Back to School —
Private or Catholic?
Is there a difference?

Father Shayne Duvall

Catholics and non-Catholic alike refer to Catholic schools as private schools. If one thinks they belong to a private school, then perhaps they also belong to a private community? This mindset often leads to someone thinking that since they pay for a product, they should be getting exactly what they have paid for.

I see Catholic education as an investment in our children, not as a product. I also see our Catholic schools, not as private, but as parochial. By definition parochial means a private school supported by a particular church or parish. As pastors, religious, faculty and staff and parishioners we are here not only to educate our students but to form them to be the disciples God has called them to be.

Most of our grade schools are affiliated with a parish church, and because of that affiliation the students, parents, and staff do not belong to a private, fancy club, but instead, they belong to a community of faith.

If I have learned anything this past year and a half, it is that the pandemic taught me and continues to teach me, that without community we are more likely to lose hope, we are more likely to feel isolated and alone. God did not create us to be alone. God created us to be in communion with one another.

As a pastor with a parochial school, I try to emphasize the importance of community. We must strive to be Christ-centered and community-focused. I regularly remind our parishioners, especially our school families, that we are better when you are here with us.

My parish is very blessed to have seen a significant increase in enrollment in our school and many new parishioners have joined our parish. Many of our parishioners have returned to Mass but I still notice some empty pews. For those of you reading this who consider yourself a “school family,” I hope you consider yourself a “church family” too.

It is in the church, and it is in the participation of the Eucharist where you will find Christ – where you will find good and genuine community. We cannot survive or flourish alone, but only when we go through life together. There are certain things you get when you join a private school, but there is so much more you get when you actively participate and embrace the life of a parochial Catholic school. Is there a difference? Absolutely!

Father Shayne Duvall is the pastor at St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church.

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Private or Catholic?
Is there a difference?”