Imagine a cool, crisp morning here in Orange County California. Early sunlight is starting to paint the sky. Birds are painting the "sound scape" with their chirping. Children in clean uniforms, freshly scrubbed faces and neatly combed hair stand at attention in orderly rows. From a raised podium Sister Vianney reads the Scripture verse for the day and follows with a few well chose words of reflection. While students from kindergarten to eighth grade recite the pledge and sing their school song they look to see what they came from and what the are to become. In an era of declining academic performance and relaxed campus discipline, their parents watch, confident they are leaving their children in a safe environment that prioritizes all that is right with education.
This is not a movie.
Scenes like this play out every day in all 41 Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Orange.
This week (January 26-February 1) they join their counterparts all across the country in celebration of National Catholic Schools Week.
Over 19,000 students are enrolled in over 40 Catholic schools here in Orange County. An astonishing 97% move on to higher education. At least eight O C Catholic schools have been awarded blue ribbon status by the U. S. Department of Education. According to the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) Diocese of Orange students rank in the top third of the nation.
Fine arts, elective courses, community service, physical educations, sports programs and a lower student/teacher ratio are rule rather than exception.
Religion classes are not relegated to once a week sessions taught by well meaning volunteers. They hold just as much academic importance as math and science.
At least once each week students participate in a specifically tailored Mass liturgy as servers, lectors and singers.
"Diocesan schools have maintained a well-rounded curriculum including many unique programs that are not offered in other school systems. We feel that religious education and dedication to community service are essential elements in a young student's development. Parochial education seeks to do more with less and instills a strong sense of civic responsibility in its students and faculty. We have a proven record of success and boast a high school graduation rate considerably higher than comparable institutions," said Gregory Dhuyvetter, superintendent of catholic schools, Diocese of Orange.
This week a good number of the schools are opening their doors to the public with open house events. Many have "shadow"programs where prospective students that can spend a day with friends actually following them through daily classes and activities.
National Catholic Schools Week is a joint project of the National Catholic Educational Association and the United Conference of Catholic Bishops. There are over 7,800 Catholic schools in this country.
For more information on individual school events and programs contact the Office of Faith Formation at 714-282-3065 or visit www.occatholicschools.org.