I am continuing my discussion of Catholic Schools from last weeks’ bulletin. Following World War II many changes took place in the United States. The veterans came back from the war with benefits such as higher education, medical care, cheap housing and loans. Americans began to move out into the suburbs, and the building craze began. Middle class American Catholics attempted to reproduce out in the suburbs what they had known in the inner cities. Hundreds if not thousands of new parishes were built, parishes which contained a church, school, convent and rectory.
These new parish plants were funded by the people and staffed by a tremendous vocation boom following WWII. The late 40’s and in to the 50’s was a period of time of such growth in the Catholic Church in the United States that bishops and pastors believed that parish life and Catholic education would continue until the end of the century.
When the Second Vatican Council closed in 1965, changes in the Catholic Church opened many ministries to lay people. You did not have to be a religious or ordained priest to teach in Catholic Schools, work in hospitals or in many other areas of ministry. Vocations dropped drastically and within a few years the staffing of Catholic Schools became a great challenge. The religious communities of women had been the backbone of the Catholic Schools of the United States. In fact the religious women had been the work horse of the Church, many times with very little financial compensation. They were expected to work their whole life for the people and then return to their convents in old age.
When I began teaching at Notre Dame High School in 1981 there were 3 diocesan priests, 3 Notre Dame Sisters teaching and a Notre Dame Sister as Principal. The 7 of us received a stipend for teaching not a salary. When I left Notre Dame to come to Immaculate Conception parish here in Springfield 20 years later, only the principal, Br. David was a religious in the school and he received a full principal salary.
Catholic Education requires a financial investment for salaries, supplies, buildings upkeep, insurance and utilities, but the investment has great dividends. I believe that Catholic Schools reinforce the Christian values that are taught in our Catholic homes, in the Gospels and from the pulpit at Sunday Masses. They form the character and prepare our young people for success in life. A success that is molded by the Gospel of charity, love and forgiveness taught by Jesus Christ and not mandated by law courts.
I want to thank all the St. Agnes parishioners who give in the Sunday collection that allows us to finance our schools, and pay our parish bills on time. Thank you for all your support.