Today my daughter, Sr. Mary Kate, a postulant-soon-to-be-novice with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, is arriving for a one-week home visit. We are all so excited to welcome her home!
Amidst all the anticipation and preparations, I stumbled upon this article in the June 5, 2011 issue of Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly. It’s about the tensions that sometimes exist between the Catholic homeschooling community and parochial schools. I’ll get back to Sr. Mary Kate in a minute.
There really aren’t any new insights in the article, but it does describe a troubling, recent controversy in the Diocese of Austin, in which the local homeschooling group invited the bishop to celebrate Mass to help kick off the school year. Unfortunately (in my opinion), the request was forwarded to the Catholic schools superintendent, who wrote:
“Bishop Vásquez received your invitation to celebrate a Eucharistic liturgy for the fall home-schooling blessing Mass. Bishop Vásquez believes Catholic education, and in particular Catholic school education, is an essential part of the life of the Diocese of Austin. As you know, Catholic schools are at the heart of the mission of the Church. Bishop’s presence at the home-schooling Mass would convey a contradictory message equating the importance of Catholic school education with Catholic home schooling; therefore, Bishop Vásquez must respectfully decline the invitation.”
My own family homeschooled for many years. We have also availed ourselves of public schools, parochial schools, and independent Catholic schools. I’ve previously addressed the issue of “Catholic school choice,” and I’ve also written this piece on homeschooling and sacramental preparation.
Parents have serious, primary responsibilities when it comes to the Christian formation of their children and in helping them discover their vocation in life (cf. Catechism, nos. 2221-31). It’s a gross misreading of Church teaching to assert that there’s only one way (e.g., parochial schools, homeschooling, etc.) to “get ‘er done.” Parents need assistance, not guilt trips, especially in today’s challenging Church landscape.
I guess what bothered me about the OSV article is the claim that there are a dearth of vocations coming from homeschooling. Even if one can make the case, why do it? Anecdotally speaking, Sr. Mary Kate was homeschooled for ten years and considers her experience as having a significant influence on her vocation. She has several fellow postulants who likewise were homeschooled. This is in keeping with the statistics I’ve seen in recent years, though admittedly not all studies pay adequate attention to the phenomenon of homeschooling.
Let’s get past all our personal prejudices and stereotypes and in their place support all efforts to raise up the next generation of Christian disciples in the home–regardless of educational choices–so that we may truly build a new “culture of vocations.”