When I was a student, my Catholic school and parish were literal extensions of my family.
My aunt was president of the mothers’ club. My uncle was in charge of the carnival. Attending Catholic school meant becoming part of a tight-knit community of classmates, teachers, and friends. Many of them made positive, lasting impacts on my life that I still cherish today.
So when it came time to find a school for my son Luca, my husband and I knew we wanted to pursue Catholic schools. But I was curious. Could that same tight-knit atmosphere still exist in an age of smartphones and social media?
We found our answer when Luca’s teachers welcomed us warmly into the school community. They were forthcoming in their feedback, and quick to respond to my questions and concerns. I was especially impressed by their dedication to maintaining clear, open lines of communication. It reminded me of my own childhood teachers — and how much they genuinely cared.
For instance, when my son was in the second grade, one night I received an email from his teacher. She mentioned that Luca had banged his chin on the desk earlier in the day. Luca had said he felt fine at the time, but his teacher wanted to double check that he was still okay.
That small gesture made a lasting impression on me. The email came at 5:45 p.m., when the teacher was likely juggling dinnertime activities for her own three children. She was under no obligation to message me. Luca hadn’t even mentioned the incident to me himself. The fact that she took time out of her own busy schedule to reach out, keep me informed, and ask about Luca spoke volumes.
That level of open, honest communication extends to the students themselves. When my son had a disagreement with a classmate and missed his lunch, his third-grade teacher noticed he was upset. She excused Luca from his next class, asking if he wanted to eat lunch together. Luca did, and they talked through the disagreement and how it made him feel.
This culture of communication has shaped my son to be more honest and aware. Luca’s a fourth grader now, and he’ll sometimes complain about homework, as fourth graders do. But during one particularly busy weekend, he caught me off guard when he assessed his own challenges and goals.
“I’m going to do a better job budgeting my time on the weekends,” he said. “We talked about that in school.”
I was as surprised as I was proud. Here was my son, taking ownership and responsibility for his tasks. Luca was building on the values demonstrated by his teachers, and choosing to make the right decision.
Moments like those make me especially grateful my son can reap the same benefits of Catholic education that I did. As a parent, it’s comforting that he is growing up seeing and practicing healthy examples of honest dialogue. And it gives me hope that he will also look back fondly at a special time of lasting lessons, interactions, and friendships.
Angela Merkle lives in Glenolden with her husband Eddie and their son Luca, who attends Our Lady of Angels Regional School in Morton, PA.