Vatican to Catholic Homeschoolers: “I truly admire parents, who take on this great commitment”

Wed Dec 13, 2006 - 12:15 pm EST

VATICAN CITY, December 13, 2006 ( -  Three veterans of the United States Catholic home school movement spent Thanksgiving week in Vatican City meeting with officials of various congregations and councils of the Holy See to discuss the positive results of Catholic home schooling. Dr. Mary Kay Clark, Director of Seton Home Study School, as well as Dr. Catherine Moran, President of the Catholic Home School Network of America, and Mrs. Virginia Seuffert, home schooling mother of 12 and a frequent speaker at Catholic Home Schooling conferences, were encouraged by the positive response of the Vatican prelates.

  Many of the prelates were already familiar with Seton Home Study School, a Catholic home study program in the diocese of Arlington, Virginia, which has been operating for the past twenty-five years, with a current enrollment of approximately 11,000 students. Officials were presented with textbooks from Seton Press, the publishing arm of the school, and the largest publisher of Catholic schoolbooks in North America with over 100 titles and hundreds of thousands of books sold. Students are enrolled primarily in the United States, but also from many countries from around the world, such as Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, Mexico, the Philippines, Japan, the Czech Republic, Germany, Colombia, and India.

  The home school envoys emphasized to the Vatican cardinals and bishops the primary importance of the Faith in Catholic home schooling. They explained that when parents teach the Faith to their children on a daily basis, teaching not only with textbooks but through the daily practice of prayer, good example, and frequent reception of the Sacraments, children will develop a love for the Faith and vocations will increase. They quoted one Midwest bishop who says that over a five-year period, 23 percent of young men graduating from one home school cooperative in his diocese entered the seminary. They pointed out that Justin Ferguson, the seminarian who gave the first reading at Pope Benedict’s papal installation mass, is an alumnus of Seton Home Study School.

  Vatican officials, including cardinals, bishops and monsignors, expressed curiosity about the qualification of mothers and fathers to teach their own children at home, but the three Americans were able to assure them of the ability of parents to teach their children. The Americans reported that home school students consistently outperform their counterparts in institutional schools. Officials were impressed to hear that the 2006 graduate with the highest grade point average at West Point was a graduate of Seton Home Study School.

  The response of the Vatican officials was encouraging and positive. Bishop Karl Josef Romer of the Pontifical Council for the Family thanked the home schoolers: “I would like to thank you for your Catholic home schooling initiative that opens up new horizons for the family. I truly admire parents, the mothers and fathers who take on this great commitment and give their children not only food for their bodies and physical well-being, but also all the necessary formation for their minds and instruction in the Catholic Faith, which before being a doctrine, is the lived example of parents themselves. You are the most perfect model of teachers because you live what must shape the lives of your children.”

  Francis Cardinal Arinze, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments noted, “The primary educators of children are parents. The child is the child of the parent first, and the parents are the first to answer to God for their children.” He urged parents to, “Train children in a way that gives them hope.”

  Dr. Clark says of their visit, “We wanted to assure the bishops and cardinals that the Catholic home schooling movement is strong, growing, and faithful. And in turn, we were assured of the continued support for Catholic home schooling by the Church hierarchy. There is no question that the officials of the Catholic Church at the highest levels realize the importance of Catholic home schooling. I think it should be a comfort to parents, during their day to day joys and difficulties, that the Church understands and appreciates the work that they are doing.”

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