Children learn ABCs and commandments

It really was a pure golf shot, arcing high into the late May, crystal clear blue sky. The problem was, it headed toward the third green rather than the 12th, the hole I was actually playing.

Walking up to the green to apologize to the group in front of us, I let out an audible gasp when I noticed Father Kirsten’s smiling mug.

“Excellent shot, Cameron,” he said wryly, looking across his sunglasses at me. Standing next to my 12th grade chemistry teacher was Mr. Ostermann, the vice principal. Father Paulus, my history teacher, was with them lining up a putt.

“So, I guess it is a good thing we called school off early today for the faculty golf tournament, isn’t it, son?” Father Kirsten said.

“Yes sir, it really is,” I said with a slightly relieved grin.

It is somewhat a rite of passage for high school seniors to miss out on a class or two as the school year comes to an end. My buddy, Mike, and I just happened to have the rotten luck to take off and pick the same course as our teachers, specifically the priests who ran the Catholic Jesuit school we attended. Our punishment the following Monday was minor, cleaning some golf balls after school, adding another story to the annals of our high school careers.

Attending an all-boys Catholic high school is an experience I’ll treasure my entire life. Being there set me on a path to challenge myself and discover the type of man I would become. The priests and teachers focused us toward achievement, excellence and discipline. Hard work was the norm. It was the kind of place that you look back on with pride — not that you survived — that you experienced and thrived and grew because of the people who made it great.

I’ve reflected over the years about the tangible aspects of that experience and education that I hold on to today. Was it the camaraderie? Was it the quality of instruction? Was it the discipline? I am not sure to this day I can answer any of those questions except to say that the one constant about the experience was the fact it was a Catholic school.

This past week, my daughters and their friends at St. Andrew Catholic Elementary School in Elk River celebrated Catholic Schools Week, a national celebration of the gift of Catholic education. From Jan. 29 through Feb. 4, students throughout the nation sang songs, colored pictures, shared stories and learned more about how unique Catholic schools are in our collective culture.

My daughters’ experience is much different from my own. We were young men trying to figure out a future path in life, finishing our high school journey. My daughters are just starting their journeys, learning to spell and read and add and multiply. They spend time with their friends, praying for their cats, dogs, hamsters and fish. They are learning to deal with their emotions while also memorizing the 10 Commandments. They are finding their voices in the school choir while learning to pronounce four-syllable words. They are advancing in math and science while learning to follow a path of service.

My oldest daughter, Allison, recently wrote an essay about why she wanted to join the St. Andrew School spirit council. Among her various reasons was this sentence: “I love, love, love going to this school.” At a time when difficult economic decisions have become the norm, reading this sentence told me all I needed to know about my choice to send her to Catholic school, and the choice my parents made to send me.

Catholic Schools Week is a chance to celebrate those choices, the students and the faculties that help our schools thrive every day. I don’t remember my Catholic high school experience because of that one day on the golf course. I remember the teachers and priests who forged in me a passion for learning and an understanding of my faith. My daughters won’t remember their essays or tests, but they will remember their experiences and the teachers who gave them personal attention. — Cameron Potts, Elk River

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