My Catholic School Experience
By Mike Connor
As the youngest of three children in an Irish Catholic family, my Catholic faith was instilled in me from day one. From Sunday Mass and holy days of obligation to Saturday evening confession and saying the rosary, living the life of a practicing Catholic was part of our family’s DNA.
So when it came time to go to school, I followed my older brother and sister to St. Pius X in Broomall for grade school and to Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield. Between the three of us, we spent 40 school years in Catholic education. Even though this represented a large expense for my parents, they felt that the daily immersion in our Catholic faith that attending a Catholic school provided was well worth the sacrifice.
I wholeheartedly enjoyed my grade school and high school education so much that I continued on by attending a Catholic university, Wheeling Jesuit University, in West Virginia. When choosing a college, the religious aspect was a very important consideration for me, as I wanted to be in an atmosphere that emphasized Catholic values, while also continuing with the academic excellence that I was accustomed to. Ironically my college roommate came from a strong Catholic family, and his two brothers were priests – another sign that I made the right choice in schools.
After graduation, marriage, and starting a family, my wife (also a Cardinal O’Hara graduate) and I discussed our children’s education. Being a young married couple in our mid-20’s, both with entry-level jobs, we knew that being able to afford a Catholic education for our children would be difficult, but we both agreed that finding a way to make it work was our only option. We wanted our children to experience the respect and discipline that a Catholic education brings – the focus on developing their minds, bodies, souls, and spirits. We wanted them to share the sense of attending school in a caring, supportive community atmosphere. And it was important to us that they had excellent Catholic role models in their schools, like we did, in the parish nuns, priests, and teachers.
As a result, our four children have all attended Catholic schools from kindergarten on. Our oldest son and daughter attended St. Pius X and Cardinal O’Hara, and our younger children are attending Catholic grade school and high school as well. We could not be more proud of the outstanding education they have received, as well as, being challenged to be engaged in the community and serving others.
As our 43rd President, George W. Bush, said “Catholic schools carry out a great mission, to serve God by building knowledge and character. By teaching the word of God, you prepare your students to follow a path of virtue.” I could not agree more.