We knew it could, we felt it shouldn't, we hoped it wouldn't, we prayed it didn't, but in all four scenarios, it did.
This past week, the Catholic Academy of the Holy Family closed its doors, ending an alternative choice of a Catholic faith-based education to families who wished that for their children.
I cannot speak for anyone who was connected with Levant Christian Academy, or who's connected to Bethel Baptist Christian Academy, but I do feel I can speak about the loss of Our Lady of Loreto Catholic School many, many years ago; of St. James Parochial School many years ago; and now the closing of Ss. Peter and Paul/Holy Family/Catholic Academy of the Holy Family.
Having grown up in a family where my two brothers, my sister, my aunt (who lived with us for a while) and I attended Catholic School, we all found that going to a parochial school was not just an educational experience, it was a family experience in every sense of the word "family."
The priests and nuns who made their presence known in our spiritual world also made themselves known in our educational world. They were teachers in the truest meaning of the title, "teacher," as they not only guided us in our academic areas of learning, but also in our parents' desire for us to experience the quest for theological understanding, and socially as well.
That's a lot of fancy verbage, as in many cases we attended Catholic school because our parents told us that was where we would go to school, but if you surveyed those of us who attended Catholic school asking if we regretted it, you'll find well over 90 percent (my guess) asked will probably respond with a resounding, "No!"
We started our son out in Catholic School, and as he grew older (from fifth grade on), each year we asked him if he might want to try public school. His response each time asked was a resounding, yet respectful, "No."
Catholic School was a way of life. Our teachers and the staff of the school were definitely extensions of our parents. They taught, they expected, they disciplined. They were the first proponents of the campaign WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) long before the recent public campaign came out with bracelets, necklaces and stickers. We learned, at home, that whatever the teacher or any staff member said, it was just like our parents said it themselves.
Our classmates and schoolmates were our brothers and sisters growing up. Each different grade-level student pretty much spent just almost every single school year (kindergarten to ninth grade) in the classroom with virtually the same kids. We became close with each other, got on each other's nerves at times, teased each other occasionally and even got in trouble with each other (no we weren't angels every minute of every day) sometimes. We did all these things, just like siblings in families might do.
When I attended St. James, it even smelled like home. We had daily, home cooked lunches, and every time we made our way to gym class, or music class, we passed by the cafeteria and those four wonderful cafeteria ladies, when I was there, had those halls daily smelling like Sunday dinner was being prepared.
There were so many things I remember from my Catholic school days, which I feel helped us be good people. From having to rise and greet the priest in unison chorus when he entered our classroom, which was a sign of respect, to helping raise money for missions throughout the world, and the lessons in sacrificing, giving to others, and thanking God for the things we had that others did not, helped us grow up to now think of others and appreciate what we have.
Our parents taught us all these things, but Catholic school allowed us to practice them over and over. Repetition breeds habit, and all the practice we got at home and in school has made it a part of our lives today.
There were many traditions we experienced in Catholic school that have given us (those of us who experienced Catholic school) many great memories that we still share these many years after our school not only closed but was razed and replaced with a pharmacy.
We experienced kindergarten graduation; Christmas and Easter church and musical programs; the Passion play (many of us); most boys became Knights of the Altar (altar servers); toast and hot chocolate; St. James Green Hornet Football (halftime oranges); the annual May crowning ceremony; and the end of the year picnic at Allen Park. Many reunions and church festivals today are spent remembering these days and how special our time in Catholic school was to us all.
I know all who taught there (including my sister and brother) have even more memories from teaching there. I know our son, a 2003 Holy Family graduate, has a memory box full of special times/events/people he remembers from his pre-K through eighth-grade years. I know those who've been most recently involved with the Catholic Academy of the Holy Family have stored their special remembrances away in their memory boxes, and though the doors of the school will be locked, those special memory boxes can never, and will never be closed. The spirit of OLOL/St.J/SSPP/HF/CACF, and all faith-based schools will continue to live on in the hearts and minds of the many who worked there, taught there and learned there. We will miss it, but it will never leave us, not if we don't let it.