More than an education
When Clint Bezner graduates from Sacred Heart Catholic School in Muenster in the spring, with plans to attend the University of Texas at Arlington next fall, he takes with him a solid foundation in both academics and faith.
Bezner said the small class sizes and one-on-one attention from teachers has helped him thrive academically as he is both challenged and encouraged.
But even more important is his faith that has been strengthened, from preschool through high school.
He’s had the opportunity to attend Mass several times a week and to learn how education and faith are intertwined.
“We’re exposed to faith constantly,” he said, not just in religion class and Mass, but understanding the material with the view of religion.
“It’s not religion and life; it’s integrating faith into your life and becoming more and more integrated,” Bezner said.
Sacred Heart has helped him develop his skills in his two favorite activities: music and art.
He recently began playing piano at Mass.
His art classes have helped him learn the creative process and get exposure as an artist by entering and winning awards at contests for the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas.
Next, he’s planning to use his art skills and creativity in studying architecture at UTA.
For anyone considering attending Catholic schools, Bezner said, “It’s worth it.”
“We know we’re all a family, and we can step up for each other in the faith and in whatever happens,” he said.
For Patrice Hall, Catholic schools have been a part of her family for as long as she can remember.
Her parents and grandparents attended Catholic schools.
She went to St. Rita Catholic School in Fort Worth and Nolan Catholic High School. Her husband, Wes Hall, attended St. Andrew Catholic School in Fort Worth and Nolan.
Their four children have all attended Catholic schools, first St. Andrew, then Nolan. They now have a junior and a freshman still at Nolan, one at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, and a recent college graduate.
Patrice and Wes Hall wanted their children to attend Catholic schools for the academics because they both were well prepared for college.
“What we learned later on as parents was the strong spiritual foundation they were getting,” Patrice said.
Because of what her children were learning about the Catholic faith, Patrice found her own faith growing.
In today’s American society where strong values may be criticized — what Patrice called “a sort of educational emergency, culturally” — she sees her children as spiritually mature and firm in the faith.
“Spiritually, Wes and I are really grateful for the evangelization that has come to us through them,” Hall said. “We’re grateful as parents to see the faith of our college and high-school-age children.”
While teaching third grade at Holy Family Catholic School in Fort Worth, Patrice is continuing her Catholic education, studying for a master’s of school leadership at Benedictine College.
Kenny Scagel, who teaches Latin, theology, and literature at Cassata Catholic High School, didn’t grow up attending Catholic schools, although his mother did in the 1950s.
He began to connect with his faith at age 24 while a student at the College of St. Thomas More in Fort Worth, which closed in 2014.
Scagel began to learn how everything connects to God and the Church.
“The Western tradition in humanities grows out of the Church,” he said.
To try to teach intellectual concepts without God is to ignore “the fullness of truth,” but much of the current education system tries to do just that, he said.
Students at Cassata Catholic High School also have the opportunity to practice their faith by praying and attending Mass.
“We see theology not as a side extra, but as the center of intellectual life,” Scagel said.
He called Cassata “the best place I’ve ever worked.”
The faculty work well together and give students plenty of individual attention so they can progress at their own pace.
Some of their students have attended Catholic schools since pre-K, while others are previously unchurched. Seeing those students with no church background grow in their faith is a wonderful reward.
“My favorite thing is to have a kid who says, ‘I didn’t think this was what Christians were like,’” he said.
Jesus at the center
Regina Praetorius has a freshman son at Cassata who grew up in Catholic schools, first attending St. Maria Goretti Catholic School in Arlington.
She called Cassata “a beautiful blessing.” Her son is blossoming academically there because of the personal attention he’s received and the ability to go at his own pace.
“He enjoys school, and they’re able to tailor his education for what he feels God is calling him to do,” Praetorius said.
Her younger son is a fifth grader at St. Maria Goretti.
She grew up attending Catholic schools, as did both of her parents, although they had to sacrifice to make tuition payments.
Praetorius wants other families in the diocese to know that there is financial assistance available.
She hopes to see more students attending Catholic schools in the diocese because of the strong academics and how faith is woven into every content area imaginable, she said.
The classical, faith-filled education prepares students for the challenges they face now and in the future.
Praetorius wants her sons to “keep Jesus at the center of everything they do” and to love others.
“I hope that ‘love one another’ is always at the forefront of how they treat others,” she said.
Natalie Paulus, who has been teaching for 18 years at Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Denton, said she enjoys helping her first-grade students learn about the liturgical year and sharing the love of Jesus.
She said that Catholic education helps them thrive intellectually and spiritually.
“Academically, the curriculum challenges their intellect, and I would say produces compassionate, critical thinkers,” she said.
Daily instruction is balanced with virtue, discipline, and making connections to God’s abiding beauty.
“Our students are taught to look at the world through the lens of God,” she said. “They learn to be stewards of the Earth, become servant leaders, and respect and treat all persons with dignity.”
The students’ spiritual development is a priority.
The highlight of the week is celebrating the Eucharist with the community, she said, and students also have opportunities to experience Adoration and pray throughout the day.
“They learn that there is something greater than themselves and that they are called to use their God-given gifts to glorify God,” Paulus said.