Pope Francis is surrounded by students, teachers and families at a special event to highlight Catholic schools on May 10, 2014, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
Pope Francis is surrounded by students, teachers and families at a special event to highlight Catholic schools on May 10, 2014, in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. (photo: Franco Origlia / Getty Images)

Leave the Upper Room: Preaching the Accessibility of Catholic Schools (Season 3 — Ep. 2)

‘We need to go from neighborhood to neighborhood telling people about Catholic schools’ — so says Catholic education pioneer Shawn Peterson.

Shawn Peterson is one of the most dynamic advocates for Catholic education in the country — and, as he tells Religious Freedom Matters, this is the moment when its supporters need to seize the initiative.

There was a time when dynamic Catholic schools “took people from boat to boardroom in one generation.” They made a historic contribution to the common good of the United States; even Hollywood celebrated it in movies like The Bells of St. Mary’s. But during the “lukewarm” 1980s and ’90s, too many institutions watered down or even abandoned their Catholic ethos.

The result: Too many graduates of Catholic schools turned into intolerant pro-abortion progressives and made their way to Capitol Hill and other places of power.

Now, thanks to organizations such as Peterson’s Catholic Education Partners, there’s a flood of new resources to help Catholic schools rekindle the faith and rediscover their ethos. And school choice — the theme of this third season of Religious Freedom Matters — can make Catholic education affordable once again.

But, as Peterson tells me and my co-host, Joan Desmond of the National Catholic Register, we need to meet two huge challenges.

First, ensure that government funding for school choice doesn't come with sinister ideological strings attached. And, second, it’s time to “leave the Upper Room” and spread the message, “neighborhood by neighborhood,” telling ordinary Catholics that they can make faith education an affordable reality — by asking for it. If you’re worried about your children’s Catholic identity, don’t miss this fascinating discussion.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Walking on Water,” ca. 1890

10 Scripture Verses to Strengthen You in Hardship

“The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history. The sacred books powerfully affirm God's absolute sovereignty over the course of events …” (CCC 303)