Sunday, January 4, 2009

January, 2009 High School decision

Two Catholic High Schools: Both good choices

            Our 13-year-old is making a decision that will, over the next four years, cost more than anything we own or have ever purchased, except our house.
            Jacob, in eighth grade, is choosing a high school and has narrowed down his choices to Dominican, in Whitefish Bay and Marquette, in downtown Milwaukee.  After visiting both schools with Jacob and doing research on our own, Bill and I decided that both schools were so solid that he couldn’t go wrong with either choice. So last week we handed him the decision. 
            It felt good.
            Jacob was wary of our baton-passing at first. After all, we had said this high school decision was one the three of us would make together. And for the first half of the school year, it was the three of us. We toured together, read Web sites together, tossed each other pamphlets across the family room. I talked to parents from both Dominican and Marquette. Every parent spoke with such passion about what the respective school meant to their child that I always left the conversation convinced that Jacob should go there—this meant that sometimes I switched allegiances within the same day. Twice parents became teary while telling me about an aspect of their child’s school. An easy crier, I was soon sniffling as well.
            Finally though, after five months of being a threesome, Bill and I decided we had learned as much as we could about either school. They were both excellent, but very different. And it wasn’t going to be a threesome graduating from one of them. It was going to be Jacob. It had to be his choice.
            Dominican and Marquette represent what I love about the Catholic Church — that it is so large and universal, it can encompass these two very different high schools, with their different philosophies and approaches.
            We love the Jesuits. Bill went to Marquette High and I went to Marquette University, so Jesuits are in our blood. We appreciate the Jesuits’ duel commitment to academics and service. We were married by a Jesuit; we visit Sacred Space, the Irish Jesuit prayer Web site; we almost named Jacob “Eagan” after Father John Eagan, a Marquette High Jesuit who had a profound impact on Bill’s spirituality. (Eventually we decided that with our hyphenated last name, we could not give our son an unusual first name.)  Marquette University High School, in their promotional brochure, promised to make our son into a “Man for Others.” What more could we ask?
            We could ask for girls. Dominican, with a co-ed student body, offers academics as rigorous as Marquette’s, but with the added advantage of Jacob being able to learn, pray and grow alongside young women. While Marquette speaks with conviction of being able to create a Marquette Man, Dominican is a little quieter; a little more humble. Jesuits have many remarkable attributes, but humility is rarely one of them. Dominican was less likely to use the name of their school to describe their graduates. Instead, Maureen Schuerman, the school president, said to me, “If Jacob chooses Dominican, this is what I can promise you: At Dominican, we will help Jacob discover and grow into the Jacob he is called to become.” I blinked back my tears. What more could we ask?
            After getting over the initial astonishment that the decision was now completely in his hands, Jacob has settled down into the business of making the choice. Respectful of the amount of money this education will be—at either school— and the sacrifice it will entail for our family, he’s being careful and deliberate with his decision, and I’m thankful for that. His deadline is his birthday, February 4—he will be fourteen.
            What school will it be? I can’t say for sure. I can see where he’s leaning today, but he could lean a different direction tomorrow. I do know, however, that whether he chooses Dominican or Marquette, he will begin his day at school with prayer. He will attend all-school Masses and take theology classes. He will do service work within our city and will have the opportunity to reach beyond the borders of his comfortable life. He will more deeply understand what it is to be Catholic—with either a Jesuit or Dominican bent. And hopefully, four years later, when he leaves high school, no longer a child, but as a young man, he will decide to take his Catholic faith with him.


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