Tag Archives: children

Most Catholic kids in public school leave the Church

What percent of applicants were accepted to Yale last year? Only 6 percent.

Pretty poor odds, right?

Now consider this: What percent of Catholic kids who never attended Catholic school will go to weekly Mass as adults? Only 5 percent.

Pretty poor odds, indeed. Consider further that most Catholic children (about 84 percent) will never attend Catholic school, and the magnitude of the problem becomes clear. We are losing the next generation of Catholics with stunning speed. By the time they graduate from public school, most young Catholics will head for the Church’s “exit” door, never to return. These aren’t faceless statistics: these are our children and grandchildren.

In spite of all the handwringing within the Church over why young Catholics are leaving the faith, few Catholic adults (or clergy) have faced this fact: public schools are toxic to our children, poisoning their self-understanding and undermining their faith. Why aren’t we talking about this? More importantly, why aren’t we fixing this?

Perhaps older Catholics, who grew up when the culture largely supported Christian living, fail to appreciate the magnitude of this cultural shift. Previously, the cultural undertow generally pulled most people along in the right direction. Today’s cultural undertow is a riptide, brutally yanking our children far from shore, submerging them in polluted waters and suffocating their faith. Public schools, along with entertainment, social media, consumer culture, and celebrity influencers, are our cultural waters.

Perhaps Catholic parents who attended public schools themselves think, “Well, I turned out all right,” not realizing that today’s public school environment is radically different.

The game-changer is public education’s reckless stampede towards full-blown gender ideology. Under the guise of “inclusivity” and “tolerance,” schools are indoctrinating our children in a false anthropology that is destructive, destabilizing, denies scientific reality (that we are male or female, forever), and contradicts Catholic teachings.

Put plainly, the public schools are lying to our kids about who they are. Rather than a unity of body and soul, the human person is presented as a jumble of disconnected dimensions such as “gender identity,” “sex assigned at birth,” “gender expression,” and “sexual orientation.” Gender ideology says it’s normal for these dimensions not to align. A person with a male-sexed body can identify as a girl, and insist that others address “her” by female pronouns; classmates must nod along, “affirming” the child’s chosen identity. Gender ideology also teaches kids that it’s normal for transgender-identifying persons to pursue body modification through cross-sex hormones or radical surgery. Put differently, teachers, counselors, and administrators will “affirm” a transgender-identified child, even if this means supporting a 16-year- old girl’s desire for a double mastectomy (because she feels like a boy) or an 18-year old boy’s hopes for genital surgery to validate his identity as a “real” girl.

Worse, schools are keeping parents in the dark about kids’ exposure to gender-affirming curricula, whether transgender-identified students are sharing restrooms or locker rooms alongside opposite-sex students, or even their own child’s “gender identity.” State legislatures and local school boards pass regulations forbidding school staff from telling parents if their own child shows signs of gender confusion unless the child consents. The schools comply under the pressure tactics and litigation threats of LGBT activist groups bent on influencing how other people’s kids understand themselves.

As parents know, there are no do-overs on childhood. One hour a week of religious education cannot possibly counter a child’s daily immersion in gender ideology. Parents, clergy, and Catholic philanthropists need to see what’s happening and enable all Catholic kids to receive a Catholic education. The alternative is to watch helplessly, as the Pied Piper of gender ideology pipes our children over the mountain, never to return.

MARY RICE HASSON, JD, is the Kate O’Beirne Fellow and the director of the Catholic Women’s Forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. She co-authored, with Theresa Farnan, PhD, Get Out Now: Why You Should Pull Your Child From Public School Before It’s Too Late (Regnery, 2018) and was a speaker for the Holy See’s panel on gender ideology during the 2019 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.

When Kids Need A Safe Haven

When the police took five-year-old Bonita White from her apartment, she was more relieved than scared. Her drug-addicted mother had left her alone with an infant brother for a week. There was no father involved.

The two little ones were taken to Our Little Haven (OLH) in St. Louis, Missouri, a home for the youngest victims of abuse and neglect. “Everyone assured me that I would be okay, and I trusted them,” Bonita said. “I remember it was a delightful time. I had my first birthday party and Christmas there and went fishing for the first time. They were so loving!” Our Little Haven was home for Bonita and her brother for a couple of years until they transitioned back with their mother following her treatment for drug addiction. Things were better, although there would be other programs in their future as safety nets for a family headed by a mother with mental health and addiction problems. “My mother loved us the best she knew how, but she was sick,” Bonita explained.

Today, 28-year-old Bonita credits Our Little Haven with having had a major impact in her life. She has a degree in psychology with a social work emphasis, works with Head Start for early childhood intervention, and plans to attend graduate school in psychology next year. Her 23-year-old brother, Terrence, plans to graduate with degrees in mathematics and engineering next year.

Serving Children for 25 Years

It has been 25 years since Scott and Kathleen Hummel made the leap from their social work jobs to creating a program caring for young children from troubled families. Scott is now the executive director and Kathleen is the therapeutic director.

The couple met at Rockhurst University where they received undergraduate degrees and then earned masters in social work and received honorary doctor of philosophy in humanities degrees from St. Louis University. They both knew well the results of abuse and neglect during early childhood. Scott worked at a homeless shelter for families, and Kathleen worked with pre- adolescent girls having serious mental health problems.

“We noticed there was a significant similarity in the families we served that boiled down to a need for early intervention,” Kathleen said. “We wanted to help children from traumatic homes and not wait until they were 12 years old when so much damage has already been done.”

In the early 1990s in the St. Louis area, Scott said that not a lot of people were working with children from birth to 10 years old. The idea grew to create an early intervention program for children from abuse and neglect situations, to heal—mind, body, and soul—while living in a secure, loving environment. Since nothing existed like they envisioned, they created it themselves, establishing relationships with other social service agencies, recruiting a board of directors, hiring staff, finding office and residential treatment space, and securing funding. It was a five-year process from idea to reality. “We’d try to push it away and God in his awesomeness, kept pushing it to the forefront,” Scott said.

The Cookie Jar

Inspired by Dr. William Brennan, retired social work professor from St. Louis University, a cookie jar analogy became the inspiration for the Hummels. It goes like this: when we are born, we are all given a cookie jar. Throughout our formative years, we are given cookies in the form of good experiences and praise. Around the age of ten, the cookie jar is sealed up and that is what we have in life.

“When I was three years old, trauma was losing my red crayon,” Scott said. “We see children who have no cookies in their jar, who come from violence and neglect. For us, that is why we are doing this—to fill up their cookie jars. It’s a response to the gospel of caring for each other.”

Scott pointed out that programs such as OLH become opportunities for others to live out Jesus’ command that we love one another by giving through volunteering or donating to support their work. “It is our honor to invite people to participate,” Scott said. “We are invitational not expectational. If there’s any success, it’s because we are getting out of the way and letting God and the community help.”

By the Numbers

According to Scott, statistics indicate that without intervention, many of these kids end up dead or in prison. “Those are two options not consistent with the Gospel,” Scott said. “Had the community not helped children like Bonita, pulling her out of the cycle of abuse and neglect, we would have lost her God-given talents. That’s not God’s design for these young people.”

There are also pragmatic costs, he pointed out. “Longitudinal studies, from the child welfare to juvenile systems to the adult system, indicate that they will die at about age 62 — what kind of a life is that?” Scott asked. “And it costs about $1 million per person instead of putting that money into better schools and parks and highways.”

Our Little Haven (OurLittleHaven.org) helps around 600 kids and their families a year; either reunifying them or finding more suitable placement. In 25 years, 18,849 children have been helped. They are private, not-for-profit, partners with Catholic Charities and Lutheran Social Services to provide services which include a therapeutic preschool, a pediatric mental and behavioral health outpatient program, and the Taylor Family Care Center, which runs the foster-care program. The in- house residential program that was home to 25-40 children ended 10 years ago in favor of foster care.

The Hummels raised their own children alongside running OLH. Maggie, now 26, was born the same year OLH opened, Peter is 24, and Sarah 21. It was the pregnancy of their first child that pushed the Hummels to take the plunge. Kathleen either had to put in for maternity leave or let her boss know she would not be coming back. Scott had to resign from his position at the family shelter also. They took a deep breath and began at the cusp of their own beginning as new parents and have never looked back.

“We pray and rely on the community and continue to be grateful,” Kathleen said. “This has all been God’s doing.”

“There are frustrations at times, but then an alumnus like Bonita stops by,” Scott said. “I think God sends those people at just the right time.”

PATTI ARMSTRONG is a Legatus magazine contributing writer.

Drawing Kids to the Glow of Catholicism

When Bishop Kevin Rhoades challenged teachers in Indiana’s Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese to think of ways to keep young people from leaving the Catholic faith, Legate Betsy Williams took it to heart – and prayer.

In the quiet of her adoration hours before the Blessed Sacrament, an idea began to take shape: Immerse students in the beauty of the Catholic faith, giving them an emotional connection to the truths they learn.

New program emphasizes Catholic beauty

Last month when classes began, Williams’ idea debuted as the Light for the World program at St. Anthony de Padua School in South Bend. The program consists of houses, or small faith communities, within the school, and monthly retreats that focus on a saint and a virtue he or she exemplified.

The houses, which will be named for various saints, will have activities throughout the year to foster a sense of community. During the monthly retreat, each house will rotate among four stations, spending 30 minutes at a time in adoration, listening to a talk by a priest, working on a service project, and singing and learning about the Mass.

“Catholic schools do an amazing job of teaching the truth and this is so very important,” said Williams, who previously taught preschool and first and second grades at St. Anthony. “. . . That doesn’t need to change, but what needs to be added is leading [students] to the truth through beauty.”

Legate John Tippmann, Sr., who is helping Light for the World get started through a grant from his Mary Cross Tippmann Foundation, agreed. “I have seen what the problem is and it is that we know we’re losing children, Catholic children, at an alarming rate. They just lose interest in their faith.”

Keeping the faith – through love for Christ

Tippmann said when he grew up, it was far more likely that students attending Catholic schools would graduate with a love for their faith that sustained them the rest of their lives. Today, he said, according to a recent Gallup poll, only 25 percent of young people between the ages of 21 and 29 attend Mass weekly. And, according to a talk given in March at the University of Notre Dame by Katherine Angulo, associate director for youth ministry in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, 6 in 10 young Catholics celebrate their First Communion, but only a third go on to receive Confirmation. Angulo also said the median age people stop identifying as Catholic is 13 and one of the main reasons youth are leaving the Church is that they have no emotional connection to the faith.

“We want to teach them to love the faith instead of just learning the rules and regulations of it,” Tippmann said. When Williams presented Light for the World to several members of his foundation’s board, Tippmann said it resonated with his own experience of the faith handed down to him by his mother, for whom the foundation is named. “It seemed like this would help teachers to do a better job of teaching the Catholic faith and love for it.”

The foundation agreed to fund the first two years of the program at St. Anthony at a cost of $23,000 a year, which covers expenses and part of the salary for an additional teacher. If the program takes off, the foundation may continue to fund it or possibly support expanding it to other schools.

Kids ask to go to church

Williams, who will be the teacher directing the program as the school’s Catholic identity representative, drew on her classroom experiences to develop Light for the World. More than two years ago, she began taking her firstgraders into the parish church on Fridays to pray a rosary for their pastor, Fr. Robert Garrow, and for Bishop Rhoades. “They absolutely loved this time in church and in the silence,” she said. “They would beg to go during the week.” In talking with the students, Williams learned that they felt happy and peaceful during the Friday visits. “‘That’s the peace of Jesus,’ I told them. They were hooked and couldn’t get enough.” Next, Williams formed an adoration club so that all students in the school could have the same experience of being alone with Jesus in the quiet of the church. Twice a month for an hour after school, students in the club would meet to pray the rosary, sing and sit quietly.

Adoration will be a key element of the monthly retreats because, Williams said, she wants students to have an opportunity to unplug and listen to what God may be calling them to do with the gifts they have been given and to develop a lifelong habit of taking their concerns to Him.

Williams hopes through Light for the World to show students and their families the treasure they have in their faith – a treasure often left behind by putting travel, sports, and other distractions ahead of attending Mass. “So many kids and families are dropping away and abandoning our greatest gift for the pull of the world.”

As a means of reaching out to families, all the talks given by priests during the monthly retreats will be recorded and available to view online. Family members of students also will be invited to attend the retreats.

Service to others – mitigates focus on self

Williams developed the service aspect of the program to counteract the culture’s focus on self and to show students the beauty of loving, serving, and sacrificing for others. Each house will establish a relationship with a charity during the year and spend part of each retreat day doing something for that charity. For example, a house that has chosen a homeless shelter might make lunches for shelter residents.

The singing element of the retreats is designed to teach students that they are joining with all the angels and saints in bringing glory to God every time they go to Mass. Williams’ hope is that by teaching the students to sing beautiful songs for school and Sunday Masses, families who have been away from church or don’t attend will hear something that makes them want to return.

Strong family support is key

Although she has a background in education, Williams said the best preparation she received for creating Light for the World came from her parents, who gave her a strong, positive example of living the faith. Her father, Brian Miller, has been a deacon at St. Anthony de Padua for the last 45 years and helped her form the adoration club. “He’s given his whole life to our faith.”

Light for the World is not a curriculum, but will complement religious instruction in the classroom, Williams said. In addition to offering experiences that will convey the beauty of the faith, the program will provide suggested activities students can do with their families.

Bishop Rhoades, who approved the program, said its strength is the movement from beauty to goodness and then to truth it provides through exposing the children to the lives of the saints, prayer and retreat days, and priests and religious sisters. “It will be a very purposeful program, seeking to give the children a rich and joyful experience of learning to live the Gospel.”

He added that in visiting Williams’ first-grade classroom, he has already observed the effectiveness of her approach. The bishop said he also has seen how it involves parents who are often moved by the religious observance of their children. “I know of one parent who even became Catholic because the devotion of her daughter led her to learn about the Catholic faith. Parent involvement in this program is a real strength and necessity for the Catholic mission of the school.”

Narrow road’ to Christ is countercultural

Williams said she was confirmed in her discernment of the program by hearing Bishop Rhoades talk during his Chrism Mass homily during Holy Week this year about spreading the aroma of Christ in a world where there is so much stench, an idea he said he took from Pope Francis.

“It really hit home,” Williams said. “. . . It immediately made me think of what I was working on – to teach little ones and their families that everything the world is showing them, that they see in media, the Internet, on Facebook, is so countercultural to what we know as Catholics. I kept thinking of St. John Paul II and how he said don’t be afraid to be a saint, don’t be afraid to go against what the world is showing you . . . It’s scary to go against what everyone else is telling you is right, but if you do that, you’ll be a light for the world.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer

Without children, is a marriage valid?

KARL KEATING: Catholic couples who are not open to children are not validly married . . . 

Karl Keating

Karl Keating

Of course it is! If that weren’t the case, then no couple would have a valid marriage until their first child was born. A marriage is valid as soon as the vows are exchanged and the marriage is consummated — that is, when the first sexual union takes place.

Until a child is conceived and born, a husband and wife can’t be sure they will have a child, no matter how much they might want one. Perhaps they are unaware of a medical problem that makes it impossible for them to have children.

That said, there is a sense in which the claim is true. If a bride and groom never have children because, right from the first, they never intended to have children, their marriage is invalid — not because of the absence of children, but because they did not meet the requirements for a sacramental marriage.

Marriage has two aspects, the unitive and the procreative. A man and woman join themselves in holy matrimony. They perform the marriage themselves — they aren’t “married by” the priest. The priest only serves as the Church’s chief witness. A deacon could also serve as the Church’s chief witness. Once the couple gives proper consent, the two are married. This consent must include an openness to the goods of marriage — both the unitive (“the two of them become one body” Gen 2:24) and the procreative (“be fertile and multiply” Gen 1:28). If this openness is absent, the consent is imperfect, and no sacramental marriage results. Although the parties live together, they aren’t really husband and wife. They have no marriage.

Some people think that married people aren’t really Catholic unless they have many children. Children, of course, are a great blessing, and it is a wonderful thing to see large families. But not every couple is able to have many — or even any — children. The validity of the marriage and the worth of married people as Catholics are not measured by the number of their offspring.

As Blessed Pope Paul VI discussed in his 1968 encyclical Humanae Vitae (On Human Life), every marriage must remain open to new life, and that is all God requires. This openness means that contraception is always a grave evil and is never morally right. Yet, if there are serious circumstances (such as the poor health of the mother), parents may limit the number of children they have through abstinence or modern, scientific, natural family planning, which takes account of a woman’s natural infertile periods but does not, as contraception does, eliminate all openness to new life.

KARL KEATING is the founder of Catholic Answers. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “What Catholics Really Believe — Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith.

Catechism 101

Conjugal love … is open to fertility. By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory. Children are the supreme gift of marriage and contribute greatly to the good of the parents themselves.

God blessed man and woman with the words: “Be fruitful and multiply.” Spouses to whom God has not granted children can nevertheless have a conjugal life full of meaning, in both human and Christian terms. Their marriage can radiate a fruitfulness of charity, of hospitality, and of sacrifice.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1643, 1652, 1654