Walking through the halls of St. Aloysius Catholic school and speaking with the students about Catholic Schools Week was a nostalgic joy that triggered memories of my own 17 years of Catholic school experience. 

There were all the familiar trademarks: ubiquitous plaid uniforms and saddle shoes, heart-shaped fundraising posters for cancer research, crucifixes beside the clocks in every classroom and watercolor paintings of Martin Luther King Jr. filling pastel-painted walls. 

The best of Catholic schools hadn’t seemed to change: the tight-knit communities, dedication to service, rigorous academics and the guidepost of a Catholic faith. However, it was exciting to see what was different: technological learning advancements, blended-learning and a STEM curriculum.

Nearly 100 years ago the Sisters of Mercy founded St. Aloysius in South Los Angeles with the hope of offering a faith-based education to those from disadvantaged communities. And it is this motivation that has always made Catholic schools an ambitious feat of passion. 

This drove religious communities and families all over the United States to form communities where the future of our nation could study in classrooms and get a well-rounded education: an education that demanded high academic expectations, imbued the value of service, rooted future leaders in moral standards and lovingly handed them all the tools to succeed.

This week schools all over the nation observe Catholic Schools Week, an annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. This year’s theme is Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed. 

As I spoke with the students at St. Aloysius I was stirred by their embodiment of these values, from the student boasting plans of being a neuroscientist, to the young woman starting her own non-profit to help hospitalized children, to the first grader explaining that her favorite part of school is learning about God, Jesus, Mary and all the saints. 

Many successful and learned students have graduated from Catholic schools, but far more important, many students have graduated from Catholic schoolsknowing what it means to live like Christ. And I was blessed to witness evidence of that in the students I met at St. Aloysius Catholic School. 

With over 250 Catholic schools, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has much to celebrate.

Casey McCorry is a digital associate for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, a documentary filmmaker, wife and mother.

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