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In so far as their educational activities are concerned, American priests would appear to fall naturally into three categories: those (the happiest) who have parish schools at which all their children are attendants; those who have their own schools, but a portion of whose young people attend the public schools; and, finally, those who for one reason or another have not yet been able to establish schools of their own. That this last class is more numerous than is generally supposed is a fact made painfully evident by the statistics incidentally given in our official Catholic Directory. An effective check indeed to the spread-eagleism or vaingloriousness in which some of us occasionally indulge when dilating upon “our magnificent system of parish schools" is the statement made by our most authoritative educationists and most reputable journals, that at least half the Catholic children of this country are non-attendants at parish schools. The oft-quoted dictum of the late Archbishop Spalding, that "the greatest religious fact in the United States to-day is the Catholic school system, maintained without any aid by the people who love it," is perhaps true enough; but it does not mean that either intensively, or especially extensively, the system has attained so approximately ideal a development that we are justified in resting content in smug complacency with the results already achieved. It is gratifying, no doubt, to read Dr. Turner's statement in the Catholic Encyclopedia, that the system "comprises over 20,000 teachers, over 1,000,000 pupils, represents $100,000,000 worth of property, and costs over
$15,000,000 annually"; but any undue elation over these facts may well be qualified by this other statement, occurring in a paper read at a meeting of the Catholic Educational Association held a few years ago in St. Paul: "It seems that over half our Catholic children, perhaps fifty-five percent, are outside the Catholic schools." Later statistics than Dr. Turner's give the number attending the parish schools as a million and a half; but they give the same number for Catholic children who lack the spiritually salubrious atmosphere and the beneficent formative influences of the genuinely Catholic school.
To recognize such facts as these is in no way to disparage the really admirable results that have so far attended the laudable efforts to build up our school system; it is merely a reminder that very much remains to be done-and most of it by individual priests-before our educational conditions reach that degree of excellence which will warrant unmixed satisfaction therewith, and which they must reach if the Church's work in this country is to be carried on with the fullest possible efficiency. The splendid record made by thousands of parishes in the matter of building and equipping suitable schools should not lead us to ignore the existence of thousands of other parishes in which there are not only no Catholic schools but no apparent prospects that the want will soon be supplied. A survey of the whole country need not perhaps engender any pessimistic thoughts regarding the outlook for our growing system; but any sacerdotal optimism concerning that outlook will
best be justified by each priest's doing his own allotted share of the work as effectively as he possibly can.
To come to the nature of that work, and to speak first of the pastor who belongs to what we have called the happiest of the three categories into which, for the purposes of this essay, all American priests may be divided,—the one whose parish school is attended by all his children. It goes without saying, of course, that such a pastor here and there may object to our characterization of his lot, may deem that lot anything but an enviable one. We can readily fancy hearing him (as a matter of fact, we remember hearing him) exclaim: "Happy! My dear fellow, if you had the job of looking after my school for six months, and knew from experience ever so little about the endless worry connected with finances, with teachers and pupils and parents, with the upkeep of the building and its furniture, etc., you'd be apt to call yourself, not happy, but miserable." That, however, is most probably merely the expression of a passing mood. At heart he is, and has every right to be, thoroughly well satisfied that his parish church has its normal complement, the parish school; and his satisfaction is doubtless all the sweeter if the establishment of the school has entailed some such personal sacrifice as the giving up of his commodious rectory to the Sisters for their residence, while he temporarily betakes himself to less comfortable quarters. And if he is, as we suppose him, fortunate enough to know that none of his young people are attending the public
school but are all daily under his hand and eye, he can hardly compare his lot with that of his brother priest not all of whose children frequent his own class-rooms, still less with that of the school-less pastor none of whose little ones enjoy Catholic training, without thanking God heartily for very evident mercies.
That these mercies are tempered with not a few trials and annoyances we have no intention of denying. A parish school, even be it ever so well organized, is a charge, and no light one, on any father of souls. It involves care and thought and the expenditure of considerable time, even when the financial conditions of the parish give no cause (as they frequently give all too much cause) for anxiety and worry. Just how much of his time a pastor should give to his school is a question that admits of a good deal of permissible, if not always profitable, discussion. In a free country and about debatable matters, every man is of course entitled to his own opinion; and as to this particular matter the present writer has in his time heard and read opinions diametrically opposed to each other, as far apart as light from darkness or North from South. Some pastors go so far as to maintain that the priest should steer clear of his school altogether, consigning all that pertains to its activities to the Brothers, Sisters, or lay teachers who have been engaged to conduct it; while at the other extreme, are disputants fully as dogmatic in asserting that the pastor should not only be familiar with all the details of his school's active life, but should himself be the prime mover in
directing those details. It is a case in which Ovid's medio tutissimus ibis seems clearly applicable. The golden mean lies between absolute non-interference and perfervid officiousness. As against the position of those who hold that sole and exclusive charge should be left to the Brothers or Sisters, we have the directions of the third Plenary Council of Baltimore to the effect that the pastor shall not only organize a parish school, but shall familiarize himself with the principles and methods of education in order properly to discharge his duties in connection therewith. And an adequate reply to those who would have the pastor become the school's be-all and do-all would seem to be that his other pastoral duties do not permit such engrossing of his time.
Few will be inclined to oppose the contention that the school which is being conducted by lay teachers needs, and should get, more of the pastor's supervision and co-operation than the one whose teachers are religious, Brothers or Sisters. While these latter are not always perhaps so thoroughly competent as is desirable in the whole range of scholastic and pedagogical requirements, the presumption is decidedly in their favor; and as regards the really essential point, the distinctive attribute that differéntiates and sets off the parish from the public school - the Catholic atmosphere-the Brothers and Sisters are clearly the ideal teachers. If there be any justification for the pastor who visits his school rarely if at all, it is perhaps to be found in the fact that his children are under the control of devoted