Faith and Excellence: How parents sacrifice to provide a Catholic school education for their children

North Texas Catholic
(May 8, 2024) Local

Cristian González, a freshman at Cassata Catholic High School in Fort Worth, works on classwork on April 11. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

FORT WORTH — Determined to provide their children with a strong foundation in the faith as they excel in their academics, thousands of parents choose to enroll their kids in the Diocese of Fort Worth’s Catholic schools, discovering great joy in their sacrifice.

The leadership and staff at the 17 diocesan schools, which have programs that range from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade, work hard to form students and families in the Catholic moral and intellectual traditions. With such an education, students and their families come to know and love the truth, beauty, and goodness created by God, based on reason and the full revelation in Jesus Christ.

“Our primary mission is to lead our students to heaven. Everything we do in the school is Christ-centered. Our goal is to share the Catholic faith with students so that they become good, holy people who are ambassadors for Christ in the world,” said Dr. Arica Serna, principal of All Saints Catholic School in Fort Worth.

The school spans from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and provides a dual-language classical Catholic model of learning. The emphasis of this classical education is for students to understand how God relates to everything around them, including academics, and thus deepen their relationship with Him.

At All Saints, faith is integrated into all facets of the daily routine, beginning with morning prayer, followed by the Angelus at midday, and a closing prayer at the end of the day. Students participate in daily Mass at least once a week.

Likewise, each diocesan school offers theology or religion classes to form students in the faith.

Juana Carrillo-Gonzalez, mother of Cristian and Lizbeth Gonzalez, who attend Cassata High School in Fort Worth, shared, “It is very important for us that God is not just spoken about at home, but also at school. My children come home and share what they learned about the faith. Because they now understand things they didn't know before, they open the Bible, and we have conversations. That way, we all learn as a family.”

There is also a strong emphasis on virtues and manners.

Students at All Saints Catholic School in Fort Worth pray during a school Mass on May 17, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“Each month students focus on a different virtue, such as gratitude, politeness, and honesty. The saints are presented as role models for these virtues,” explained Dr. Serna. “The students also practice a good behavior for the week, such as greeting others. All of this is geared toward forming them so they can discern between what is good and what is bad. Ultimately, the goal is for the students to take Christ to others.”

Lupita Rosales, mother of Noe Rosales, a Cristo Rey College Prep alumnus in Fort Worth, shared that the Catholic education was of great benefit to her son. The strong formation in faith and virtues, coupled with the connection between what Noe learned at home and at school, Rosales said, has helped him discern between good and evil as he chooses friends and activities in college.

Another important reason parents choose Catholic education for their children is the rigor of its academics. The curriculum at diocesan schools is approved by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and includes instruction in theology, literature, mathematics, science, history, and, at some schools such as All Saints, Latin. With its dual-language program, the school offers instruction in both English and Spanish, helping students become fluent in both languages, but it also provides an elective Latin class to help with students’ vocabulary skills.

“Another thing that motivated me to move my children from public school to Catholic school is the number of students per class. There are very few compared to other schools. Therefore, the teachers can pay more attention to each student, and my children have improved a lot academically,” noted Carrillo-Gonzalez.

Dr. Serna explained that the student-to-teacher ratio is one teacher for every 18 students at All Saints. At several schools, the student-to-teacher ratio might be even lower. With the smaller class sizes, teachers can give more individualized attention and ensure that students are successful.

Lizbeth González, a junior at Cassata Catholic High School in Fort Worth, works on his classwork on April 11. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

The diocesan Catholic school curriculum can also include enrichment courses, such as art, music, theater, and physical education, plus access to extracurricular activities and clubs.

“At All Saints, we have baseball, basketball, football, and volleyball as well as clubs that students help form based on their own interests. For example, we have a Lego club, a running club, choir, and others,” Dr. Serna said.

Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, too, is known for its range of excellent extracurricular programs, classes, and clubs in STEM, robotics, performing arts, and visual arts, among others.

Catholic schools do require enrollment and tuition fees, which is known to draw many parents away from considering Catholic education. However, many have received financial assistance to enroll their children in diocesan schools upon further inquiry.

“Financial aid is available. This year 81% of our students receive financial aid. My mission as principal is to do everything possible so that the cost does not prevent your children from receiving a Catholic education,” said Dr. Serna.

Both Carrillo-González and Rosales indicated that their children have received financial aid, and both believe that the financial sacrifice, whether small or large, is worth it for all the benefits that Catholic education provides their children.

By Karla Silva, an NTC correspondent. 

Catholic Schools, Cassata High School, Nolan High School, All Saints Catholic School, Dr. Arica Serna, trending-english