By the Rev. Ivan Sciberras
Catholic Schools Week was observed around the country between Jan. 28 and Feb. 2.
It is a week in which we reflect on the positive influences of Catholic education on the life of our families and our Township of Belleville.
Here at St. Peter’s – where we have been educating and forming children since 1867 – it is also a time for parents of elementary school students to consider the option of sending their children to our parochial school.
It is in everyone’s – yes, everyone’s – interest that Catholic Schools continue with their mission. St. Peter’s School could have closed its doors as so many other schools did, especially at the onset of the pandemic, but we continue to believe that a school which has survived the Great Depression, two World Wars, the departure of the Sisters of Charity who so loving ran our school for more than a century, the onslaught of relativism and so many other challenges, can also weather the current storms.
I am particularly thankful to the parents who continue to show their trust in our school, and the students who continue to make us proud and bring a smile to our faces especially during tough days. Our administrators and teachers have been working harder than ever to ensure that the nurturing learning environment at our school continues without fail.
Should our school be forced to close down, and we are working around the clock for that not to happen, most of our students will have no alternative other than public education. This would lead to a burden on our Township of Belleville, and this would be reflected in higher taxes and packed classrooms. Goes to show why more than half of the states that make up our great nation are expanding school choice and providing educational alternatives.
Today sociologists speak of the “social capital” that students acquire by attending parochial schools. It goes beyond the academic knowledge that is imparted by any kind of school. The parish school easily becomes a community, or a “home away from home” not only for the students, but also for the parents.
So many parents of St. Peter School students have drawn closer to the parish thanks to their children, and have received great help in their moments of struggle. They have also brought verve and a greater ethnic diversity to our school and parish.
Those who choose a Catholic school for their children not only seek a quality education, but also one in which the truths and values that they consider important – love of God and neighbor, solidarity with the underprivileged, respect towards authority and a life of prayer – are transmitted.
The nurturing environment of a Catholic School helps students be more concerned about the needs of others, and also greatly helps them become leaders in society.
But the advantage that children attending Catholic Schools enjoy over their peers goes beyond the fact that they receive religious instruction, attend school masses and participate in the different sacraments and rituals. The Church has always been at the forefront in offering a liberal art education to our children. This also affords the teachers more scope for flexibility and creativity, as opposed to the “defensive teaching” we sadly encounter in many schools.
Discipline, teamwork and personal initiative continue to be staples at our school. Many students and alumni share with me beautiful testimonies about their gratitude to St. Peter’s School, especially because of the ways it has allowed them to grow humanly and academically, as well as disciples of our Lord.
Anyone interested in helping us with a partial-scholarship, no matter the amount, should speak to me. Parents who desire a Catholic education for their children but might need some monetary assistance are also encouraged to contact me. Divine Providence has never failed us … nor will it now!
Fr. Ivan Sciberras is the pastor at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the parish, located at 155 William Street in Belleville (973-751-2002).