January 29 – February 3 is Catholic Schools Week
This is one week each year that students, staff, and parents celebrate the gift of a Catholic education. Make no mistake; it is a gift.
I spend my days as a first grade teacher at a Catholic school in Des Moines, Iowa. My first graders are like first graders anywhere. They are learning to read and write; add and subtract. They tattle on each other, talk without raising their hands, laugh at silly stories, and cry when someone hurts their feelings. Their smiles are missing a few teeth, and some still ask for a hug when they are missing their moms. That is life in a first grade classroom public or parochial.
But in our Catholic schools teachers and students also worship, pray, and grow in faith together. Everyone should pray with a room full of six-year-olds at least once in his life. Whether we are sitting or standing they are a perpetually moving body, but their little fingers are piously locked together. Each day I ask, “And for whom shall we pray…”
- “For John (a sick student) so he feels better.”
- “For my dog who burps too much.”
- “So my grandpa has a good time in Heaven.”
- “For the poor and the homeless.”
- “For the sick.”
- “For my sister to feel better.”
- “For the Dowling players to not get hurt.”
Those are the real lessons (maybe not the one about the dog) that kids learn at Catholic schools. They learn that God is a part of our every moment and to look outside themselves to the needs of others. My absolute favorite prayer comes from a little boy who resembles Dennis the Menace — that mischievous yet undeniably endearing comic strip prankster. He is a very typical, ants in the pants, talks too much, adorable, wonderful six-year-old who after a day of being told 2,376 times to sit still and listen raises his hand and prays, “So that nobody forgets about God.” To which I can only say, “Amen, Dennis, Amen.”
That is the gift of Catholic education. Thank you to all who make that gift possible!
The Practicing Catholic contributor Kasey Eoriatti lives in Des Moines, Iowa with husband Alan their three children. The Eoriattis are active parishioners at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in West Des Moines. Kasey teaches first grade at Holy Trinity Catholic School in Des Moines.