An ongoing series that shows our Archdiocese of Omaha Catholic schools as places where Jesus' light is shining through and changing lives
A collection of stories from our schools
Suzanne Seyler, teacher at St. Bernard in Omaha, and 2019 Archdiocese of Omaha Educator of the Year, not only helps her students daily encounter Jesus, but families are touched by her faithfulness as well. Parent Jason Sizemore—a lifelong Baptist—believes that her bond with his daughter Zoey and her positive influence in both their lives pushed him to enter the RCIA program at St. Bernard. After coming to the school as a non-Catholic, Zoey was determined to receive the sacraments with her classmates. Although her father protested, she was insistent and by the time she reached fourth grade she declared, “Daddy, I’m going to be a Catholic.” And within a few years, so was Jason, with Suzanne at his side as his sponsor.
“She would explain things that I would question or didn’t understand, she would explain her feelings and listen to mine. She was doing this for me, for the Church, for the school,” said Jason.
We chose to send our children to a private school (St Michael’s) with the opportunity for our children to share in the faith environment with other children and families. In public educational facilities, so many rules come down on what is allowed to be shared and we didn’t want our children to be limited. We felt like ST. Michael's provided our children with a solid foundation for the future to be able to pull upon as they dealt with other life situations. A comment I will never forget is one of our children stating in third grade, when some of the other boys were discussing another child, was this: “If God gave him the talent, why shouldn’t he use it.” I knew at that time, that this is where our children needed to be - in a private school that allows kids to tap into their faith. Applying our faith in everyday situations is needed more than ever! Love our faith and school!
-Steve & Valorie Slizoski
My husband’s faith and involvement has strengthened the most as our kids have entered school. He was raised Catholic and attended Creighton University but as he started his career, he moved for jobs a couple times each year, so he never took the time to find a parish. After we got married, he took a position that would allow us to reside in Omaha and he started attending Mass more regularly with me. As our children were born, attending Mass each week became more important to him, and as they entered school, he has become involved in many many areas of the school and parish. Mine is a family of old school Catholic upbringing…more of a tradition to family and church. My grandparents were charter members of St. Thomas More, my parents both attended St. Thomas More, my three siblings and I attended St. Thomas More, and we’re all active members today.
Seeing Ava’s beautiful smile when we tell her it’s time to go to school has strengthened our faith. She lights up when she talks about Jesus and all of the wonderful things she learns at school. Her love for Jesus is easy to see and radiates from her. We will never forget the night before bed she taught us a prayer she learned at school, “Holy Spirit show us the way, to all we think, do and say.” We were humbled when our daughter became the teacher that night… through her faith and love for Jesus, our faith also grows stronger.
- Mary B., St. Vincent de Paul
I was meeting with a family and I was supposed to be helping them, but as it turns out, the female student, actually taught ME something--a prayer I'd never heard,which she'd learned at Saints Peter & Paul Catholic School.
I am an eighth grader at St. Cecilia. I have four siblings, but they don’t go to this school. Over my years at St. Cecilia, I have learned so much! When I arrived at St. Cecilia in fifth grade, I wasn’t Catholic then. I am now, and we’ll talk about that later.
This Catholic school has helped me serve in so many ways, serving my community, family and school. Every day our religion teacher asks us, “Who should we pray for?” and I usually say the poor and my grandpa, who has cancer. Religion class has given me a whole new perspective on the world.
When I was younger and my friends always got better grades, I would think, “I am never going to success like they do.” Now when I feel that way, I say to myself, “proof you can improve.” I learned to think this way because of my teachers. I became a better student because of them and have learned to study more.
In elementary school, I don’t think I even knew the word teamwork. Now I have learned that to be a leader, you need to have followers, you have to inspire people to want to follow you, but it’s also about teamwork. This year I am doing a project for history day with a partner and we are working together as a team. I am also always having fun; that’s also important.
Most importantly, St. Cecilia has given me an opportunity to lead my family into the Church. In sixth grade, I told my mom, “Mom, I want to be Catholic.” When she asked why, I said, “mom, I want to be able to altar serve like the other girls.” She told me to think about that for another year. In seventh grade, I said, “Mom I want to be Catholic.” When she asked why, I said, “So I can serve and receive confirmation and go to a Catholic high school.” She said again, “ask again next year.” In eighth grade, I said, “Mom, I want to become Catholic.” When she asked why, I took a second to think and answered, “I believe I belong to the Catholic faith. I feel God is calling me, and also because I want to live out the faith through our family.”
At a school Mass in November, I was baptized and received my first communion with my school and my family present to welcome me. I was confirmed later in November with my class. And this very year, my whole family is becoming Catholic on Easter! St. Cecilia enabled me to lead my family into the Catholic faith.
I became friends with everyone in my class in sixth grade and started getting involved in extracurriculars like soccer, basketball, volleyball, track and later on, cross country. I am in operetta this year because my friend Caroline gave me the confidence to try out. I’ve met all of my best friends here. A couple of weeks ago when I was altar serving, I messed up in front of all my friends. That Monday at school, everyone had their laughs, but no one was making fun of me. They told me, “we still love you.” St. Cecilia is like my second family. This is what Catholic schools are all about. Thank you to everyone who supports St. Cecilia school and all Catholic schools.
“Catholic education has been life-changing for us.” – Monica Taylor
Monica is a mom with children who attend/attended St. Pius X/St. Leo School. A few years ago, she was a stay-at-home mom who wanted Catholic education for her children but assumed she couldn’t afford the tuition while also staying at home. Then she saw a yard sign in front of her parish that advertised a new welcome tuition discount for public school transfer students. She took the next step, called to talk to the school principal and her priest, who were able to make the Catholic school experience affordable for her family.
Immediately, her oldest son, who was reserved in personality, thrived in the smaller classroom setting and achieved top academic honors in his time there before graduating.
“My middle son started Catholic school in third grade and fit right in. My youngest is a first grader. We haven’t looked back,” she said.
Monica is a life-long Catholic who actually attended St. Pius X/St. Leo School herself. Even so, Monica said her faith has been further strengthened through sending her children to Catholic schools. And not just her faith—Monica’s husband is currently going through RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and is set to be baptized this Easter.
“My husband would go to Mass with us but not completely understand the meaning of everything. Now, we go to Mass every Sunday as a family, and my parents come, too. Faith is a much larger part of our lives now,” she said.
This is all coming after one her son’s came home from school one day and asked, “why don’t we just all go to Mass this week?” and she shrugged, which started their journey into a deeper faith life. She also shared many stories of her son bringing home what he learned about Catholic teachings and sacraments during the day and asking his parents their thoughts, spurring many a reflective conversation and bringing this family unit even closer together. Monica now works for the school as well.
My wife and I each attended Catholic Colleges and I a Jesuit High School, neither of us had any experience attending a Catholic grade or middle school. Since enrolling our children in SVdP our faith in God has grown at an alluring pace through a myriad of small gestures. Parents and teachers have let us know how they were grateful we enrolled our children and simply said it out loud. Their joy came from within their own happiness that we were going to be a part of something with them they truly loved. So, we as a family became more open about talking about our own faith with others outside of SVdP, sparking a fire in us, and only those who genuinely wanted to listen. Most importantly we learned our faith is not about creating these huge holy moments, faithfulness came from small things. Some of the holiest people walked amongst us completely anonymous, nobody knew about their great deeds, and they would have just passed through our lives without ever knowing them. Thankfully we do know some of them now. Most of the holiest people that have ever walked on this earth no one knows about, luckily, we have met some at SVdP. Had we not become closer with our church they would have humbly passed through our lives. From the beginning the people of SVdP have been extremely welcoming, opening up their community, lives, and homes in a very true Christian way.
We enrolled our daughters in St. Vincent de Paul School and are pleased with our decision. There is nothing better than our children coming home from school being excited about their faith, their education, and the community that surrounds them. Our parish, school and community are very important to us. Bringing them all together has enriched our lives and the lives of our children.
O’Neill St. Mary’s School has changed our lives for the better. Deciding to move our 5 kids to a new school at the ages of 11-9-7-5-4 was a HUGE decision requiring a lot of contemplation, hand-wringing and prayer. But, it’s proven to be the RIGHT decision. Our children are now in a school community that promotes the Catholic Religion. They are safe!! I don’t worry every single day about their welfare and safety. They are well cared for by adults that truly protect and love them. The staff at St. Mary’s look out for our kids like their own; Ensuring that our children are developing into the best versions of themselves by exemplifying Catholic values and characteristics. The “little things” are NOT overlooked ensuring that the “big things” won’t be overlooked either! Not to mention the education that they are getting! Our children are pushed and encouraged to do the best they can and to grow academically. There is a REAL push to prepare them for the world after HS, to prepare them for higher education and careers! Our children are with leaders that recognize the power of prayer and the importance of Catholic mass. They are taught to look out for those around them that are in need of help, love and support. My husband and I teach our children to look out for the under-dog or those at risk of being bullied/marginalized in society. Now we are at a school that is consistent with the values we teach in our home. St. Mary’s has provided us with PEACE.
For our family, St. Vincent de Paul (SVDP) has transformed our lives in only the most positive ways, all of which started with enrolling our two daughters in the school. Prior to enrolling our middle daughter (now a 7th-grader), our family had been away from the church for far too long. We were also struggling to find a community and a school that was the right fit for her. We have three daughters, one in college and two enrolled now at the SVDP school and without question, it has been the single-greatest blessing our family has received. Dr. Marchese and the school, along with the entire SVDP community welcomed us with open arms like we’ve never experienced before. I personally enrolled in the RCIA program, with my wife as my sponsor which was the experience that catapulted our faith journey that we all live today. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay on as a team member of the RCIA program going on my 4th year, currently entering my 2nd year sitting on the SVDP Parish Council and also dedicate time to helping the parish social media team as we continue to grow our community through the changing communication landscape. My wife volunteers and helps run the used uniform program at the school and our girls (7th grader and 2nd grader) are involved in a host of activities on both the school and parish side. We enjoyed our youngest daughters first communion just this past weekend. Our lives now revolve around SVDP in so many different and amazing ways for each member of our family, it’s truly been a transformative experience for us and none of it would have happened had it not been for the enrollment and continued involvement with the school. It’s difficult to imagine where we would be today without this school and community. It’s a thought we can’t, nor do we want to even comprehend.
-Cort Irish and family
Even though both mom and dad were raised in strong Catholic faith homes, we were not fully practicing or attending Mass as we do know, to set a better example to our children. We make Mass time family time. No events in our schedules impact our attendance. We discuss when we feel overwhelmed, scared, frustrated, or even calm and appreciative. We talk to Jesus and thank Him for everything we have.
Fourth Grade Parent St. Bonaventure, Columbus
Since enrolling our child at St. Bonaventure, our entire family's faith has grown. Watching our daughter so eager to say her prayers is so exciting. Growing up, my husband and I both went to public schools. To see all that my child has already learned just her young age is very impressive. The rosary has always been very important to me, so when she came home and know all the mysteries and explained them to me, it almost brought tears to my eyes. I almost feel as though the older she gets, there is a chance she will be teaching me new things that I may have missed out on. We are so happy we chose the path of Catholic schools, and I know St. Bons was the best choice. We couldn't be happier and can't wait to watch her learn and grow closer to God. Our faith will always be number one in our family's lives. We can't thank God enough for guiding us to St. Bon's!
First Grade Parent St. Bonaventure, Columbus
Thank you to Mrs. Linda Harrison, a 7th grade Religion teacher, for sharing this story: "Our 7th grade students requested more rosary praying time as something we could do during Lent. How can you say no to that? So, we have the church reserved on Wednesday afternoons during our study hall for anyone that would like to go pray the rosary. It was peaceful and so prayerful! Week one we had five students and week two we had nineteen students. I was so proud that they led it 100%!"
“I believe in school choice because where you live or how much your parents make shouldn’t determine whether you get a proper education or not.”
My life would be very different if I couldn’t attend Catholic school. I’ve learned so many different things about myself. I learned to be a leader and am now the student body president. I’m also involved in drama club, youth group, and the editor of the yearbook. If I’d gone anywhere else I wouldn’t have had the same opportunities to be as successful as I am now. My parents immigrated to the United States from Sudan when my mom was pregnant with me. I have four brothers, two older and two younger. I’ve gone to Catholic school my entire life. Most people think if you go to private school you’re rich, but in reality my family does have our financial challenges. Coming to the US, education was my parents top priority. They wanted my brothers and I to get the best education we could, which is why we ended up in Catholic schools. They are very happy with that decision regardless of the financial burden. They feel the outcome has been worth the struggle. Read more of this Gross Catholic student's story by visiting Federation for Children's website.
Being part of the Shamrock nation has been a tradition in our family for many years. My mom attended Scotus, and I was so excited about going to school there too. Then, both of our children graduated from Scotus. When I think of going to school there, the first thing that I think of is opportunity. Scotus Central Catholic not only challenged me academically to be the best student that I could be, but it also gave me the experiences that I needed to grow in my faith and find ways to serve the Lord using my talents. Scotus provided me with many leadership opportunities in the many different activities that I was involved in. The teachers and sponsors had high expectations for us, and they wanted us to do well. They guided us, and then, when it was time, they let us fly. During my high school days, I remember thinking this is where I want to be some day - back in the same school system that educated me and helped me grow in my faith. Scotus helped me to see and understand that God had a very special plan for me, and it was my job to trust in that plan wherever it may lead me.
Now, I am back at Scotus helping coach cross country and helping students to believe in themselves and trust in God’s plans for them. Hopefully, the young men and women that I work with can see by my example the importance of living what you believe and understand how important it is not to take the gift of a Catholic education for granted. The impact that attending Scotus has had on our family has lead us to set up a memorial scholarship in memory of our children’s grandparents. We want the gift of a Scotus education to continue for years to come!
-Amy Sokol, St. Anthony School Principal and alum of Columbus Scotus High School
A mother named Edith came to my office looking for Catholic schools for their children. At that time, she had a freshman at a local public high school, as well as a daughter and a son in public grade school. They were going through a traumatic experience and the father was in jail. Edith never had a job before and was facing a tough time. It was because of her Catholic faith that she start taking steps forward, even with her children showing contempt. We looked for the appropriate schools for them and were able to enroll them at Gross Catholic High School and St. Bernadette. At the same time, we were able to enroll the older kids in the Steubenville retreat that took place over the summer last year (2018). After they got back from Steubenville, Edith came to my office again and told me she noticed a huge change in her children; she told stories of her daughter bursting into song and dance and that she was healing, free of pain and resentment. But Edith was still afraid that with the time her children would forget their encounter with Jesus Christ at Steubenville. I still keep in contact with Edith and recently she shared that her family remains happy and growing in faith. Her son is even currently discerning about becoming a priest!
St. Anthony School brought hope back to my kids. Hope that teachers DO care. My kids (the two oldest) hated school and it was a fight every morning. Since we started at St. Anthony, they actually look forward to going to school. My first grader told me that he enjoys the activities that encourage the involvement of the whole school. He said it makes him feel like he is part of a big family."
- Erika Almazon, mother of a preschooler, 1st, 4th and 6th grader at St. Anthony in Columbus, NE
My husband and I were unsure about where we wanted to send our children to school. We don't live in Columbus and at the time, we were not members of St. Anthony. We had attended church there several times and decided one day to just check out their school. We were blown away by their hospitality, how welcoming they made us feel and could tell they really loved God, loved our children and loved their jobs. We are so grateful to God that He gave us the gift of St. Anthony and that it is now OUR school--and now parish, too!
-Tori Oehlrich, mother of a 1st and 3rd grader
The meaning and impact of Catholic school in my family can be described in one word: Blessing! I have never seen a school that has such a big heart. It is a school where I know my child is cared for and protected. He is taught not only school subjects, but the importance of prayer, faith, and the significance of caring for one another. The staff is outstanding! The class size is perfect! Each student is known by name. My family could not ask for anything better. A story comes to mind to demonstrate: My son came home one day and told me he chose to go to adoration instead of recess! We are blessed!
-Julie Urkoski, mother of a 1st grader and incoming kindergartener
To me, our Catholic School means family. Our school is so close knit that it really is another family to us. When my kids talk about other students, I don't even have to ask who they're talking about, because I know all the kids' names myself. Our school may be small, but our school is mighty! And the family atmosphere we have, I wouldn't trade it for anything! Love our school, an I know the boys love it, too!
- Theresa Boesch, mother of 2nd and 4th grade students, Columbus, NE
Mrs. Cheryl Drozd, a preschool teacher at St. Bonaventure in Columbus, has helped five elementary school teachers there (1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, & 6th) begin class EVERY DAY this past school year with a short reflection on Scripture. While initially skeptical, all five teachers are now gung-ho about it, noting the difference it has made for their kids as well as their own spiritual lives. Mrs. Drozd is hearing from parents who say they are having conversations at home with their kids about the Bible (which were not previously happening), and she was telling me that a number of parents want to be equipped to continue Scriptural reflections at home during the summer.
No wonder this effort is seeing so much traction--it's powerful to see what happens by simply meeting students right where they are and helping them take steps forward to prioritize conversations about Jesus.
A foundation of faith is the best gift we can give our family! Both Chris and I received Catholic education through our formative years: elementary, junior high, high school, and college. Now we have four daughters, all attending St. Rose of Lima Catholic School in Crofton, Nebraska grades Preschool – 8th.
The Catholic education our girls receive is an opportunity to recognize the grace of God in daily living. By attending weekday Mass, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Reconciliation, and daily religious education classes, prayer and reflection become habits. These manners and traditions the girls may carry with them for the rest of their lives. Sitting around our dinner table at night, we find joy in the stories the girls tell of their day at school; the same school that their father, grandparents, and great-grandfather all attended. It is reassuring that the level of community support and high standard of education trails from generation to generation at St. Rose of Lima School. We are proud to be a part of the over 100 years of Catholic education at St. Rose.
However many changes our world goes through, the way we’ve been taught to treat others as Jesus did, will always remain the same. It is imperative to us that our girls know they may always turn to their deep roots of faith gifted to them by their education at a Catholic school.
Chris & Holly Wortmann, St. Rose of Lima Catholic School, Crofton, Nebraska
I am Fr. John Hagemann, OSB, Campus Minister from Mount Michael Abbey and School. Several years ago, we started a program for seven-day boarders, many of whom are international students. A good number are not Catholic, but we require the same of them as we do our Catholic students: theology classes, services hours, and attendance at the Eucharist and other sacraments.
Yije(Jerry) Fan would always come to visit with me when we had scheduled Reconciliation services for our students. He had questions about faith and religion and how to deal with the struggles of being a student from a far-off country in an American Benedictine school. He has always been a great listener.
Because of his struggles, he developed a desire to become Catholic because he saw how his fellow students depended upon prayer, their families, and the faith of the community to become better people. He wanted something rock-solid that he could lean upon. He felt that becoming Catholic and a person of faith would do that for him.
Jerry started to take his theology classes seriously. It was no longer a matter of just reading facts and memorizing them. He credits his teachers with opening his eyes and helping him understand what faith is all about.
Jerry also looked to an older Chinese student who wanted to become Catholic as well. This gave Jerry support and assurance that this was really something he wanted to do.
Jerry was received into the Catholic church at Easter Vigil in 2018. It was a happy moment for him and his family.
Now Jerry is a reader for almost every Eucharist on the weekends at Mount Michael and is a faithful volunteer for care center visits. Along with other Mount Michael students, he has developed relationships with the residents of this care center.
Jerry is a good young man, who continues to seek further understanding about being a Catholic and really puts his faith into practice.
It would be an understatement to say that a religious community which operates a boarding school has an effect upon its own students. In our case, Mount Michael Abbey’s monastic community indeed influences the students of Mount Michael Benedictine School.
Because the school requires all weekend boarders to attend the Eucharist, these students hear homilies by the monks and come to know who they are. The monks pray for these students and are family to them. Mount Michael has numerous international students from eight countries with the highest percentage from China.
Junior Zhuyi (Joey) Chen has taken a liking to Abbot Theodore Wolff, OSB. Joey approached me years ago, asking if he could have a one-on-one meeting with one of the monks so that he could understand the Catholic faith better and do some Bible study. Since I had Abbot Theodore as my Novice Director many years ago, I thought he would be an excellent mentor for Joey.
Abbot Theodore celebrated his 90th birthday last August and perhaps is much more a grandfather figure for a 16-year-old boy- perhaps a wise elder and mentor. The two of them meet on Saturday mornings, solely for spiritual and religious reasons.
Although Joey has not decided to convert yet, his desire to learn more about the faith is sincere and comes directly from his heart. We speak of the baptism of desire, and perhaps that is where Joey is at this point in his life. Whatever it is, it certainly is a nice thing. Joey will certainly remember these meetings with a gentle and compassionate “old” monk, a grandfather figure and know that he will always be welcome to become a part of the Catholic church.
Nico Rodriguez is a first grader at St. Bernadette Catholic School in Bellevue. He just recently joined the Church – and so did his whole family. This family’s story started when Nico’s mom, Stacey, met with SBS school principal, Mrs. Lynn Schultz, two years ago looking for a good preschool opportunity for her son. She described her son Nico as a miracle baby. After doctors telling her she couldn’t have any more children, one month after not feeling well, she found she was actually already pregnant when they told her that! Nico has been special from the start. During the tour of the preschool, Stacey decided that St. Bernadette was a good fit even though no one in their family was Catholic, and despite it being a long drive to get him there in the mornings. She decided to make those choices, but “only for preschool” – and made that clear to Mrs. Schultz. But then, Nico kept coming home and talking about school and the religious teachings he’d learned during the days and how that made him feel. Nico was so happy that his mom said she started to think, “wow, he’s a different kid now, this is a different kind of school.”
Again, faith was not a priority in their family at the time, but they took the step of enrolling Nico in kindergarten there because he was thriving. Soon after, he started to ask to be baptized at school, so the family started to talk about and consider that as a possibility. During this same time his sister was an eighth grader, also at St. Bernadette. His sister Abby was already baptized Presbyterian, but as soon as Nico began asking about baptism, she started talking about being confirmed with her class. Stacey and her husband Johnnie were curious about Catholicism and what their children were learning and what these steps would mean, so they joined RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) to learn more about the catechism. As they were going through the program, Nico’s dad Johnnie decided to join the Church himself!
As part of the process, one of the children wanted their uncle to be the godfather, but he was not Catholic. Stacey talked her brother into at least coming to RCIA classes to check things out. He warned the family not to get their hopes up, he had no intention of becoming Catholic. Around this same time, a traumatic family situation occurred, and RCIA is what got them through. Last Easter Vigil in 2018, Stacey, Johnnie, uncle Nick, Nico, and Abby all came into the Church together!! ALL because of Nico’s pre-kindergarten experience and the school helping the family encounter Christ. And the story doesn’t end there.
At this year’s recent Easter Vigil, one year later, Nico’s grandparents also came into the Church! Catholicism, faith, prayer – these are all a part of this family’s daily lives. All part of God’s incredible plan.
It has become a tradition in our family that whenever we leave town on any kind of a road trip, my husband, Kevin removes his ball cap and leads us in The Memorare, asking Mary to intercede for in safety on our travels. We didn’t always do that. In fact, we didn't even know that prayer until Luke and Kyle started school at St. Mary’s. This school prayer is prayed in unison in bus, van, or school car whenever there is a ball game, speech meet, retreat, or any other school activity is attended. What a blessing that prayer has been to our lives of faith! This is just one example of the impact the Catholic School has had on our lives.
When we first moved to O’Neill in 2003, we had enrolled the boys in the public grade school, but were active in St. Patrick’s Parish Community and the CCD programs. It was only a matter of time before the priests pursued our family and strongly encouraged us to consider sending the boys to St. Mary’s. An addiction problem was slowly tearing our family apart. One evening in the summer, before school started, some families from the Parish and St. Mary’s School came over and personally invited us to ‘pray about it.’ We knew we needed some kind of a change, for the sake of our little family. By God’s grace, He led us to discern what His will was for us. That fall the boys began 6th and 7th grade at St. Mary's. Prayer came alive again in our home, beautiful friendships developed, and the boys, Kyle especially, had taken an interest in establishing his own prayer time with Jesus. He had some good spiritual direction from the priests and found the truth to some answers he had been wrestling with. As a 6th grader, he had the opportunity of playing football on the playground with the young associate priest. He recalls thinking 'Wow, he is pretty cool’ and that priests are just ‘regular people.' Little did we know that the seeds of a possible priestly vocation were being planted. It was a bit more difficult for Luke to ‘fit in’ at first, but let’s face it; junior high is just tough no matter where you are. The beauty of private Catholic Schools is the smaller class sizes and personal attention from the teachers. Luke eventually made friends ‘with everyone' and junior high seemed more bearable.
As we all grew stronger in our faith, the sacraments became more and more important as we could see the Lord moving and working in our lives. Daily prayer read over the intercom and weekly school masses and reconciliation opportunities helped keep things in perspective. I could see changes in the boys. I saw commitment to excel in all areas, especially in holiness as they began to choose better movies to watch and music to listen to. I will never forget the day Kyle introduced me to the Litany of Humility or when he taught Kevin the difference between objective truth and subjective truth. We’ve learned so much from our boys!
I recall both Luke and Kyle studying The Salvation Story from a great priest and learning about the Bible from our sons. The many required retreats they attended were very influential in emphasizing the beauty, respect and dignity of each person as a gift from God. The Theology of the Body segment taught to seniors further accentuated that truth. I believe this helped Luke and Kyle establish healthy boundaries with the females in their lives, and to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve.
I mentioned earlier that the smaller class sizes made it possible to form strong, wholesome friendships and those relationships have been maintained. Now they are all going to each other’s weddings and keeping in touch incessantly on social media. Just recently, Luke received a letter in grad school from his high school English teacher. She had heard ‘through the grapevine' that he could use some words of encouragement so she wrote him a letter. There was profound respect that Luke and Kyle had for their teachers and that respect has developed into some lasting friendships as adults. Kyle checks in with one of his favorite teachers who ‘hooks him up with' the newest edition to a Sci-Fi series he likes to read.
Unity and service to one another in our family, parish, school and community was, and still is, greatly emphasized at St. Mary’s Schools. I can recall volunteering with several service projects, helping at retreats, cooking for class meals, collaborating with the public school and hosting the post prom festivities together and gathering for Community Rosary to pray as ONE Church. Kevin and I have both grown tremendously in our own faith individually and as a married couple. We have climbed out of our comfort zone and began our walk of discipleship with the Lord by working with youth groups in our home and organizing a Vocations Ministry at St Patrick’s' Church. Life was interrupted, by Jesus Christ when His Holy Spirit guided the many people we’ve met along the way to help shape each of us into His disciples and they continue to equip us with weapons and armor for the journey.
Catholic School Education has changed our lives in so many ways; I could share pages of our experiences. As I conclude, I know I speak for my whole family when I say how thankful and blessed we are to have had the opportunity to send our children to a Catholic School. Amidst all the challenges and struggles in life, the foundation of faith is what ‘holds you up’ when life starts to crumble. That rock of faith foundation is continually supported by drawing on prayer, service, friendships, and especially that loving relationship with the Lord; all of which was ignited early on when we trusted God and enrolled at St. Mary’s School. Thank you for this opportunity to reminisce and to once again thank God for this wonderful blessing!
I went through a period of time where my faith was a struggle for me. As a result, I did not have my son Drew baptized because I wanted him to have more of an ownership of his faith than I ever did. Since coming to St. Bernadette, we have both witnessed so many examples of disciples and amazing professions of faith. Drew has heard the stories of two of his classmates who were baptized in the past year. We have felt so welcomed, loved, and supported in our faith journey from the St. Bernadette family. It is difficult for me to express just how much the students, faculty, principal, staff, parishioners, parents have affected us spiritually. Drew has decided he would like to become baptized as a result of his experiences at St. Bernadette leading him to want to be closer to God and Jesus, and he is receiving the Sacrament of Baptism this summer. In turn, witnessing his faith journey, as well as so many others' at SBS has led me to continually examine and reaffirm my own faith. I feel closer to God and Jesus now than I ever have before. I am so grateful for our SBS family and the relationships we have developed throughout the past two years.
- Becky, Spanish teacher at St. Bernadette, whose son is in 1st grade at the school
My son Tommy is a student at St. Thomas More and was playing up in his room Sunday evening and didn't want anyone to see what he was doing. It was a surprise. He then chose to sleep on the floor in his brother's room that night. Monday after school he said he had an important family announcement as soon as dad got home.
He turned his room into a family prayer space with 4 distinct centers/focus areas. There was a place to honor the Eucharist, a place for prayerful reading, a place of honor for Mary and our Guardian Angels, and a place to contemplate the face of Jesus (and look at Holy Cards). I told him it was like his own atrium and he shouted YES!!!!! He wanted to give up his room to be used as a center for family prayer (and Lego play space. . . ).
I know he had been planning this for a while; about two weeks ago he asked me to go through his room with him and tell him about all the sacramentals/religious items that were his own. I think this is a testament to what he's learning and experiencing in Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and during his entire school day. The willingness and desire for him to give up his personal space (his room) for the sake of the family is seriously the most sacrificial thing I've experienced either of my children doing. He will be keeping his room, but I won't be discouraging the purpose. The space can be multi-use!
Kuol came to St. Mary’s from public school in the seventh grade. His cousin’s family had been at the St. Mary’s for some time and they persuaded Kuol’s mom that a change would be good for him. Kuol said he was happy to be in school with his cousin, but he was a little anxious about making new friends and getting used to new teachers. He had a bit of trouble adjusting to a school where the atmosphere was positive and students had smaller classes, because it also meant that he would get more attention and help whenever he needed it. Kuol soon relaxed when he realized that St. Mary’s was very different from his previous school. His classmates were welcoming and included him, his teachers noticed right away when he struggled, and most importantly, the school opened his heart to Jesus’ love. Kuol had begun praying more intentionally in fifth grade but was still new to his relationship with God. At first Kuol was hesitant to participate in Religion class and not particularly open to a lifelong commitment to being Catholic. As time went on and Kuol participated more, he asked questions and really listened to the Gospel message at school Masses. He had a true conversion of heart in the seventh grade. Kuol asked to be Baptized and wanted this to happen at a school Mass with all of his classmates and teachers there to witness. Kuol attended Baptism class with his parents and knew it was exactly what he wanted to do. It just so happened that his two younger siblings were baptized at the same time, meaning that Kuol was responsible for bringing two more children with him into the Faith. He also received the Sacraments of First Reconciliation and First Holy Communion in the spring of seventh grade. This spring, he was confirmed and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Kuol is truly an amazing young Catholic who was brought closer to Jesus through Catholic school and the love of his family.
- Trish Wallinger, principal at St. Mary School in Bellevue, NE
As an alum and now first-year teacher at St. Rose of Lima School in Crofton, I can only begin to share the many blessings and authentic encounters that this small, rural Catholic School has offered me. At St. Rose School, I was able to build a strong foundation founded in prayer, service, hope, morals, and love. I had teachers who led great examples of what it truly meant to live out our Catholic faith. My teachers set high expectations for all of us academically, spiritually, and instilled many morals and life-skills. Most importantly, they showed me that God has a plan for my life. They inspired me and helped me discover that God was calling me to be a teacher so that I can help my students grow and develop a relationship with God.
During my education at Saint Rose, our parish priest would also visit our classroom weekly. We would have deep discussions, many of which were based on our questions, curiosities, and concerns for our faith. It really showed me that it is better to dig deeper, to wonder, and to ask questions about our faith rather than going through the motions.
Beyond the classroom, Saint Rose School offered me the chances to attend mass twice during the week, to encounter Christ in the sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Reconciliation, and to be fully in the presence of Christ during weekly Adoration. Once a year in sixth through eighth grade, we also attended a religious pilgrimage somewhere in the surrounding area.
I was able to take everything I learned and developed during the eight years of faith-filled education and really branch out on my own as I entered high school, and especially throughout college. College was the first time I had to make the conscious decision to live out my faith where I was not always surrounded by it. This was the first time I really was faced with others who did not have the same beliefs and morals I did. I can truly say that because I learned back in elementary and middle school how precious and real our faith is, that I knew I wanted to live it out for the rest of my life. I was able to go out and find friends around campus that shared their Catholic faith with me, and we were able to keep each other accountable and push each other to live out our faith.
During the end of my college career, I really started focusing on what God had planned for me. Because of the prayer life I had started to develop at Saint Rose as an elementary student, I continued to pray, now asking God to help me open my heart and mind to be willing to follow His plan for me. Not knowing where or what His plans were for my life, I turned everything over to Him and placed all my worries into His hands. When I first found out that there was a teaching position open back at Saint Rose, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and clarity like I have never felt before.
God has revealed His plan for me, and I could not have been more excited to accept the position as the fourth-grade teacher at Saint Rose. I am so grateful that God has called me back to Saint Rose with the opportunity to inspire, engage, and enlighten my very own students. I am so eager to share opportunities and encounters with my students as we all strive to grow in faith together. I want to show my students that God has a plan for their lives!
We wanted to send our children to a school where they would be free to talk about God and to learn the virtues of goodness in a religious environment. My husband attended St. Michael's, and being from the same community, I always admired children that attended the private school. We felt that St. Michael's would be the perfect school for our children. A school that provided an environment where they could achieve and be successful academically and where they would make life-long friends. We have been pleased with the excellence around the Catholic education and the outstanding reputation with regard to art and music that St. Michael's School provides to our children.
- Anthony and Nikki Michael, proud parents
Our daughter, Amelie, was a happy participant in the St. Thomas More youth choir this past school year. As a new student she was immediately welcomed into the group. The Sundays the choir performed at Mass were special days for her, as well as for our family, partially because we are not Catholics, as well as the fact we attend another church of a different denomination. The Roman Catholic Mass remains a very new experience to me, although both Amelie and her brother Whit are now well-used to participating in the Holy experience. For one service, because I am Amelie’s father, I was asked to play guitar alongside Jim Nailon, although I would’ve welcomed a rehearsal beforehand as my performance was not up to my standards; nevertheless, it was done for the glory of our Lord. We enjoy the community and fellowship of the St. Thomas More family and feel welcomed into the embrace of the church.
Eliana had the honor of winning the Catholic Schools Office's first "Awaken Greatness in the Community Contest." Her idea was to put together blessing bags for homeless individuals who could use some basic necessities along with an uplifting note. Eliana's classmates took part in the project as well by helping craft messages of hope and also with assembling the bags.
This project from start to finish was a lot of fun and inspiring to see all the kids get into the spirit of service work. As a family, we visited the Stephen Center and saw first hand the excellent services the center provides. It was very nice to meet some of the people who benefited from Eliana's project and the joy they had on their faces when our children handed out the bags. It was a truly inspiring experience, which beautifully illustrated to our family how service work can bring happiness and God's love to people in the community.
Catholic education was always just normal for me. It wouldn’t be until I went to college that I realized the beauty of my Catholic education and how much of a treasure it is for me, even to this day. Due to my Catholic education I got to be with priests and see that they are just ordinary dudes doing amazing things. The knowledge I gained from my Catholic education is extraordinary! I even used it this past summer teaching Totus Tuus. My faith was deepened so much via the education I received in my Catholic schools. The faith is just one aspect of Catholic education, but what is often neglected is the loving environment that one is put in. I can say that being nurtured in this environment, I was allowed to grow, flourish, and be me. The teachers are the greatest, and kindness they show to each kid is similar to a parent and a child. There are only so few words in this world that I could even use to express my gratitude for being raised in Catholic schools. I could honestly say today that without Catholic education, there would be no way I would be where I am at today.
-Seminarian Nicholas Paltz, former student at East Catholic