Mo's word TRADITION has prompted me to get serious this week. My "pointed" point is made at the end of the article.
UNLIKE most Roman Catholic schools in the New York area, which embrace students regardless of their religion, Chaminade High School here requires a baptismal certificate to register.
“No exception,” said the Rev. James C. Williams, a cherub-faced priest who is the school’s president. “We advertise that pretty clearly because this is who we are. I don’t have room for all the Catholics who want to be here.”
Indeed, more than 1,600 boys from as far as Manhattan and Westchester County applied last year for 425 freshman seats at Chaminade, which many consider one of Long Island’s premier private schools and a relative bargain at $6,660 a year. Chaminade, founded in 1930 and now the Island’s only all-boys Catholic school, has thrived by staying unabashedly Catholic and traditional.
As the school year began this month, Chaminade students bowed their heads for a 10-minute morning prayer, repeated in an abbreviated version before every class. “Here I Am, Lord,” drifted through the hallways as the glee club practiced for a school Mass. Shortly before noon, the chapel filled with teenagers for a lunchtime prayer service.
No talk here of squaring Catholic teachings with secular realities. In 2005, out of concern over excessive materialism and alcohol consumption, Chaminade canceled its prom and later replaced it with a modest dinner cruise around Manhattan. There is a strict dress code that also prohibits facial hair.
Despite a recent haircut, Dominic DaRocha, a freshman, spent an hour during the first week of classes cleaning up the school library because his dark brown mop fell below ear level — a violation. “I thought I kind of deserved it,” Dominic, 13, said after a second haircut. “I know it’s a good school, and that’s all that really matters.”
Enrollment at Long Island’s 11 Catholic high schools is up about 7 percent since 2002, to nearly 13,000 (though down about 20 percent at elementary schools), according to officials with the Rockville Centre Diocese, which covers Long Island.
Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the diocese, said, “What we’re seeing anecdotally is that people are saving their money and saying we can’t do both, so we’re going to put them in public elementary school and then put them in Catholic high school.”
But perhaps no place is more popular than Chaminade, which has top-notch academic and athletic programs and last summer expanded its campus with a $20 million sports and activities complex. Donations from a high-powered alumni network that includes former Senator Alfonse M. D’Amato, County Executive Thomas R. Suozzi and the television commentator Bill O’Reilly paid for the project.
Parents like Gina and James McGovern pay school taxes of more than $10,000 a year in Merrick but switched their 14-year-old son, Terence, to Chaminade this year so he could discuss issues like poverty, social justice and respect for life from a Catholic perspective.
“We’re not proselytizing or preaching, we’re simply looking for an opportunity to have a school system that supports the lessons we’re teaching in our home,” said Mrs. McGovern, a former PTA president. “I think the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that it makes religious expression difficult or uncomfortable in public school.”
Parents who want to send their children to private schools, and pay dearly for that privilege, so that the school supports the lessons they teach at home, have every right to do so. But to expect that they should be able to express their religious beliefs in public school and feel comfortable about it are completely wrong. Public school is no place for expressions of private religious beliefs.