Monday, January 30, 2012

Catholic Schools Week: The Golden Years - The Early 1960's

Often to determine where you are, it is best to see where you came from.  Kicking off the week-long look at Catholic Education,  let’s look back to the “good old days.”  It was just fifty years ago when we were turning kids away for lack of space!
It was the 1960’s and 5.7 million children were being educated in Catholic Schools in the US – accounting for 12% of the entire US school population.  In this pre-birth control era,  Catholic families had an average of 4 children.  The immigration of Irish, Polish and Italians from the prior decades fostered many urban parishes to pop up, some only blocks apart.
During this decade, Vatican II came to a close and full and active participation of all the faithful fostered by liturgies being said in the vernacular, versus Latin, contributed to vibrant parishes.  And the fuel used to power the 12,893, mainly urban, Catholic schools?  Religious sisters!  In fact they represented some 90+% of the faculty used to teach in these schools…most paid little to nothing as it was their ministry.  And while many of them were gifted in the profession (and I can remember some from my grammar school days at Our Lady of Peace, New Providence, NJ), there were many more who gained their training on the job.
But without these dedicated religious, Catholic education would never have flourished to the extent it did. The early 1960’s model was perfect: bulging number of Catholics, large families, schools with a majority of ‘free’ labor who provided a safe, effective and religious environment for a primary and secondary education. And pew filled parishes had weekly collections that supported the parish schools to the point where the tuition was nominal, making it affordable for nearly anyone who wanted to come.
So what happen?
More tomorrow.


Claire Papp said...

I give thanks and praise for my Catholic education from first grade through nursing school. The set of values, principles and love for God that it provided me with has enabled me to continue to walk my journey of faith with determination, faith and hope!!

Jim said...

Many thanks Claire for your thoughts and experiences with Catholic education. Indeed, it has touched so many lives in a positive and life changing way! Add that to the fact that you are truly blessed with incredible parents who have always lived the promises made at your baptism to be the first and best of teachers in the ways of faith for you, by what they say and do!