The Importance of Catholic Education

As the U.S. embarks on Catholic Schools Week, the importance of a faith-based education cannot be overstated. 

That conviction is backed by the growing enrollment of students in a post-pandemic environment. 

Data released last summer by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) showed a 3.8% nationwide increase in enrollment for Catholic elementary and secondary schools during the 2021-2022 school year, and numbers going into this term continued to look strong. 

“This year we had stable enrollment, and to me, that means schools already did a great job of retaining students and families,” said Annie Smith, NCEA vice president of research and data. 

Stemming from the loss of a 6.4% enrollment decline from the previous school year, the 2021-2022 new student spike in Catholic schools was the first in two decades and the largest ever recorded by the Leesburg, Virginia-based NCEA, which represents some 140,000 educators serving 1.6 million students. 

In the Diocese of Brooklyn, we are seeing growing enrollment from not only Catholic families, but also from families of many different religions while seeking the traditional virtues of Catholic schools. 

This year’s theme for schools in Brooklyn and Queens is “Ignite the Catholic Imagination,” with schools in the diocese inviting students, teachers, and families to celebrate the ABCs of Catholic education: 

  • Academics: Embracing academic rigor and student support 
  • Belief: Celebration of Catholic values and faith in God 
  • Character: Putting what they know and what they believe into action for good 

The Diocese of Brooklyn has 69 Catholic elementary schools and 15 high schools throughout Brooklyn and Queens. 

Under the leadership of Bishop Robert Brennan, Deacon Kevin McCormack serves as the superintendent. 

Showing the importance and enthusiasm of Catholic education, Bishop Brennan visited eight diocesan schools and academies over the course of Catholic Schools Week 2023 to celebrate with students, teachers, and administrators. 

A national trend emerged late last year as many dioceses saw the growing need for Hispanic Catholic educators. 

The shortage was noted by more than 100 Catholic leaders who met in October at Boston College for a national summit on Hispanic Catholic educators. 

Hosffman Ospino, a professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, said, “Evidence suggests that Hispanic teachers and leaders play a significant role in transforming school culture, making Catholic schools places where Hispanic children thrive and find a home.” 

Looking at national demographics, the need for Hispanic educators is clear. 

Roughly 45% of Catholics in the United States are Hispanic, and they make up nearly 60% of the school-age Catholic population. 

Catholic school populations need to mirror the population in our Catholic parishes and neighborhoods. 

“The Scriptures tell us very clearly that if someone is going to be a follower of Jesus, follower of the Lord, they have to protect the widow, the orphan, and the foreigner,” Ospino said. “That’s what we do. That’s the essence of our faith.” 

Catholic colleges could help increase the number of Hispanic Catholic educators by offering more financial aid to those who want to enter this field. 

As a diocese, we are seeing a growing Hispanic population, many with a deep Catholic history, and a desire to see their children thrive. Catholic education in their native language may be the right way to bring them closer to their faith.