The student news site of Saint Anselm College

The Saint Anselm Crier

The student news site of Saint Anselm College

The Saint Anselm Crier

The student news site of Saint Anselm College

The Saint Anselm Crier

Secularism, path of least resistance for Catholic high schools

Anyone can attend a Catholic school- for the most part. Many Catholic high schools, like mine, welcome people of all or no faith traditions. This welcomeness is inspiring and encourages the spiritual development of all peoples, but in recent years it seems as though a large portion of students at religious schools are not committed to the faith and are using the school for the smaller class sizes and academic environment. Additionally, during the beginning of the COVID pandemic many Catholic schools stayed open in recognition of the importance of an in-person education. During this time (Fall 2020- Fall 2021) enrollment in Catholic high schools spiked 3.7 percent according to the National Catholic Education Association. Is this reality the cause of the change in culture in these schools?   

The modern political and social atmosphere is one that leans away from Catholic beliefs and instead supports a society of youth, specifically teenagers, that spend more time with social media, partying, and promoting promiscuity than grounding themselves in service, love, academics, family, and faith. With a decreasing number of kids who dedicate themselves to being bound to a traditional lifestyle in this sense, I am worried that the lines between Catholic and non-religious high schools are becoming blurred.  

According to the National Catholic Education Association, one fifth of Catholic high school students are not actually Catholic. The three years I spent at my Catholic high school brought me closer to faith through traditional holy day celebrations, theology classes, and the monthly masses. However, I was not influenced towards faith by my peers. Most of the members of my class were lukewarm to faith; they grew up religious but have since lost their devotion and now simply go through the motions of the masses-taking communion without thinking of the significance of this covenant. The fewer students who believe and participate in a school’s religion, the less the school reflects the values it is intended to have. Students have an impact on their school’s value because they are representatives of the institution and the community. Once they stop reflecting the values dictated by the school, the culture changes and the school no longer has the same reputation.  

In an effort to bring about a stronger sense of grounding in faith, this year the board of my high school began to let go of teachers who did not represent the academic, value, and faith standards that the school holds. In addition to the staff changes, they began to implement more Catholic traditions and decorations throughout the school. I think these changes were a necessary response to the cultural change within the community that brought the school away from traditional values that have taken place over the past few years.   

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A friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, attended a Jesuit high school for all four years of his high school experience. The Jesuit faith is an order of Catholic priests and brothers that was founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola with a stress on finding God in all things and focusing on compassion. When asked about the culture of his school, he noted the attitude of false compassion and acceptance that manipulates the traditional teachings into supporting particular social issues-such as CRT or LGBTQIA+ ideas. These topics are really only being pushed to the students and into the culture of the school to try to fit into the larger attitude of the city the school resides in and bring more money into the school. Is this curriculum vital to a student’s academic and spiritual education? Specifically, is it vital to students seeking an education rooted in devout Catholic faith? The lukewarm attitude towards faith that more students who go to Catholic institutions have allows and encourages a stray away from the teachings of Catholicism because there is no push-back from practicing Catholic students. We as students get lazy and focus on worldly ideals instead of pursuing and taking actions rooted in our faith.  

This idea of keeping a culture alive is important to me as a student attending a Benedictine Catholic college; we should stand up for faith and if you are a believer, practice the faith wholeheartedly. Part of the unique culture of being Anselmian is our strong connection to Benedictine values and how we allow them to become a part of our Anselmian experience. Conversatio, meaning ‘way of life,’ being a required first-year course is vital to exposing Saint Anselm students to theology, philosophy, and the liberal arts. My hope for our shared college experience is that the ideas we learn in Conversatio and in Benedictine and Catholic values, we practice and explore them intentionally and with conviction.

 

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