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Writing a letter to your confirmation candidate

It seems that one of the biggest events in confirmation preparation in this country is the letters of support to be given to the confirmation candidates during their mandatory retreats.

I have three such letters saved on this blog:

Confirmation letter to my daughterConfirmation letter to my fourth sonConfirmation letter to to my third son
I've asked my children what they remember about the letter they got from me and their dad, and also what they remembered about the letters they received. 
The answer was not much, or at least nothing specific. In general they were happy to have gotten a bag full of letters and there was a sense of feeling loved and supported. I guess that's the main thing - for them to have a sense that this is an important step in their spiritual growth, and that people they know, love and respect have taken the time out of their lives to let them know that! So here are some tips on procuring and writing letters for young confirmation candidates. Start thinkin…

When A Catholic School Closes

My elementary education included time from 3rd to 6th grade at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Davison, MI.  I have many fond memories of my time there. That was the first time I ever got to really know a Catholic nun (Sr. Pat Robertson). She would play the guitar and sing songs with us and take us outside to play kickball. I loved being in her class.  I loved how church life and school life seemed to be all part of the same thing and people I saw at mass every week were part of our lives at the school as they enrolled their own kids and helped with the playground or fish fry. I made some good friends, grew in my faith, and started to become more aware of the world around me. We also received a top-notch education, particularly in English, math, and geography.

St. John School, Kevin Cantley, via Facebook

But that all ended in 1970 at the end of my 6th-grade year. The school was struggling financially. To obtain more funds, the parish was supporting Proposal C on the state ballot that would have allowed state funding for our little Catholic school. It failed with 56% of the vote going against it and my little school closed its doors forever that spring.

However, my mother was determined to give us a Catholic education, even though she herself was a public school teacher.

The next fall she made arrangements for us to be bussed to the nearest open Catholic School which was about 6 miles down the road. Making the move to 7th grade in a new school was not as pain-free as it had been back in 3rd grade. In my first few months at my new school I was bullied for the first time, watched a boy flip off his father at the bus stop, was badgered to give away my allowance money to another girl, and was called a lesbian - at 12 years old in 1970 I didn't even know what that was.

I did go on to make friends there and I did well academically. The two short years I spent at Holy Redeemer prepared me for the rigors of high school work at the only Catholic High School in the area.

Holy Redeemer managed to stay open until 2009, but it is now closed too. 

Holy Redeemer via Facebook. 

 I started thinking about all of that this week when news broke that a local Catholic school is closing at the end of the school year. Parents and teachers are shocked and angered, petitions are out for signatures to persuade the bishop to keep it open, and everyone is generally shocked and confused. It's 1970 all over again only with social media.

But should people really be surprised when a Catholic school closes? Schools have been closing all over the diocese for a number of years now. Public schools are also suffering from lower enrollments.  Simply put, there are not enough students to warrant keeping these schools up and running.

In Flint, MI, where I am originally from, that's not a big surprise. That part of the country has been losing population steadily for decades. But it's also happening in Ohio and other northern cities. In fact, nationwide there are now fewer than 7000 Catholic schools still operating, down from a high of 13,000 in the mid-1960s. 

But Catholic Schools were always a little different. Parents sacrificed a little bit to put their children there and keep them there. My mother used to put her tuition money in a special envelope that went right into the Sunday collection - it was as though paying tuition was also part of a tithe of sorts. It's not like that anymore. It costs thousands, not hundreds, of dollars now to send a child to Catholic School. That takes it out of the sacrifice category into the "struggle" for many families, particularly larger families.

Not that there are a lot of large families attending Catholic schools. The families I know with five or more children in my area, homeschool them. They have to. Or one spouse would have to work exclusively to pay tuition and nothing else - and that's a problem as well.

But I do sympathize with the people going through a closure. I read about the tradition and the generations of families that have attended the schools that are closing or that have closed.  What I did not read was a lot about obedience and deference to the hard choices of the bishop or the value of passing on the Catholic faith, or in fact anything much at all about the importance of keeping kids Catholic by keeping them in Catholic School. Maybe that's to come but I didn't see anything even remotely like that online today.

An excellent book on this very topic is  Designed to Fail: Catholic Education in America. I blogged about it a few years back. If you want to know how it came to this, this is an excellent resource.