Saturday 17th March 2018

Home » Frontpage » Currently Reading:

Catholic High Schools In The 21st Century

June 15, 2017 Frontpage No Comments


(I am going to offer some observations about the state of American Catholic high schools based upon what I have seen in the part of Connecticut where I live. I am confident that the situation here is similar to that which obtains in most of the country. If not, I welcome readers’ reactions to provide balance. Fire away.)
My grandchildren attend the public high school in the Connecticut town where they live. But I get to hear parents of Catholic high school students talk about their experience quite a bit. Their sons are on my grandsons’ youth hockey teams and I occasionally shoot the breeze with some of them with our noses pushed up against the glass surrounding the ice. Now and then, their children’s schools come up in our conversations.
What strikes me is the tuition that these parents pay: Fairfield Prep, run by the Jesuits, is nearly $20,000 per year, Notre Dame West Haven, run by the Holy Cross Brothers, is close to $15,000. Notre Dame in Fairfield and St. Joseph’s in Trumbull cost about $14,000. It is hard to see how this state of affairs can continue.
Those prices make it a challenge for middle-class families, even upper-middle class families, especially those with more than one child of high school age, to send their children to these schools. I don’t think anyone wants Catholic high schools to become schools for only the very wealthy and a handful of minority students with financial aid or athletic scholarships, but that seems to be where we are heading.
I am not criticizing these schools. They are not in the same category as the colleges that have been raising their tuition far beyond the inflation rate. The high schools do not have overpaid teachers and administrators. Their buildings and grounds are no more plush than a typical suburban high school. They are doing what they need to do to survive.
But will these Catholic high schools be able to survive by continuing to raise their tuition? Or is their end in sight? The prestigious New England prep schools continue to thrive with even higher tuition costs. Perhaps schools like Fairfield Prep are in the same category, catering to wealthy Catholics.
But what about schools with a middle-class and upper-middle class clientele? Many of the parents of my grandchildren’s friends seem to be in those categories, yet they choose the public school system for their children. Why do they?
I haven’t taken a formal poll, but it seems clear to me. It is because they like their local public high school. The parents who send their children to Catholic high schools cannot say the same. In Connecticut, it is possible to earn an above average income and live in a very nice home, but in a neighborhood with dysfunctional and dangerous public high schools. Catholic high schools tend to draw their student bodies from families faced with that conundrum.
Stamford, where William F. Buckley’s home was located and the home of many Wall Street executives, is one example. New Haven, too, with old gingerbread houses that look as if they were lifted whole from a street scene in an “Andy Hardy” movie. Often, they are the homes of members of Yale’s faculty and administrators. These are highly desirable places to live, except for the public school system.
Great old homes — but served by an inner-city school system with all the problems associated with those systems. The professionals who live in these homes solve the problem by sending their children to private schools.
The Clintons and the Obamas made the same choice for their children; they did not send them to Washington, D.C.’s public schools.
If they are Catholics, they will choose from the available Catholic high schools. Non-Catholics have an array of private “day schools” to choose from, while others may use one of New England’s famous boarding schools.
Consider the implication: I submit that if these families lived in one of the more stable suburban areas of the state, many of them would be content with the local public school; Catholics, included. I repeat: Few of my grandkids’ neighborhood friends go to Catholic high schools, even those whose parents have considerable wealth, while parents with significantly less money who live a town or two away, make great sacrifices to send their children to a Catholic high school. The difference-maker is the quality of their public school systems.
It is hard not to conclude that Catholic high schools exist nowadays, in large measure, as a way to escape the crime, drugs, and lack of discipline found in the local public schools. That is their appeal, rather than their Catholic identity. I don’t think anyone familiar with Connecticut would argue that the Catholic parents in the suburbs of the state, who use their local public schools, are less committed to their Catholic beliefs than the Catholic parents in urban areas such as New Haven, Bridgeport, and Hartford, who send their children to Catholic high schools.
We face a new reality: It is near-to-impossible for modern Catholic high schools to compete with a well-run public high school in a stable neighborhood, whereas the Catholic high schools of old could compete. Those schools were different, staffed largely by members of religious orders; they provided the liturgy and in-depth instruction in the Catholic faith and a solid college prep curriculum, in a disciplined and orderly setting — and all at a very low cost.
Catholic parents of today face a calculus different from that of their predecessors in the 1950s and 1960s. The Catholic high schools available to them may be good in many ways, but not different enough to warrant their high tuition costs. The bottom line: If modern Catholic parents have a good public school available to them, most will choose it. Church leaders need to confront this reality.
What’s the answer? Often these things are solved “on the ground,” as parents make decisions about what is best for their families after they survey societal changes. That said, it strikes me that Catholic high schools cannot count forever on a clientele of parents who decide to stay in their homes in downtown areas in spite of the poor school systems, rather than move to the suburbs in search of good schools.
Then again, the millennials may change the above scenario. We see more and more of them opting to live in downtown areas, rather than search for the home with a lawn in the suburbs. If that pattern does not change when they become parents, the new normal may become what exists in urban areas such as Connecticut’s Stamford and New Haven: financially stable families with children living in areas serviced by substandard public school systems.
If that happens the demand for Catholic high schools may increase dramatically. Things could get interesting, especially if some form of voucher system is part of the story.

+ + +

Readers are invited to submit comments and questions about this and other educational issues. The e-mail address for First Teachers is, and the mailing address is P.O. Box 15, Wallingford, CT 06492.

Share Button

2017 The Wanderer Printing Co.

Vatican admits doctoring photo of Benedict’s letter praising Pope Francis

VATICAN, March 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — One of the world’s leading news agencies has said the Vatican breached journalistic standards by doctoring a photo of a letter from Benedict XVI praising Pope Francis. According to the Associated Press, the doctoring…Continue Reading

Cardinal Müller: The Pope has no power to change Humanae Vitae

ROME, March 8, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — The Pope has no power to change or relax the Church’s ban on artificial contraception, just as he can never allow women to be ordained, Cardinal Gerhard Müller said on Wednesday. The former prefect…Continue Reading

Catholic bishops stand by spokesman after racism comment

New Mexico’s three Catholic bishops on Tuesday rejected a call by 33 Republican state legislators to punish the Catholic Church’s spokesman for saying racism played a part in the defeat of an initiative to expand early childhood education. In fact,…Continue Reading

Jim Caviezel tells university students to ‘stand out’ and ‘be saints’

STEUBENVILLE, Ohio, March 5, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Catholic actor Jim Caviezel, who famously played Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, told university students on Sunday that they must set themselves apart from this “corrupt generation” and “be saints.” “You weren’t…Continue Reading

Catholic hierarchy to be confronted over gender inequality

“Powerful vested interests” within the Catholic church are being challenged at a conference in Rome on International Women’s Day as calls grow for women to be given positions of authority and influence in the church. In a sign that a new assertive…Continue Reading

Study shows why young Catholics leave the church

They stopped believing in God. They saw a disconnect between what Catholics say and what they do. They disagreed with the church’s stance on social issues such as homosexuality and birth control. They are the growing numbers of young Catholics…Continue Reading

Number of Catholic weddings falls by two-thirds since 1990

The number of Catholic weddings in England and Wales has fallen dramatically in the last 25 years, according to new figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). In 2015, the most recent year for which statistics have been recorded,…Continue Reading

Georgetown honors pro-abortion Senator whose bishop just barred him from Communion

WASHINGTON, D.C., February 28, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Tonight, Georgetown University will present pro-abortion Senator Dick Durbin, D-IL, whose bishop recently barred him from Holy Communion, with an award for devoting “his life to the core Jesuit value of service to…Continue Reading

Dozens of Catholics arrested as they ask Congress to help ‘Dreamers’

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Dozens of Catholics, including men and women religious, were arrested near the U.S. Capitol Feb. 27 in the rotunda of a Senate building in Washington as they called on lawmakers to help young undocumented adults brought to…Continue Reading

Catholic Church frets that religion ‘slipping off agenda’ in schools

The Catholic Church has raised concerns in meetings with State education officials that religion is “slipping off the agenda” in their schools. In a record of a meeting between the Education and Training Boards Ireland(ETBI) and Catholic Church representatives it was suggested that…Continue Reading


Beyond decades, for generations the Catholic bishops of Texas, saying they are obeying the law, but hiding behind the convenient cover of saying they are fearful of losing their tax exempt status, have said they must remain silent about those…Continue Reading

U.S. Catholic university lists ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ as words students should avoid

DAYTON, Ohio, February 23, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A Catholic university in Ohio has put the words “husband” and “wife” on a list of words that students should n’t use in order to meet “professional expectations.” The University of Dayton’s (UD)…Continue Reading

Untitled 5 Untitled 2

Attention Readers:

  Welcome to our website. Readers who are familiar with The Wanderer know we have been providing Catholic news and orthodox commentary for 150 years in our weekly print edition.

  Our daily version offers only some of what we publish weekly in print. To take advantage of everything The Wanderer publishes, we encourage you to su
bscribe to our flagship weekly print edition, which is mailed every Friday or, if you want to view it in its entirety online, you can subscribe to the E-edition, which is a replica of the print edition.
  Our daily edition includes: a selection of material from recent issues of our print edition, news stories updated daily from renowned news sources, access to archives from The Wanderer from the past 10 years, available at a minimum charge (this will be expanded as time goes on). Also: regularly updated features where we go back in time and highlight various columns and news items covered in The Wanderer over the past 150 years. And: a comments section in which your remarks are encouraged, both good and bad, including suggestions.
  We encourage you to become a daily visitor to our site. If you appreciate our site, tell your friends. As Catholics we must band together to rediscover our faith and share it with the world if we are to effectively counter a society whose moral culture seems to have no boundaries and a government whose rapidly extending reach threatens to extinguish the rights of people of faith to practice their religion (witness the HHS mandate). Now more than ever, vehicles like The Wanderer are needed for clarification and guidance on the issues of the day.

Catholic, conservative, orthodox, and loyal to the Magisterium have been this journal’s hallmarks for five generations. God willing, our message will continue well into this century and beyond.

Joseph Matt
President, The Wanderer Printing Co.

Untitled 1

Interview With Cardinal Burke . . . Discriminating Mercy: Defending Christ And His Church With True Love


  By DON FIER (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, Patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and Founder of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis., graciously took time out of his busy schedule to grant The Wanderer a wide-ranging interview during a recent visit to the Shrine. Included among the topics…Continue Reading

Developing Lives Of Peace After The Heart Of Mary

By RAYMOND LEO CARDINAL BURKE (Editor’s Note: His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke delivered the address below at the 32nd Annual Church Teaches Forum, “The Message of Fatima: Peace for the World,” Galt House, Louisville, Ky., July 22, 2017. The address is reprinted here with the kind permission of Cardinal Burke. All rights reserved. This is part one of the…Continue Reading


Today . . .

Vatican prepares to issue two documents on ‘gender theory’

ROME, March 15, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) and the Congregation for Catholic Education are each preparing to release documents on “gender theory,” the radical ideology behind transgenderism. The Congregation for Catholic Education’s document, expected to be released in the next two months, won’t “enter the heart of the debate,” the dicastery’s secretary Archbishop Angelo Vincenzo Zani said. Instead, it will repeat “important educational principles.” The CDF’s document…Continue Reading

Judge bans pro-lifers from going near abortion centers in unprecedented ruling

WEST BLOOMFIELD, Michigan, March 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – A judge sentenced five pro-life activists today to one year of reporting probation, eight days of community service, more than $1,000 in fines each, and forbade them from going within 500 feet of any abortion facility in the United States. Several of them will likely serve jail time for refusing to pay the fines or perform community service. Some of them could end up being in jail…Continue Reading

Over 10,000 sign petition urging Disney not to make Frozen’s Elsa a lesbian

March 14, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – More than 10,000 people have signed a petition asking Disney to not depict Elsa as a lesbian in Frozen 2. “From every corner of society, young girls already face confusing and troubling messages about sexuality,” the petition, hosted on LifeSiteNews’ petition platform LifePetitions, says. The petition platform also gives signers the option to send Disney a postcard expressing their concerns. So far, over 200 postcards h

Don’t let gender ideology confuse students, English cardinal urges

London, England, Mar 13, 2018 / 06:09 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- Criticizing ideological trends regarding gender identity, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster has said that accepting that one’s biological sex is built-in to humanity helps escape destructive individualism through participation in the human family. “At a time of great confusion about the rules of sexual behavior, about exploitation and abuse in every part of society, some firm points of reference, that are already built into our…Continue Reading

Controversial LGBT event drops ‘Catholic’ label after bishop’s statement

Cincinnati, Ohio, Mar 12, 2018 / 03:55 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- An event hosted by the University of Cincinnati on faith and the LGBT community has dropped ‘Catholicism’ from its label after the local bishop sent an email to all diocesan priests and deacons, reiterating that the event did not have diocesan approval. The event was originally titled: “Building Bridges: A Dialogue on Faith, Catholicism, and the LGBTQ Community.”


The Stoneman Douglas Shootings And Divine Providence

By C.F. MONTESANO (Editor’s Note: C.F. Montesano is vice president with a maritime trade association in Virginia. He serves as a lector at the Cathedral of St. Matthew in Washington, D.C. Last summer, he was selected by Signum University to be a presenter at its annual “Mythmoot” conference for enthusiasts of J.R.R. Tolkien.) + +…Continue Reading

Key Abuse Charge Against Cardinal Pell Withdrawn

By HANNAH BROCKHAUS MELBOURNE, Australia (CNA/EWTN News) — An Australian prosecutor on March 2 withdrew a charge of abuse against George Cardinal Pell, who is currently undergoing a trial in Australia for accusations of past sexual abuse. The charge was dropped by Prosecutor Mark Gibson March 2 after its key complainant died in January. It…Continue Reading

Fatal Delusions Of Western Man

By PATRICK J. BUCHANAN “We got China wrong. Now what?” ran the headline over the column in The Washington Post. “Remember how American engagement with China was going to make that communist backwater more like the democratic, capitalist West?” asked Charles Lane in his opening sentence. America’s elites believed that economic engagement and the opening…Continue Reading

The Holy Week Tradition Of Tenebrae

By JAMES MONTI As many of our readers know, for at least thirteen centuries, and very probably longer, there has existed in the Roman liturgy a uniquely ceremonial recitation of the offices of Matins and Lauds from Holy Thursday to Good Friday known as Tenebrae (“Darkness”). The thirteenth-century prelate and liturgist William Durandus of Mende…Continue Reading

Neither Left Nor Right, But Catholic… The Florida School Shooting, Gun Control, And Trust In Government

By STEPHEN M. KRASON (Editor’s Note: Stephen M. Krason’s Neither Left nor Right, but Catholic column appears monthly [sometimes bi-monthly]. He is professor of political science and legal studies and associate director of the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at Franciscan University of Steubenville. He is also co-founder and president of the Society…Continue Reading


Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Sacramentals In The Life Of The Church

By DON FIER For almost two years we have been examining the Church’s teaching, as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), on the seven sacraments. As has been emphasized repeatedly, it is an infallibly taught dogma of our faith that Christ Himself instituted each of the seven sacraments during His visible stay on Earth. Moreover, it has…Continue Reading

Catholic Replies

Q. In discussing the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ, a friend wondered why Christ, who is omniscient, would say that only the Father knows the end of the world. Please clarify this. — L.S., via e-mail. A. In Mark 13:32, Jesus said of the day that the world will end, “no one knows, neither the angels in…Continue Reading

The Hour Of The Covenant

By FR. ROBERT ALTIER Sunday Sermon for March 18, 2018 Fifth Sunday Of Lent (YR B) Readings: Jer. 31:31-34 Hebrews 5:7-9 John 12:20-33 The first reading today is one of the most important in all of the Old Testament because it plainly declares that God is going to make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house…Continue Reading

Cardinal Mueller… The Magisterium Is Not Supposed To Lead Faithful “Into Confusion”

(LifeSiteNews) — Formulating pastoral practices based on “individual cases” is a “rhetorical trick” that undermines the unity of the faith, said Gerhard Cardinal Mueller in an interview published the past week in German and translated into English by LifeSiteNews. “That is why papal and episcopal statements on the reception of the Sacraments have to be prepared in such a clear…Continue Reading

A Leaven In The World… Pelagian And Gnostic: Amoris Laetitia Gets Placuit Deo Fail

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s letter Placuit Deo to the Church’s bishops on “Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation” contradicts those elements of Amoris Laetitia that have been interpreted to allow reception of Communion by the divorced and civilly remarried. Many of our readers are already familiar with the time bombs planted in…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… St. Clement Mary Hofbauer

By CAROLE BRESLIN It has been said that the four characteristics of good prayer are that it must be sincere, it must be humble, it must be confident, and it must be persevering. This can also be said of the Christian life and a person’s approach to seeking to do the will of God: humble, sincere, confident, and persevering. St.…Continue Reading

Catholic Heroes… Blessed Luigi Orione

By CAROLE BRESLIN Suffering, great persecutions, humiliations, obstacles to entering the religious life — all of these seem to be the lot of those destined to become saints. In fact, without these pains present in their lives, chances are that their causes for canonization would not proceed. Why would someone want to become a saint if that is the path?…Continue Reading