to Catholic school was like entering a country where everyone speaks your language.
Our day was bathed in prayer. Having spent my career in secular education, I am deeply grateful that my son and I were able to experience school days ordered around and steeped in prayer.
Our Catholic faith was woven into the entire day. Through Catholic education, the knowledge that we are God’s beloved children and the teachings of our faith are woven into the day-to-day work in the classroom, into art, science, math and literature.
Frequent access to the sacraments and the life of the Church. Suddenly, we went from Mass on Sundays to Mass three times a week. We also had two in-school penance services during the school year, allowing students to witness the profound beauty of all their teachers and schoolmates gathered together for the same purpose: to unburden our souls before the Lord.
We made lifelong friends. From the day we set foot on campus, the other families reached out to welcome us into our new school community. While the transition from his old school wasn’t without difficulty, his new friends (and their moms) always made sure he was included in social activities. In time, he grew to love his new school and his new friends. And so did I.
Our son had two incredible years of Catholic schooling, but when it came time for him to transition to high school after the eighth grade, we had another tough decision to make. We would have loved for him to attend Ozark Catholic Academy, but after a great deal of prayer, we realized that four more years of commuting and family separation was not sustainable. I stayed on as a teacher at St. Joseph for one more year, but eventually the commute began to wear on our family, and I reluctantly resigned.
Now our son is back in our local public school. This was the best option for our family.
Still, as Catholic schools across the country face decreased enrollment and an uncertain future, I continue to pray for Catholic education in Arkansas and in America. Catholic schools are vital to the academic, social and religious well-being of countless children. My family knows firsthand the tremendous blessings offered through Catholic education, and it is an experience for which we will be forever grateful.
Laura Hanby Hudgens writes from Berryville.
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