A recent story in the New York Times reinforced once again the importance of our parochial schools and their value-centered education. Sadly, it came to light in conjunction with the closing of Blessed Sacrament School in the Bronx, New York.
Among those lamenting the decision to close the school was the valedictorian of the Class of 1968, a woman who grew up in the nearby projects. “I am heartbroken,” she said. “You know how important those eight years were? It’s symbolic of what it means for all our families, like my mother, who were dirt-poor. She watched what happened to my cousins in public school and worried if we went there, we might not get out. So she scrimped and saved. It was a road of opportunity for kids with no other alternative.”
Admitting that she sometimes chafed under the strict discipline of the sisters, she recalls in looking back that “It taught me how to be a good person,” adding “in the kind of world we lived in, with the drug addiction and crime and sadness that permeates the community, you needed a model of someone teaching you that being a good human being has value.”
In reporting on the story, the New York Times article noted that “a glance at some of New York City’s most successful and influential Latino and black professionals and politicians is like a Catholic School All-Star alumni roster.”
It struck me that Catholic Schools Week would be an appropriate time to repeat this story. The theme of the week, “Raising the Standards,” is the constant aim of Catholic Education at all levels. I am extremely proud of the teachers and administrators who set and maintain the high standards in our Catholic Schools.
What triggered this story was the closing of a parochial school in New York. Thanks to our parents, our teachers and strong community support we have been able to avoid the mass closings that have taken place in other areas of the country. It is impossible for me to express the extent of my gratitude to those who do so much to support Catholic Education.
By the way, the 1968 valedictorian at Blessed Sacrament School in the Bronx was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor, and the projects where she grew up have recently been named in her honor.