By Aaron Stocksdale
With loving intention, God created human beings to be rational, social and moral creatures. With this awareness, Catholic schools have always educated the whole person. Filling the mind with knowledge and developing cognitive skills are recognized as important in every school system, but Catholic education feeds not only the brain but the soul.
Catholic education is a blessing. It provides me with knowledge and skills in the areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science, foreign language, social studies, healthy living, music, art and religion. My teachers challenge me to reach my full academic potential. They satisfy my hungry brain by feeding it with facts, figures, formulas, language, history, methodology and creativity — all the rational mind desires.
Knowledge is valued in every school, but in a Catholic school, knowledge is recognized as a gift of the Holy Spirit. The mere provision of knowledge is insufficient. As a student in Catholic schools, I know that knowledge is only valuable if I put it to use in a way that serves God and others. I have been taught that no matter how much knowledge I have, there will be many things I will never fully understand. This does not frighten me or make me feel insufficient, because my teachers also teach me to have faith.
Faith is taught and modeled by every teacher of every subject at DeSales High School. I can freely practice my faith in the classroom as we pray together. I participate in prayer services and Mass as part of our school day. Religion is a school subject I take every year.
Since the first grade, my Catholic education has been sacramental. I have had the opportunity to learn about all seven sacraments. I have celebrated the sacraments of Eucharist, reconciliation and confirmation as part of my Catholic school experience. My Catholic education program includes retreat experiences that help me to grow spiritually through faith as I grow physically and intellectually. Catholic education teaches me that faith is a virtue that helps me to lead a moral life.
Because I am a product of Catholic education, I know that having a well-developed brain is important, but it is not enough unless my ability to reason partners with my soul. My Catholic schooling has fed my soul just as much as my brain. I have learned the importance of relying on my conscience and prayer when making moral decisions. My teachers are Christ’s modern-day disciples. They coach me to understand and practice the teachings of Jesus.
Through instructing me about the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule and the parables about the Kingdom of God and encouraging me to ask what Jesus would do, my teachers have impressed upon me the importance of realizing that God made us to be social creatures. We need each other and we should care for each other.
Every human being is created by God with dignity; we are created in God’s image. In religion class, when studying Genesis in the Bible, we learned that when God created humankind, he made us stewards of all his creation. That means we are called to service.
Service learning is an integral part of Catholic education. We are taught that it is our baptismal calling to serve others, especially those in need. Recognizing the needs of others and helping to meet those needs was part of my confirmation preparation in eighth grade.
Service within my school community, the church, and our Louisville community is a curriculum requirement of my Catholic high school. Not only are students obligated to do service, we must also reflect on it to see the good of the actions we have performed. The number of service hours logged by Catholic high school students is amazing, and I have personally witnessed and performed many more hours for local charities that remain unrecorded.
Knowledge, faith and service are at the heart of Catholic education. All three are needed for the education of the whole person. I know that my Catholic school education is a blessing. It nourishes my mind and my soul. Not only does it daily challenge me to be the man God intends me to be, it also provides me with the tools needed to meet the challenge.
Aaron Stocksdale, 15, is a sophomore at DeSales High School and a member of St. Martha Church. His essay won first place in the Catholic Education Foundation’s Catholic Schools Week Essay Contest.