Our Children’s Children

My grandma believed in Catholic education.

She believed in it so much that she dedicated much of her life to it.

She believed with all of her heart that it was the single greatest investment she could make to ensure that her children grew up with the values that she knew were essential to being a person of Christ.

She was a single mother in the early 1960’s, which resulted in her having to make enormous sacrifices in order to raise her four children in the manner she had always envisioned: one of strong morals and values, one of deep faith, one of integrity and respect. She went to work. She used her nursing degree to open a small nursing home. She employed my father and his siblings, who split up the shifts throughout the day. And she placed her faith in Catholic education to reinforce the values that she taught at home and always expected her children to embrace.

I want to tell you about my grandma because she embodies everything I believe about Catholic education. She personifies every reason that I have answered the vocation of being a Catholic school educator.

She walked into the local Catholic school and ensured that her children would attend there. I wasn’t there, and have no idea what she actually said, but knowing her as well as I did, I am confident that she said something close to, “I am Catholic. My children are Catholic, and I want them to be raised in a school that teaches them how to be confident in their faith, and consequently, confident in themselves. I want them to think of others in need before themselves. I want them to have these values woven into their being. I want them to live for social justice and demand that it exist in every corner of society.”

And I imagine she then said, “I have very little money, but what I have is yours. And what little time and energy I have left at the end of the day is yours too.”

When my own parents contemplated sending their children through Catholic schools, my grandma and my dad convinced my public school teacher mom to send me and my brother to Catholic school.

My grandma voiced the same dream she had a generation earlier. She wanted a transformational education. One that provided exceptional academics, but one that went far beyond the academic curriculum. She insisted on an education that emphasized morals, values, and purpose. She was more aware than anyone that this would require a great financial sacrifice for my family, but she believed in it that much.

It was the greatest sacrifice that my family ever made. And it had the most influential impact on my life. I received an outstanding education, one that emphasized the academic and spiritual growth of the whole person. And more importantly, I have a deeper understanding of the love of God and my purpose in the world because of grandma, my parents, and their commitment to Catholic education.

As I said earlier, I, like my colleagues, see my position as a vocation, a calling. Catholic education really is that important.

And for that reason, it should be accessible to all who want this dream for their children and their children’s children.


Zack Cunningham