Thursday, January 30
Time for more vignettes
When I was in 9th grade at the Catholic high school, the girls, as did most girls at the time, had to take home ec. Our teacher was new that year, fresh out of school, and her first name was Nina and she was Church of Christ.
And, sticking by her principles she absolutely refused to call priests “father.”
So, our principal was “Mr. Henkel” (a pseudonym, in case you’re wondering), a moniker that inspired waves of suppressed hysteria every time it was spoken and did not help her cause – to teach us how to sew and cook.
One day, she greeted us with the news that we would be doing something special in class one day next week because that was the day that “Mr. Niedergeses” would be visiting.
Who? Who’s that? We all wondered.
Of course – it was the bishop. Mr. Niedergeses.
I never really understood that one – sure, if she wants to misinterpret Matthew that’s fine, but it’s not like it says, “Call no man bishop.”
I don’t think she came back the next year. At the time, I saw her attitude as disrespectful of the institution that was employing her. But I have to say, now, my memory, Mrs. Garton stands there, with her black, shoulder-length hair and her narrow glasses and her tight smile as she waits for the girls to stop giggling, as a witness to living your faith in hostile circumstances.
Which is pretty much the definition of a room full of 14-year old girls.
I know that my experience isn’t normative - it’s not, is it? – and I don’t present it as such. There are many excellent Catholic secondary schools out there, but I present my own experiences merely as a caution for parents to look carefully beyond the brochures to the curriculum, priorities and, most important, culture of the school before decided if it it’s a place that’s going to support their child’s growth in faith and intellect.
And – very importantly – to not feel guilty if you find the school wanting and you decide to send your child elsewhere.
I’ve spent a lot of time wondering why I happen to hook up with such problematic Catholic schools. They’ve all been in the South, all diocesan, all struggling, all small. I don’t think the high school I attended is struggling any more – it moved from the poorer east side of town, where it was when I attended, to the happening and rich west side of town a few years back, and seems, by all reports, to be thriving.
But the other two? Oy. I’ve concluded that the problems with these schools lay in a)a history of poor leadership, especially at the Florida school b)being small anyway and serving a minority (Catholic) population and c)not being able – because of their size – to offer the programs that the larger public schools offer.
I didn’t teach in areas where there were scads of Catholic high schools, run by the diocese and religious orders, schools which had long histories and traditions of success. I taught in schools that were diocesan stepchildren – in towns far from the center of the diocese, places that seemed almost forgotten sometimes.
And so these schools are left scrambling for the teachers that they can get, some of whom were the typical valiant sacrificing Catholic school teacher, but most, unfortunately, were folks fresh out of college who couldn’t get a job in the public schools that year. They’re left scrambling for students, and most of the time caught in the place where they have come to believe that raising standards and really and truly pursuing academic excellence and a strong Catholic identity would harm, rather than help them.
They were both quite frustrating experiences
LAST MONTH, "Dateline NBC" told the story of a young couple's decision to have a baby who had been diagnosed with Down syndrome. The story, which took place in 1998, is worth recalling as the nation continues to grapple with the morality of abortion.
In "Dateline"'s account, Greg and Tierney Fairchild (of Hartford, Conn.) receive the good news that Tierney is pregnant with their first child. But later tests reveal that their baby will have Down syndrome, a genetic disorder that can produce a wide range of physical and mental disabilities. For the Fairchilds, who both happen to support abortion rights, that prospect raises the question of whether they (or, to be precise, Tierney) will choose abortion.
The Fairchilds worry about the severity of their child's retardation and the unfair burden it might place on other children they hope to have. They learn their baby would have to undergo heart surgery. They go back and forth on abortion but appear close to choosing it.
As the legal deadline for making that decision draws near, Greg wonders about the adoptability of a baby like theirs and calls a local service. He is told it is "no problem" finding parents for babies with Down syndrome. The couple is taken aback.
"One of the things we hadn't considered," Tierney says, "was that . . . someone else would love to have [this child] and was prepared to handle it." Her husband adds, "[I]t even makes you question yourself. What is it exactly that I'm so worried about, if there are people lined up to adopt this baby?"
Of the 16 newly accused priests, at least three are diocesan priests in active ministry, according to church records, and one is retired. At least 10 of the other 12 are believed to be dead, according to attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who filed the lawsuits.
So when he announced a $420,000 gift Wednesday, the donation by the author, sociologist, church critic and Chicago Sun-Times columnist was cheerfully accepted.
George, who has called Greeley's sexy fiction "an exercise in the evangelization of the imagination," was on hand when the donation was announced during the archdiocese's teacher awards ceremony at St. Stanislaus Kostka School, 1255 N. Noble..
Greeley, 76, said the money would go toward scholarships and teacher pay..
To those who argue that Catholic schools were needed only by the immigrant church of yesteryear, Greeley noted that Chicago has 1.2 million Hispanics, most of whom have no tradition of religious schools. Neither did the Italians, he said..
"With proper marketing, the same thing can happen in Hispanic neighborhoods," he said..
A NY state boy won a Christmas card design contest sponsored by a bank.
Gregory’s picture showed a white dove hovering over a snow-covered village -- which included a steepled church. But in December when Gregory opened his complimentary package of cards, the church’s steeple and cross had been removed -- the building made to look like another house in the village.
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