Looking back on my Catholic education, my feelings are different than you might expect; certainly they diverge from the opinions of jaded ex-Catholics and stand-up comedians. I treasure my Catholic learning experience.
Attending Marywood High from 1972-1976 was the highlight, but my eight years at Holy Family School grounded me in the faith and taught me what it really means to be Catholic. Indeed, exposure to 12 years of religion classes and catechism – and weekday Mass – dedicated me to Catholicism for life.
Teachers at Holy Family sparked my love of reading and writing and helped guide my long and successful career as a journalist, writer, editor, and small-business owner.
Admittedly, for much of my time at Holy Family I was miserable, at least socially. While I loved school and mostly excelled, I was different – shy, awkward, insecure and unpopular and not a bit athletic.
A significant reason I was so lonely is that my classmates and I were stuck with each other for eight long years. Cliques formed in first grade; if you weren’t part of the ‘in’ crowd by age 7, forget it.
Moving up to high school gave me an opportune chance to re-make myself. I determined to be friendly, more outgoing, and become involved in extracurricular activities – in short, to be popular.
When we decided that I would attend Marywood, a now-defunct all-girls school in Orange operated by the Sisters of Providence, the move was one of the most momentous in my life. The four years I spent at Marywood were among the most significant, positive, and idyllic times in my life.
To this day, a group of eight of us Marywooders from the Class of ’76 meet each spring to enjoy a girls’ weekend together. Forty-three years after commencement, we are still best friends despite the geographic challenges and our personality, lifestyle, and economic differences.
We enjoy a truly special friendship, though we see each other infrequently. There’s something rare about our relationship – we love each other very much, having shared moments in time full of meaning and emotion. We remember how much fun we had, the many lessons we learned, the intensity of our scholarship, the dedication of our teachers, and so much more.
Because the sisters fostered in all us girls a deep commitment to learning and the internal knowledge that we were strong, independent thinkers, we entered college with confidence, determined to become leaders in our fields. We never once heard anything resembling ‘You can’t do this; you’re a woman.’
When I recall my Marywood experiences, my husband can’t relate. He remembers high school as a trial and has few good memories. His apathy toward his high school and fellow graduates is a marked contrast to my amazing enthusiasm for Marywood and my fellow Sprites.
My parents sacrificed to be able to send me to private school for all those years, but I know that they got their money’s worth. My Catholic education created who I am today, developed all
my Marywood friends, and greatly influenced what we contribute to this world.