To Teach as Jesus Did:
Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee
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"Why Choose a Catholic High School?"
Some of my fondest memories as a Catholic school educator stem from my many years as a high school principal. I especially was fond of the rituals of autumn. In Catholic high schools everywhere, this time of year brings experiences and traditions that linger for a lifetime. Think Friday night football, Mass of the Holy Spirit, homecoming, college applications and visits, a series of “last times” for seniors, “first times” for freshmen, and a focus on inviting 8th graders to become their freshmen the following fall. The 15 outstanding Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are no exception.
Recently we asked all of our high schools to try to define, from a graduate’s perspective, what makes their schools uniquely worth a family’s investment. Here are some snippets of what we heard:
Catholic Central, Burlington: “The small, inclusive atmosphere enabled me to be involved in a wide variety of activities and…to negotiate many unique challenges later in life. No matter where I am in the world, as a graduate of West Point and an Army captain, I can fall back on the foundation that CCHS helped to lay.”
Catholic Memorial, Waukesha: “It’s really about exceptional preparation. We were prepared for college; we were prepared spiritually, and we were prepared to be contributors in the world. We were especially prepared to handle the ups and downs of life in a positive, productive manner.”
Dominican, Whitefish Bay: “Dominican taught me to be a better version of myself, both academically and spiritually. It allowed me to discover who I was and made me appreciate all the gifts God had given to me to share with the world.”
Cristo Rey Jesuit, Milwaukee: (No graduates yet, since the school welcomed its first class in 2015.) Students work one day a week at companies across the area, gaining confidence, connecting the relevance of their academic coursework to future employment, acquiring skills that will benefit their career, and receiving unprecedented access to the professional world.
Divine Savior Holy Angels, Milwaukee: “I am a believer, a self-advocate, a critical thinker, a communicator, and a leader. The development of these qualities in every young woman was an intentional focus during my four years at DSHA.”
Marquette University High School, Milwaukee: “Put simply, it was the time in my life of greatest growth as a person. The most important lessons I ever learned were at MUHS, and I take note of those every day. It made me a man for others.”
Messmer, Milwaukee: “High school for me was a stepping stone that was placed really high, but just enough that I could reach it with the help of people pushing, encouraging, and pulling me along the way….The rich principles Messmer taught me have enabled me to become a strong pillar of leadership in the community and to teach the same to younger generations.”
Pius XI, Milwaukee: “Popes are multidimensional: entrepreneurs, business leaders, servant leaders, artists, and scholars who ask difficult questions and find creative ways to affect change. Pius XI is a family, and indeed a home, where all of us were welcomed and belonged.”
St. Anthony, Milwaukee: “We embraced family in every sense, which meant love, security, nurturing, safety, and strength. Through faith formation and academic preparation, I was helped to achieve the American dream.
St. Catherine’s, Racine: “Hands down the greatest benefit at St. Cat’s was the community and family feel that came from being an Angel. When we were brought together for a common cause, like cleaning up a neighborhood or setting up for Mass, trust and bonds were inevitably created.”
St. Joan Antida, Milwaukee: “The personalized attention I received helped me develop my own beliefs. My education was different because everyone on staff believes that every student can achieve at higher levels. They dream for us kids before we know how to dream for ourselves.”
St. Joseph Catholic Academy, Kenosha: ”We were challenged to ask profound questions, solve complex problems, research complicated issues, and cultivate a deep respect for ourselves and others. Our spiritual and academic formation prepared us to become scholars, leaders, and stewards who transform the world.”
St. Lawrence Seminary High School, Mount Calvary: “The brothers I have made through my St. Lawrence journey have been and always will be there to love and support me, regardless of the situation. These are the kinds of relationships that all the money in the world could not buy, nor would I exchange them for anything in the world.”
St. Mary’s Springs Academy, Fond du Lac: “I felt that my SMSA education, grounded in the Catholic faith, prepared me for the academic rigors of college and life. It especially equipped me with a moral compass to help me grow into adulthood as a member of my family, my Church, and the broader community.”
St. Thomas More, Milwaukee: “STM was the first step in deciding my future. I learned how to work on a team, how to function in business, how to work on different projects simultaneously, and how to communicate with different groups. The skills I gained have been invaluable.”
From my perspective, a Catholic high school is the place where teenagers can “fail” safely, where they are loved from childhood into adulthood and, where, if they slip or even fall, they’re held up and set back on course. When I was principal of Catholic Memorial, a working class couple with five children, each with very different needs, was asked how they could afford to send their children to our school. Their response touched me deeply then, as it still does today: “We couldn’t have afforded NOT to have done it.”
Please check out our Catholic high schools for yourselves. Consider choosing an education that prepares young people to become thinkers, leaders, and saints.
Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools