Back to School: The Catholic Way

This week’s edition of The Tablet celebrates the reopening of the Diocese of Brooklyn’s schools and Catholic academies. 

As the children return to school, we are seeing a renaissance in Catholic education, from growing enrollment numbers compared to pre-pandemic rosters to enhanced curriculum in many of the Catholic high schools within the diocese. 

“Our school system has grown two years in a row,” said Lincoln Snyder, president and CEO of the National Catholic Educational Association. 

Snyder told reporters that Catholic schools in the U.S. on balance experienced a bump in enrollment amid the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with 3.8% growth from 2021-2022 and 0.3% growth during the 2022-2023 year. 

Asked what motivated her to move her two daughters from a local public school near her Queens home into Catholic schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn, one mother cited the “more rigorous academics, a better choice of extracurricular activities, and school security.” She felt that a Catholic educational environment could offer those and many other benefits. 

As Bishop Robert Brennan said while greeting students at St. Athanasius Catholic Academy in Bensonhurst on the first day of school this past week, “For us as a Catholic school system, it’s very important that we stay true to who we are, to our faith and values.” 

Staying true to our faith and values is what attracts parents to a Catholic education, especially now, as a way to focus their child’s education on topics that are appropriate and moral. 

This issue of The Tablet gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the dedicated professionals to whom we entrust our children’s care, and how they use their own time and resources to ready the classrooms for the opening bell. They take time to prepare the environment for learning and inquisitive investigation. 

For instance, a kindergarten teacher in a northern Queens Catholic school felt setting the tone for her young students from day one was so important that she enlisted her family members to help paint, decorate, and furnish her classroom, and equip it with learning tools — and spent $500 of her own money to make that happen. 

What can’t be ignored is the often unique perspective and experiences administrators bring to the Catholic education system in the Diocese of Brooklyn. 

All of the diocese’s newest principals have experience as Catholic school educators; they’re coming through the door with the right mindset, committed to bringing the educational product their students need, and their parents want them to have. 

Led by a bishop who stresses the need to “stay true to our faith,” administrators and teachers are ready to carry out that mission. 

For parents and students enthusiastic about the values of a Catholic school education, perhaps “Back to School” might not be the correct term. 

Let’s say “Forward in School,” which might be the more appropriate motto.