Wednesday, August 8, 2007

We Are The Real Catholic Schools

Sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Unless you're a redhead, in which case sometimes you don't know whether to storm around angrily, or...storm around angrily.

Which was my reaction to this article, generally speaking. (Hat tip to Creative Minority Report.)

Oh, I have no real problem with Father John Yockey's decision to crack down on the scofflaws in his parish and make sure that people who try to claim that they are parishioners at St. Jerome Parish in order to get a tuition discount at the parish school actually attend Sunday Mass at least 70% of the time (though the very legalistic part of me asks the following question: if he's the pastor, and is allowed to dispense his parishioners from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass under some circumstances, isn't he giving at least implied permission for his parishioners to miss Mass 15.6 Sundays of the year? Hmmm.)

No, my problems start to surface with some of the article's other details. School at St. Jerome's Parish School can begin as early as age three if you're tired of the hassle of dropping little Johnny off at daycare before driving his big sis to school! And for the K3 and K4 years, the registration fee's only $50.00, though it jumps to $100 for K5-8th grade. But the article doesn't mention whether the littlest kiddies pay the same $4500 per year per child tuition to go to St. J's, though the school website is pleased to mention their after-school daycare program!

God has, so far, blessed the Cardigans with only three children--but that tuition would cost us $13,500 per year, not including the registration fee and all the little extras that crop up. Which would make tuition cost more than our mortgage payments, assuming St. J's will let you pay the monthly sum of $1125 instead of demanding the whole wad of cash up front.

But wait! If the Cardigans could prove to Father Yockey's satisfaction that we were willing to show up for Mass on Sundays, we could shave off $1400 per child, dropping our tuition costs to a mere $9,300 a year, or $775 a month--which is what our mortgage would cost us in any other state than Texas, since we pay an extra $300+ per month on top of that amount to cover the property tax.

The tone of the article makes it seem almost as though Fr. Yockey was disappointed that people didn't openly complain about the new policy, or refuse to show up for Mass and pay the extra tuition:

"Celebrating the Eucharist at Mass is a core part of being Catholic, Yockey said. The new policy also addresses a matter of truth and fairness. It's "a grave injustice" to the parish - which dedicated a new school at a new location in Oconomowoc in 2004 and is now building a new $12 million church and parish center there - to subsidize families that are not part of parish faith life, he said. Most of the school's 200 families could afford full tuition, he estimated. Only five, including some non-Catholics, pay it. About 30 families get financial help beyond the subsidy."

Poor Fr. Yockey. Most of the school's families could afford to pay full tuition, and that $900,000 a year would go a long way toward paying for that new twelve million dollar church and parish center. I suppose it's nice that they let those thirty families who need financial help go to school at St. Jerome's, though if I met any of their parents I'd love to talk to them about how the scholarship kids and their families get treated, a subject which was very manifest to me in my formative years.

Of course, as the article puts it, "Many Catholic priests complain at priests' gatherings about the abuse of the tuition subsidies and how money could be used for pressing needs and ministries, he (Fr. Yockey) said." It's bad enough that they have to help out poorer families from time to time, but all those rich people taking advantage of tuition subsidies! It's as bad as pouring a costly jar of oil over Jesus' feet, instead of selling the jar and the perfume and giving the money to the poor, isn't it?

But the most ironic detail of all isn't present in the main article. Fr. wants people to attend Mass, right? He wants them to know how important Mass is, right? What was that quote again, about how celebrating the Eucharist at Mass did you put it, Father?...a "core part of being Catholic..."

Check out this page of the Parish website, my friends. Tell me how you teach people the importance of Mass by scheduling daily Masses twice a week at the parish church, once at a hospice, once in the school gym--and substituting a communion service on Mondays and Saturdays--at a parish that has a pastor, an assistant, and a retired priest in residence.

My point here isn't to rail at the parish itself; I'm sure there's plenty of good at St. Jerome's. But it disturbs me to see a pastor apparently more concerned about people "cheating" to get a tuition discount than endangering their souls by a casual attitude toward Mass attendance; and it bothers me even more to find further evidence to support my theory that Catholic schools encourage dual-income families with few children by their high tuitions and conformity with secular education ideals and goals (Kindergarten for 3-year-olds? State testing statistics touted with pride on the school's website? etc).

The glory days of Catholic education are long over. In our little family schools at home, we have become like the monks of St. Benedict's day, keeping the flame of faith alive for the generations to come after us. Because in the face of evidence like this as well as the story of St. Jerome's, I honestly believe that although diocesan Catholic schools may produce students who take their faith seriously and remain committed Catholics all their lives, it happens in spite of, not because of, the Catholic school.


Christie said...

Wow. I couldn't agree more. We live in the DFW metro area & used our parish school for 2-1/2 yrs. God has blessed us with only 2 children; however, on one income (DH is public school educator)we couldn't manage the $4225 per child rate. Our school did away with sibling discounts - said they were "not setting the trend nor following a trend within the diocese...merely middle-of-the-road". BTW - that IS the parishioner rate...non-parishioner rate is an additional $1200 which VERY FEW people actually pay.

I've only been Catholic for 3-1/2 yrs, but wasn't aware that you could maintain "dual memebership" at two different churches within the diocese merely to receive the parishioner tuition rate?

Our 2nd yr there (ds was 6; dd was 2 & home w/me), we received 50% off and I volunteered my butt off to earn that. Summer before our 3rd yr the school got a new principal. New principal agreed to honor former principals financial arrangements with us, but said the following year (when we'd have both kids in school)I'd have to pick up more volunteer work to earn the additional amount we'd need for dd. In the first semester of our 3rd yr, I logged enough volunteer hours to avg 40/wk!!! Don't ask what that did to our home, my marriage, or our kids - esp dd who was constantly with my sis since I was soo busy. How did they expect me to do MORE the following year???

Well, after that semester we decided "Catholic" school just wasn't worth it! Next month I start our own little Catholic school right here in our kitchen.

Although, we're converts and have no real experience to base this on...I agree wholeheartedly with your statement, "the glory days of Catholic education ARE long over".

Thanks for this post!

Opal said...

I agree that it seems he has missed the point of the Eucharist being the central key.
Because if he REALLY felt that way wouldn't he say:
1. Sunday mass is an obligation
2. Missing Sunday Mass is a serious sin/mortal if you are not caring for a sick child/you are sick, etc
3. IF you do this, I will see you in confession BEFORE you receive Holy Communion.

There was a letter to the editor in our diocean n.p. and the man, well intending, was comparing the NO to TLM(which he attended in his youth) His comment was that people attended back then to avoid mortal sin. People just don't get it that it is STILL the case!

Fr. is setting himself up for lots of fights and misunderstandings. He is. And a lot of work, for someone.

See, it is good that they accept bulletins from other parishes, because I would want to know what the homily was about, 2 paragraphs, double spaced ;)

Opal said...

I must have some red in my hair..
I just finished reading the link to RD and this caught my attention

"there is almost unanimous support for gay marriage, total indifference to abortion, divorce, premarital sex, etc., etc. I honestly don't think that our conservative leaders have any clue as to just how badly we're losing this generation of young people.

And I blame consumerism."
Consumerism may be distracting them, but
I blame the parents and watered down catechisms. Really, you could call this generation the Barney Generation b/c all we have to do is love one another right? Nothing absolutely right...nothing absolutely wrong.

Susan said...


I basically agree with everything you've said here, but on the point of 70% Mass attendance . . . I wouldn't assume that the priest means that attending Mass only 70% of the time is okay--merely that you need to be at HIS parish that much. Our family NEVER misses Sunday Mass, but I bet that we're not at our home parish 70% of the time (though we more than make up for it with daily Mass, and always tithe to our home parish). We just travel a lot and have small children and if the kids are sick, or we're out of town, we're forced to go somewhere else. I guess we have the luxury of living in a city with dozens of Mass options within a short distance.

But, I do agree with you. I'm looking forward to starting our own Catholic school here before long.


Red Cardigan said...

Great comments!

Christie, I hear you! That's the kind of thing my mom had to put up with for years--and the schools acting like they were doing us a favor to let us work for them for free to subsidize the outrageous tuitions. Congratulations on your decision to start homeschooling! There's lots of support for homeschoolers here in Texas. :)

Opal, you're right. The first concern should be that people attend Mass as they should, not that those who take the tuition discount have "earned" it somehow.

Susan, the article mentions that people can turn in bulletins from other parishes to count towards that 70% attendance requirement. Unless the journalist got it wrong, then, it would seem that the duty of Catholics to attend Mass under pain of mortal sin unless they have a good reason for missing it is being ignored here.

freddy said...

Christie: God bless you! I hope you enjoy the "kitchen Catholic school" as much as we do. Just stick with it a while -- the first year is the hardest and folks you know from the parish school are likely to be less than supportive. But you'll meet a lot of great folks out here!

Opal, I agree with you. My boys are in a local parish-affiliated Boy Scout troop. The guys who are the worst behaved have parents who are more interested in their fun than their faith. Parents who care about being Catholic first tend to have kids who are at least interested in learning the faith.

Susan said...

Oh! I should have read more carefully. That is depressing.