More than 1,400 teenagers are graduating from Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville this month.
Flip through The Record’s annual graduation section — the B section of this week’s edition — and you’ll see the effects of this education.
Among the measurable effects you’ll see is a staggering amount of scholarship money. These students have earned more than $105 million in scholarships.
They’ve also done something that would please Pope Francis. They’ve spent thousands of hours at local social service agencies as volunteers. One school reported that their seniors served 26,000 hours. And that’s just one school.
There’s no doubt that Catholic education has done something wonderful for these children.
In between the colorful school advertisements in the graduation section you can discern the less-easily measured effects of Catholic education. They’re listed in black and white, in the 20 essays written by members of the class of 2015.
The students describe high school in glowing terms, much of it romanticized as they look back on the last four years and gloss over the arduous mental and physical growth and late-night struggles to meet deadlines and grapple with difficult concepts.
They recall the parts that were ennobling, the ones, they say, that made them who they are.
Bethlehem High School’s Lucas Carrico says in his essay on page B3 that Bethlehem’s most important lessons came from personal relationships and interactions between students and faculty. He intimates that these interactions transcended text books and tests.
“These lessons are the true foundation of a good Catholic education and that is why Bethlehem excels at producing top-notch students,” he writes.
Pope Francis, a former teacher, referred to this kind of education in March when he spoke to an Italian association of Catholic educators.
According to a Catholic News Service story about the speech, Pope Francis said, in a world where it is already difficult for kids to find a decent point of reference, they must find positive guidance from teachers, who “are able to give meaning to school, studying and culture, without reducing it all just to passing on practical knowledge.”
Pope Francis seems to always return to the notion that we need to cut through the formal, the procedural minutiae and focus first on the personal. This is how conversion happens.
To their credit, the nine Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville have curriculum designed to foster personal conversion.
Assumption High School holds a “Mission Week” each year in which regular classes are suspended. The school spends the week offering workshops, presentations and hands-on experiences. This year, students worked at social service agencies in Louisville and took mission trips to Belize, Nicaragua, New Mexico, Indiana and Cincinnati.
Record reporter Jessica Able wrote about “Mission Week” earlier this year. In that story, Dr. Lisa Wieland, a teacher and mission trip coordinator, said the program began eight years ago with the hope that students would “explore, learn about and live the mission of Assumption.”
It seems to have worked.
In her essay on page B9 of this week’s paper, Assumption graduate Gina Passanisi writes that even in the final weeks of her senior year, she is growing into the values she’s learned in high school.
“On my senior retreat, as I branched out to learn more about my own classmates, I began to feel a newness and a responsibility to uphold all the values that Assumption has planted within me: faith, compassion, integrity, excellence.”
Let’s pray these students, who will soon be leading our communities, carry the values they’ve learned into their careers and daily lives.