17 September 2010

Ads for 7 out of 10 ____________ Schools Fail to Mention ___________ in the Ad

Lest I only point out my peeves with public education, here is an unsurprising, but disappointing, encounter with our Catholic counterparts. Perusing the St. Louis Post-Dispatch print edition today, I found a two-page spread advertising Catholic high schools in the area. There were 20 such schools represented, each with an approximately 3" X 5" ad for its own, with graphics, the name of the school with contact information, and a large space for a description of the school's mission and unique characteristics.

Out of these twenty schools, only four used the word "Catholic" to describe their school's program. I am not even talking about how convincingly or unconvincingly the school sold the Catholicity of the product-- merely whether the word "Catholic" was used. These schools were St. Elizabeth Academy, St. Joseph Academy, Rosati-Kain, and Chaminade.

Another two, Kennedy and Gibault (in the Belleville Diocese) used the word "Catholic" as part of the official name of the school, though not in the description about their program. Even giving these two the benefit of the doubt, that leaves 14 out of 20 Catholic high schools that did not see fit to describe themselves as Catholic.

Lots of schools used some buzzwords that make people less uncomfortable than the word "Catholic". Faith. Spirit. Inspired. Empowering. Bishop DuBourg used the laudable term "Christ-centered", which gets some points but would have been unmistakable if linked to the religion it professes.

The worst four ads in terms of lacking any noticeable Catholic identity came from Barat Academy, SLUH, Cardinal Ritter, and CBC. They might as well be Burroughs for all of the Catholicity of their ads.

Some of the twenty high schools are private schools, but others are Archdiocesan.

Archbishop Carlson is right to focus on the Catholic identity of our schools as a key to their continued viability. He may have a long road ahead of him if the schools themselves don't think it important to recruit at least in part on that basis.


Rachel Gray said...

That's sad. Even sadder is that I'm not at all surprised. If I was a mother I wouldn't trust any Catholic school I hadn't thoroughly vetted first.

Anonymous said...

I notice your blog post doesn't mention the word "God" in it. I guess that makes you an atheist. I'm very disappointed in you.

Peggy said...

I recall a couple of years back Bp. Braxton, Belleville bishop, also talked about emphasizing the Catholic identity of our schools. He saw how Catholic schools can be seen as elitist, about sports, about college prep, but not about Jesus.

I googled but could not find a link to anything he said. It may have been recorded in the diocesan paper. My own archives don't call it up. Oh, well.

Tina aka Snupnjake said...

They still have sisters teaching one or two classes...

graduated from SEA!

thetimman said...


Sorry for your disappointment.

Anonymous said...

Question for discussion:

Are Catholic schools in predominantly Catholic areas (like St. Louis, Boston, NYC, Chicago, etc.) less Catholic than their counterparts in less predominantly Catholic areas? Or is it just a St. Louis thing? Or, I suppose, is it not a St. Louis thing at all?


StGuyFawkes said...


I haven't seen the page but one might ask if you've taken a survey of parents who send their teenagers to these schools. They might inform you of the actual substantive Catholic practices which go on at these schools.

For example:

St. Louis University High school has four years of mandatory theology which even the protestant and jewish students are obliged to take, and pass. They have a rosary society which meets twice a week, sodality and weekly Mass. At mid-day the school stops for a silent meditation based upon the Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola.

The U-High pro-life club sends one of the largest high school contingents in the area to Washington, D.C. every year. One of the most popular languages is Latin. The SLUH Democratic Club is vetted, and pressured, when necessary for insufficiently vigorous efforts to defend the rights of the unborn.

I do grasp your general point about the wobbly sense of Cathlic Identity. Indeed one must wonder why this isn't made a great feature of these adverts.

Nonetheless, your post prompts me to ask: DId you grow up here? And where did you go to high school?

St. Louis has a unique Catholic culture in which some things are just given. You don't have to ask if Villa Duchesne is a Villa or a school. Even the Jews know it is a Catholic girls school.

In St. Louis even Jews and protestants when asked where they live will often say "near St. Raphe's or "I'm in Pillar Parish." The culture has been Catholic for so long that everyone KNOWS that Chaminade is a Catholic school.

Your point is valid as far as it goes but as a homeschooler you may not be aware that some of these city schools like U-High draw a good number of protestant, or Jewish students. That's partly why the ads play down the religious nature of these academies. To survive they must appeal to an urban base.

And of course frequently the students come in as freshman belonging to their home faith and surprisingly end up in the Church of Rome.

Most people infer that St. Louis U. High, being the step child of St. Louis U. -- a famous Catholic University (although some would argue othewise) is Roman Catholic. Likewise, you don't have to be Elaine Viets to know that Bishop Dubourg High school is on the South Side and it's named for a Roman Catholic bishop.

Where did you go to high school? Are you from here? Or did you just marry into our world? Am I being parochial enough, provincial enough; and can you tell me why else everyone here plays soccer?
St. Guy

Anonymous said...

St Guy said: I haven't seen the page but one might ask if you've taken a survey of parents who send their teenagers to these schools. They might inform you of the actual substantive Catholic practices which go on at these schools.

My son goes to CBC. It is not perfect, but it is very Catholic. They begin every class with a short prayer, "Let us always remember we are in the presence of God." They have Catholic Youth Nights, a weekly prayer meeting before school, send a busload of kids to DC and do tons of service work. They also require four years of religion classes.

Also, the La Sallian mission is to educate a diverse group of students. Therefore, they offer accommodations for students with learning disabilities, a great honors program and offer scholarships to students with financial need from all over St. Louis.

Like I said, they are not perfect. There are 1000 students and of course that means a diverse set of people. But, we are very happy with it. I understand your point, but I have also had experience with a school that had all of the outward signs of Catholic orthodoxy and had some very harmful stuff going on. You just cannot judge by an ad.

StGuyFawkes said...

Dear Anon 17/2010 21:05,

Congrats on your football victory over my U-High this evening. You've got a great team, and I think we gave you a good game.

(Except y'all did start a fight down at Savis after whipping us in hockey a coupla years ago. Although some of our nastier cheers may have had something to do with the subsequent rowdiness.)

Hey, we still beat you in soccer.

Best Wishes,

St. Guy

Anonymous said...

I was informed the other day that the all-girls school I went to has a religion teacher who "outed" herself to the students at an overnight retreat. She told them each of them had to reveal a secret and that was hers. As far as I know, nothing has been done. The parent who told me this didn't want to "rock the boat," either. Ug.

This same school's sisters' website does not mention the word Catholic until it tells you the requirements to join their order. Needless to say, there aren't any new members.

Tim, perhaps they don't say Catholic any longer because they're not.

St. Francis de Sales, pray for us.

Anonymous said...

Best wishes to you too St. Guy!

Cathy D said...

JFK has one other advantage in their ad: it has my lovely daughter in the picture!

My husband and I have been very happy with the school. I wish they had mass more often, but they have some great teachers and their chaplain is top notch!

Peggy said...

I should have asked why you may have the ad on hand still, Timman.

Was Althoff Catholic High School in Belleville listed? "Catholic" is in the name, so it would have made the same category as Gibault and some others you mentioned. Thanks.

Lots of families in the Gibault "district" are from STL county and some send their kids back to STL Catholic H.S. after they finish the local parish grade school. As an Illinoisan, I take is as some bit of snobbery on the parents' part. But there may indeed be some more solid schools in STL than Gibault.

Peggy said...

I had to come back to this post of yours with this text from Bp. Braxton's homily to diocesan H.S. freshman at the Cathedral this fall:

"[The bishop] reminded the students that the Catholic high schools did not exist because of their strong academic programs or the sports and other extracurricular activities that are offered at their schools.

The schools exist because of Jesus of Nazareth, his preaching and his teaching, the bishop said. “Learn your faith; love your faith; and live your faith,” the bishop told the graduating classes of 2014."