Kara DiCarlo is a school counselor at Our Lady of Unity Catholic School in Kansas City, Kansas, and a volunteer for the Catholic Education Foundation.
I can remember the first time I prayed in a classroom. I was 28 years old and had just started a Masters program for School Counseling. The act of praying in a classroom was very foreign and felt awkward in many ways. Religion and education did not go hand-in-hand- at least they hadn’t for the first 28 years of my life. Flash forward to present day; I now can’t imagine a day without prayer as I work in a Catholic school, and my husband and I send our daughters to a Catholic school.
The necessity to pray every day did not come overnight. I was not a cradle Catholic. When my husband proposed to me, I made the decision to go through RCIA for one main reason. I had been brought up in the Christian faith, but it was never a backbone in my life. My husband, on the other hand, was grounded in his Catholic faith. This intrigued me and I knew that if we were ever blessed with children, I wanted them to have the type of faith that would ground and sustain them through life.
I value Catholic education because it allows our faith to be interwoven into the daily life of students and teachers. And while this may be such a simple reason, there are infinite applications. However, I can link the reasons Catholic education is so important to our family to themes we were introduced to years ago at a retreat: values, service, prayer, and community.
Clearly identified values can steer us through the ever-changing opinions in today’s society. In schools today, students face far more issues at a younger age. Thanks to technology and mostly social media, these issues do not vanish once they leave the school day, but are tweeted and shared over and over in an endless cycle. This is happening in every school around the world. Catholic education provides an opportunity for students to reflect on what our values are, should be, and how we are living them out. This is why I value Catholic education.
In every Catholic school I have worked at or sent my daughters to, the act of service has been a part of the school year. Examples include “Service Wednesdays,” service clubs, field trips allowing the students to serve, encouraging families to serve as a family. The act of service is not just something that is talked about, but rather students experience. Through these experiences, they begin to understand their purpose. This is why I value Catholic education.
Throughout the day at Catholic schools a visitor will hear a variety of prayers. Some are formal and constant, some are informal and planned, and some are spontaneous. With all the organized chaos at schools, prayer allows students to pause, settle, and strengthen their faith. This is why I value Catholic education.
The community surrounding a person can either uplift and encourage or degrade and tear-down. Communities at Catholic schools are guided by Jesus’s teachings. They involve the relationships between priests, administrators, teachers, staff, and family/students. When the teachings are examined and put into action, a beautiful community is established that nourishes everyone involved. This is why I value Catholic education.
I am grateful to work and send our children to Catholic schools to help them navigate through the ever-challenging world. This was not an automatic process for me, but rather one that had lots of bumps, turns, and valleys. Being guided in His will has allowed me and my family to embrace and love the gifts of Catholic education.