As you read this, Catholic Schools Week, observed around the country, will be in full swing. It is a week in which we reflect on the positive influences of Catholic education on the life of our families and our township. Here at St. Peter’s – where we have been educating and forming children since 1867 — it is also a time for parents of elementary school students to consider the option of sending their children to our parochial school.
It is in everyone’s – yes, everyone’s – interest that Catholic Schools continue with their mission. St. Peter’s School could have closed its doors as so many other schools did (especially at the onset of the pandemic), but we continue to believe a school that has survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, the departure of the Sisters of Charity who so loving ran our school for more than a century, the onslaught of secularism and so many other challenges, can also weather the current storms.
I am particularly thankful to the parents who continue to show their trust in our school, and the students who continue to make us proud and bring a smile to our faces especially during tough days. Our teachers, led by Mrs. Phyllis Sisco – our School Principal – have been working harder than ever to ensure the nurturing learning environment at our school continues without fail.
This was most evident during the hardest times of the pandemic, and for this, we are eternally grateful.
Should our school be forced to close down (and we are working around the clock for that not to happen), most of our students will have no alternative other than public education. This would lead to a burden on our township, and this would be reflected in higher taxes and packed classrooms.
This should be cause for great concern for all of us.
Today, sociologists speak of the “Social Capital” students acquire by attending parochial schools. It goes beyond the academic knowledge that is imparted by any kind of school. The parish school easily becomes a community, or a “home away from home,” not only for the students, but also for the parents.
Those who choose a Catholic school for their children not only seek a quality education, but also one in which the truths and values they consider important (love of God and neighbor, solidarity with the underprivileged, respect toward authority and a life of prayer), are transmitted. The nurturing environment of a Catholic School helps students be more concerned about the needs of others, and also greatly helps them become leaders in society.
But the advantage that children attending Catholic Schools enjoy over their peers goes beyond the fact that they receive religious instruction, attend school Masses and participate in the different sacraments and rituals. The church has always been at the forefront in offering a liberal arts education to our children. This also affords the teachers more scope for flexibility and creativity, as opposed to the “defensive teaching” we sadly encounter in many schools.
Discipline, teamwork and personal initiative continue to be staples at our school. Many students share with me beautiful testimonies about their gratitude to St. Peter’s School, especially because of the ways it has allowed them to grow humanly and academically, as well as disciples of our Lord.
Anyone interested in helping us with a partial-scholarship (no matter the amount) is asked to speak to me. Parents who desire a Catholic education for their children but might need some monetary assistance are also encouraged to contact me. Divine Providence has never failed us …nor will it now!
Fr. Ivan Sciberras is the pastor at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the parish, located at 155 William St., Belleville (973) 751-2002.