The beginning of the school year, fraught with the usual worries and tension, arrived this year with the potential for even more social and logistical land mines. As transfer students, I worried whether my kids would adjust to their new school. Would they meet nice kids who wanted to be their friends? Would our decision to move them while they were comfortably situated at their last school result in lasting psychological scars? We’d probably have to pay the piper for this somewhere down the road. Would our beautiful Catholic faith be presented to them in a way that captivated and excited them? Would the classical approach of education engage their nimble little minds and would they be as prepared as their peers at other schools? Would the staff cherish them as children of God? And let’s not forget those pesky practical concerns. Could they find the bathrooms and the cafeteria? And what about navigating car line?
To be honest, I was quite reluctant at first to switch schools. This would be a hit to my pride, which I embrace like a drowning man clings to a buoy. If we switched schools, it would be acknowledging the fact that I had bungled the decision four years ago. I had looked at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Classical School back then. Immediately it stood out as a place filled with Christ’s light. But like a scrupulous accountant, I weighed the advantages and disadvantages. You had just instituted the classical curriculum and I worried my kids would be guinea pigs. I feared that their educations would suffer. They might not end up with superior SAT scores. Gasp! We were at a place that consistently put out first-rate students who excelled in standardized testing as well as catechesis. Yet, our family felt drawn to your school’s mission. Four years ago, I stifled that urging and made a decision that felt safe and staid.
Last spring that urging grew stronger and I was finally ready to listen. When I met with you to discuss enrolling our kids, we were chagrined to find out there was no space in the first grade for our youngest. My husband and I discussed what that meant in very practical terms. “What if they don’t have space for her next year too? Are you going to be able to homeschool for the long haul?” my husband wondered. I wasn’t completely sure if I was up to it. In doing my usual risk assessment, I phoned you to ask what assurances you could provide me that my daughter would eventually have a place at your school. You kindly responded, “I think you should put your trust in God.” While it wasn’t the answer I sought, it was the answer I needed to hear. Your words reminded me that sometimes we are called to take a leap of faith. In this instance, I couldn’t make another decision out of fear. The nagging apprehension that I’d be homeschooling my daughter forever and I’d be responsible for teaching her algebra was shelved. God was challenging us to follow where He was guiding our family. We added our daughter to the waitlist and signed on the dotted line. It wasn’t long before the dear Lord began affirming our “risky” decision.
A few weeks after filling out the school application, you phoned to excitedly announce there was indeed space for our youngest. They would all be at the same school and I wouldn’t be my daughter’s math teacher. Phew! I was convinced this was a sign from “The Big Guy.” We have been at the school a month and a half and the signs keep on coming. The first morning of school I anxiously waited with my kids on the playground. When it was time to line up, the kids stood at attention and recited the daily offering to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I just mumbled and moved my lips since I didn’t know the prayer, but it’s a good one! I’m working on memorizing it now. (Check it out if you are interested.) Once the kids filed in, I texted my husband to gleefully announce that the kids pray, “even before entering the building!” Then it was off to daily mass. I headed to the church. My children found me and happily sidled up next to me. It’s something I truly cherish. Our kids, my husband and I feel so grateful to experience the daily school mass as a family unit. What a beautiful start to our day!
My worries about the new teachers and the curriculum have been laid to rest. I just love seeing all the teachers’ smiling faces. You and your staff kindly greet me daily and have shown genuine concern for the kids’ transition. You know our names! I see each teacher as a Catholic missionary who treats his or her job as a vocation. They are set on the business of making disciples through their powerful Christian witness. They’re digging into math and science through hands-on, fun experiments. The first week of school my kids came home excited about what they were learning, the stories they read and even the homework they were given. My 5th grader shared that his homework involved choosing one of St. Thomas Aquinas’ proofs on why God exists and to expound on it in order to convince a modern-day atheist. Wow! He’s learning guitar. They pray in art class. My third grade has taken to discussing ancient Roman society. Pinch me! In first grade, they are memorizing Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd…” (I’d tell you the rest, but I don’t know it by heart like my six-year-old does!) My kids even love gym. This is a first! My oldest summed it up when he said, “Remember how I used to doodle all during class because I was bored? I’m learning so much more now!” I don’t doubt that he was learning a lot at our last school as well, but I’m convinced the classical approach has unleashed his mind and imagination.
You have done an excellent job in creating a “Culture of Encounter” at the school. If we took all the sacramentals off the walls, would we still know that Our Lady of Lourdes was a Catholic community? Yes! We encounter Jesus through your joyful approach to your job as the principal, through the search for truth and beauty in each of our classrooms, through the understanding that in forming better Christians we will be cultivating smarter students and more thoughtful citizens.
I attended Catholic schools for most of my schooling. It was underwhelming, to say the least. I desperately wanted more for my kids. I am infinitely grateful to you and your staff for providing it for my children and for the next generation. Thank you for providing us a school home!
Mary Jo & Eric
(Charged by God with the souls of Max, Charlie, and Josie)
To learn more about Lourdes Catholic Classical go to http://lourdesclassical.org/
p.s. I wrote this in the fall of 2017. Since then I have been blown away by the devoted and loving parent community. Thank you for your inspiration and kindness! Thank you for challenging our family to expect more.