Parents tell why they love their children’s Catholic schools

Categories: Around the Diocese

Jan. 31, 2014, edition
By Nikki Rajala

“We love Holy Cross School [of Pearl Lake/Marty] because we believe in passing on the Catholic faith to our children,” said Bob and Julene Faber-Andrusick. “We love the small class sizes, the one-on-one attention, the high academic standards and the leadership opportunities all of the children experience.”

Their whole family has benefited — Kaylene is in third grade at Holy Cross; Sam in 11th grade, Katrina in ninth and Nate in eighth are alumni.

Parents with children in other schools across the St. Cloud Diocese cite the same appreciation for what Catholic schools do.

The best possible education

“St. Andrew School in Elk River is the best possible educational environment for Sophia,” said James Shamp. “She’s attended there since first grade and is now in fourth grade.”

While academics and location are important, more crucial to the Shamps — James and Trish — is that Sophia is surrounded by nurturing people, which brings out her best.

“Sophia’s friends are very polite,” he said, “because the school and families encourage respect.

“With classes limited to 15 children, teachers really know their students, and are aware of academic, spiritual and social concerns.”

He’s compared the cost of Catholic education with friends in the Twin Cities — St. Andrew’s tuition is a good value.

“But money is a non-issue,” he said. “We’ll do whatever it takes.”

Spiritual development key

Three generations of Otrembas have studied at St. Mary of Mount Carmel School in Long Prairie, said Andy Otremba — including himself and his mother Mary Ellen. Currently Andy and Karen Otremba’s two children are enrolled — Isabelle in first grade and Isaac in preschool.

“With small classes,” he said, “St. Mary’s is a better option for our kids, educationally and spiritually.

“Children are engulfed in spiritual development. Religion’s not just one class — children learn all day how to act in real life situations. Isabelle came home from kindergarten singing about Jesus. You wouldn’t get that anywhere else.”

Both Otrembas work full time so St. Mary’s is not the financial hardship it might be, he said.

“For other parents, volunteering time and effort to ensure the school’s success might be a sacrifice, but we enjoy it. And — your kids see you working at different school functions.”

Worth twice what we pay

St. Henry’s Area School, Perham, is known for its strong academics, but what’s most important for Randy and Jo Abbott is the Christ-centered atmosphere at the school. Their daughter, Madeline, now in second grade, has attended there since kindergarten.

“Everything Madeline does, in and out of the classroom, centers on Christ,” Randy Abbott said. “Her class is preparing to celebrate their first Eucharist so she interacts with friends as they learn about the Lord and the church. When a friend from St. Ann Parish in Wadena slept over, they attended Mass together the next morning.

“St. Henry’s is worth twice what we pay,” he said.

“No one is turned away for an inability to pay tuition — we find ways to help families who have a hard time.”

Faith in daily learning

Tina and Derrick Meyer’s two younger children attend Albany’s Holy Family School, Grant in fourth grade and Kayla in second grade. Their older children — Blake a college freshman and Karisa in 11th grade — graduated from Holy Family. Both Meyer parents attended Catholic schools and want to continue the legacy their parents started.

“Tuition is the most important bill we pay,” Tina Meyer said. “We sacrifice in other areas to make this happen.”

“I like how Holy Family integrates faith into daily learning adventures,” she said, “Students are encouraged to pray, to ask Jesus to help them through situations, to apply the Bible to interacting with others. Children enjoy participating in Wednesday morning Masses for the parish.”

Support is like co-parenting

The emphasis on moral development at Catholic schools is most compelling for Jen and Sean Skahen. Two of their children attend All Saints Academy in St. Joseph — Jack in sixth grade and Brady in kindergarten, while Tom, Brenna and Caitlin study at St. John’s Preparatory School, Collegeville, in 11th, ninth and seventh grades, respectively.

Of the frequent communication from supportive teachers and parents, Jen Skahen said, “It feels like co-parenting — raising children together, like a close-knit family.

“All Saints has the well-rounded experience we want for our children during their formative years. God is present there — and they can talk about God. It’s important they can pray, like when a classmate is sick, and celebrate Christmas instead of having ‘happy holidays.’

“Having our children here is being the best parents we can be.”

You can’t put a price tag on it

“Our son, who is dyslexic, has excelled because the teachers at Holy Cross School [in Pearl Lake/Marty] have gone above and beyond,” said Doug and Jeana Meyer, “being trained in the Barton System, so that they can better understand his learning needs.” Their children include Henry in seventh grade, Charlie in fifth and Caroline in second.

“Switching from a public school to Holy Cross was the best decision we’ve made,” said Ryan and Becky Leaders. “The school has been wonderful for our family. Our kids — Raegan in third grade, Robert in first grade and Samantha in pre-kindergarten — love going to school every day. They have the opportunity to develop a closer relationship to God every day and you can’t put a price tag on that.”