I stand on the sidewalk in front of St. Dominic Parish School in Eagle Rock to greet the happy children popping out of cars as their parents drop them off. They have big smiles on their faces as they greet me, the principal, and their friends on the way to their classrooms for a new day of learning and fun. Parents wave to me from their cars as they drive away, also with big smiles on their faces. Our students, parents, and teachers are part of a big, happy Catholic family.
This new day will be another step in the academic growth that makes Catholic schools achieve significantly higher standardized test scores than the average public schools. Most of our 8th graders score at the level of high school juniors and seniors in many areas. Our 8th graders at St. Dominic’s finish Algebra I, then take an intensive summer course in Geometry. This allows them to advance much further in mathematics and in the sciences during high school.
Just as important as academic achievement, if not more so, is the Catholic faith that is infused into the daily program at our Catholic school. We open the school day with a school-wide prayer, and we pray for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Our students attend Mass each week during the school day and have opportunities for going to confession during the school year.
Each grade level learns about the teachings of Catholic Church, the common prayers of the Church, about the saints, spirituality, and God. Each class adopts a patron saint. Catholic morals are taught and reinforced throughout the day. The religious atmosphere of the school promotes good behavior among our students, being kind and attentive to each other, and showing great reverence to Jesus. This is all an important part of the human and spiritual development of our students.
Our students fill out their development in many after school activities, especially in sports. Our students have the opportunity to play on different teams throughout the school year and compete against other Catholic schools in our area.
While public schools generally cannot have any aspect of Christmas or religious symbols in their schools, at St. Dominic’s Christmas and Easter take on a spiritual meaning beyond their secular materialization in our society. We openly teach what each holy day is all about. Our teachers provide retreat days, when students go from classroom to classroom for a different spiritual activity and prayer event during Advent and Lent. In October, our students all participate in a living Rosary to promote the devotion of praying the Rosary. On Good Friday, our 8th graders perform the Stations of the Cross, which brought tears to my eyes and to the eyes of many adults in the church – both women and men!
The students at our school form true friendships and a close bond that last far beyond graduation. Every year we have reunions for graduating classes from the 1980’s, 1990’s, and 2000’s. Last summer our graduates from 2010 came together for a reunion party to be able to re-connect before going off to college. They had a wonderful time reminiscing about their happy times together as a class at St. Dominic’s while their parents sat at other tables re-connecting, and enjoying the opportunity to share their experiences of helping out at the school in many areas of volunteering.
Parents naturally want the best for their children, and to give them the tools for success in all of life’s challenges. That is why a Catholic school is the right choice. Catholic schools provide a complete program of academic, physical, and spiritual development so that our students understand their relationship with God, and will have confidence in themselves, and in their relationships with others.
I love St. Dominic Parish School in Eagle Rock. I love greeting happy faces in the morning, and I love our happy, Catholic school family. If your children are not in a Catholic school, visit your parish school. See if what I have described is true. Talk to the principal about tuition assistance if needed. Give your children the best faith-based educational experience that you can.
–Fr. Peter Rogers, O.P.
(Pastor at St. Dominic Parish and School in Eagle Rock, Los Angeles)
Learn more about St. Dominic Parish School at www.stdominicla.us