Suzanne Joanes

The importance of choice

By  Suzanne Joanes, Youth Speak News
  • April 19, 2013

I attended Catholic elementary schools, and when I was in Grade 8, I was choosing a high school to attend. The most popular question people asked me was whether I would choose to attend a public or a Catholic high school. I knew that whatever school I chose — public or Catholic — it wouldn’t mean I’d lose my faith. Catholic schools aren’t a place where you’re forced into your faith, but rather taught how to strengthen it.

But what if I didn’t have a free choice in picking a school?

I recently came across an issue that arose in Edmonton. According to various news articles, two public schools in Edmonton are facing overpopulation, and Catholic families are struggling to keep their children in these schools. In order for their children to stay in these schools, they must not identify as Catholic. If they identify as Catholic, parents are told to find a new school for their children.

A Scripture passage came to mind: “But whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:33).

Being in a Catholic school doesn’t make one Catholic by practise, only Catholic by label. Had I not attended a Catholic high school where I was encouraged to practise my faith outside of my home, I would have missed out on the opportunity to enrich my faith through school community and practise. I’d often be in the school’s chapel throughout high school. It was my place of solitude amid the pressures of being a high school student. And knowing that there were people to give me insight from a Catholic perspective kept me grounded.

I chose to attend a Catholic high school, but a public university. Now in university, I see the difference; university is where I appreciate the beliefs of others, but it is where I am even more grateful that I am a Catholic. Knowing I have God on my side keeps me optimistic.

I was never forced into Catholicism. Instead, I was taught about it more and more, mainly through seeing the light of Christ in the people around me.

My parents always taught me to be patient and kind, so I remind myself that because every person has his or her own difficulties, everyone needs a bit of Christ’s light in their life, regardless of what their religious beliefs are.

If I had to deny my faith to go to school, it would be like denying my love of Christ.

So if you are ever asked if you’re Catholic, and you are, say yes. In choosing a Catholic education, you are choosing to embody the faith, without hesitation.

(Joanes, 18, is a first year concurrent education student at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.)

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