The mission and vision of Catholic schools in Hudson County has never changed, never wavered, and never varied in its goal. The goal of all Catholic schools, elementary or high, co-ed or single sex is to provide a faith filled educational foundation for students whose parents wish to see their children achieve. One needs only to look at the mission statements of schools in Hudson County, and regardless of whether they were founded by the Dominicans, the Jesuits, the Marist Brothers, the De La Salle Brothers or another religious community, the purpose is shared. Catholic education is different from public education, in ways more myriad than the placement of crosses in a classroom or prayers before the end of the day. Catholic school is a tradition, a way of life, a path that many of us were raised on and that we continue to have our children follow to this very day. Catholic school alumni, educators, and parents are a community of our own- one that believes in the value and need for quality Catholic education within our communities, in order to best prepare our next generation of children for the future.
It should then come as no surprise how shocked and saddened I was this past Monday when I learned that Marist High School has been given just one month to raise 1.5 million or its doors will close in June. This is a pattern I have seen far too often during my years in education. I have been blessed to have been educated by Catholic institutions in Jersey City from kindergarten through 12th grade, and it is with sadness that I look back on those years, for both of those fine schools, Our Lady of Mercy and The Academy of Saint Aloysius are no longer here to serve the Hudson County community. Over the past few years, many of us have seen other schools consolidate, combine, restructure or even close and a loss of one of those institutions is a significant loss for Catholic education overall.
This county was once filled with thriving, academically challenging Catholic elementary schools and high schools and now, their reflections are seen only in the pages of yearbooks from days gone by and in the actions of those who once passed through their doors and now are leading by example in their individual lines of work; retaining the essence of faith, service, charity and compassion that was taught in their Catholic educational setting.
Where once Jersey City and, indeed, all of Hudson County was primarily a homogeneous geography of Catholic immigrants, it is today a market of enormous diversity. While our product, a faith-based education that empowers women of all backgrounds for leadership, is appropriate for many beyond the graduates of Catholic elementary schools, the fact is that there are, indeed, fewer families seeking these educations for their children. Although that is the case, there is room for diversity in those offerings – both single gender and co-ed – because it is from diversity that we all thrive.
For all of us, myself included, a thriving Catholic school community is one where all schools are successful, all schools serve the student population, and the choice, for co-ed or single sex is offered- to meet the individual student’s best interest. If we are to be successful, we must be supportive of all Catholic educational endeavors and we must reach out and be there for each other in times of trouble and despair. For, isn’t that what being a Catholic community is all about?
We do not want to sit back and watch as doors close around us; we want those doors to be open, to continue to promote their educational programs and their outstanding achievements. For we are a community, one that believes in Catholic education and one that wants to see it thrive for time in memoriam.
In that vein, Saint Dominic Academy will do more this spring than just promote Catholic education within our own walls. We will be making a donation to the #savemaristnj campaign and will hope that our donation, partnered with so many others, will ensure that the doors of another Catholic school do not close forever, but rather, remain a vibrant part of Hudson County for years to come. Saint Dominic Academy supports Catholic education and we want to see it thrive…always!