Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

'The Catholic School Difference' Is Our Way Of Life

Tim Lilley

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal published an editorial that likely caused wailing and gnashing of teeth in some circles – because it heralded “the Catholic school difference” that we in the Diocese of Evansville embrace as a way of life.

WSJ editorial writers used a study from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute that was conducted by a faculty member and doctoral student at the University of California-Santa Barbara.

According to the editorial, “The authors found statistically meaningful evidence that students in Catholic schools exhibited less disruptive behavior than their counterparts in other schools.”

The study authors offered “three key judgments,” according to the WSJ. In my opinion, all of them stay on the periphery of what I believe to be the most important reason our Catholic school students achieve at such remarkable levels.

God is in our classrooms.

In this diocese, we are blessed by educators at every level who embrace and promote the concept of keeping God first. You should thank every faculty and staff member you meet – and the staff of our Diocesan Catholic Schools Office – for their commitment to that concept.

It pays dividends that The Message has tried to highlight at every opportunity. We have academic decathletes competing and succeeding at the highest levels. We have aspiring engineers and scientists pushing the envelope of internal-combustion-engine efficiency to new heights, and they are consistently among the best in the world; yes, the world.

We have students earning Lilly Endowment Scholarships. On the athletic fields and courts, we have individuals and teams performing at the highest levels – with state championships to prove it. The same can be said for students who compete in speech and debate.

We have high schools whose graduating classes earn scholarship awards that total well into the hundreds of thousands of dollar – annually. We have graduates emerging as leaders in their chosen fields.

In that study the WSJ writer(s) used as the backbone for its editorial, which was published in the newspaper’s weekend edition for June 2-3, the third of those key judgments was:

“Don’t underestimate the power of religion to positively influence a child’s behavior.”

I can’t help but assert that Jesus said something similar, yet much more powerful, multiple times: “Your faith has saved you.”

Friends, faith is the most important element of “the Catholic school difference.” Faith lives in our classrooms at every grade level, from pre-K through high school. Faith guides our faculties and staff members. Faith inspires our students to achieve and serve at the highest levels.

The further our world gets away from faith, the easier to see the impact faith has.

That’s an irony that I find disturbing because so many refuse to acknowledge it.

Thank God for our Catholic schools. Thank God for the parishes that continue to prioritize schools as important ministries. Thank God for our Catholic Schools Office and the support it provides to our 26 diocesan schools.

Finally, and most importantly, thank God for you; you who support our schools. You are the collective reason that “the Catholic school difference” truly is a way of life in our diocese.