By Father Chad VanHoose
St. Jude of the Lake Catholic School
Catholic schools have always played an important role in my life. I attended the same Catholic school system in southern Ohio from kindergarten through senior year. When my Catholic faith and love for Jesus came fully alive in college, I felt called to help younger generations in their faith experience, especially those who attended Catholic schools like me. This led me to work with Catholic youth for six years with NET Ministries in West St. Paul.
Since my ordination, I have been able to serve at two parishes with parochial schools and invest in students’ personal lives and education. As an associate pastor at All Saints in Lakeville and now the pastor at St. Jude of the Lake in Mahtomedi, I have made the schools a priority in my ministry.
Building on my experience of Catholic education, I share how religion is much more than a class, but rather it is the animating factor in our lives as Christians. Faith is caught more than it is taught, so I work to ensure that our schools help students practice the faith as they study it.
As we focus on great teachers and an exceptional curriculum, we must realize that the greatest asset we can offer students is the power to think with Catholic principles and engage the culture with the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. Catholic education must always uphold excellence while also being evangelistic.
Our goal is not to shelter young people from the world but to teach them how to engage in the world with a robust understanding of who God is and who we are as sons and daughters made in His image and redeemed in Christ.
Each week, I personally engage with students during lunch, Mass, rosary over the PA system and school activities. In those moments, I witness an excitement to come to school, love for fellow students and faculty, and participation in Mass and prayer throughout the day.
Our school has an inclusive, family atmosphere where students have fun with one another and enjoy experiential learning, like with our new aquaponics lab. We continually show students that they are known and loved, which helps support positive self-esteem and feelings of self-worth. But our supreme goal is always forming disciples and helping them fall in love with Jesus.
Catholic education is ultimately the Gospel in action. We constantly strive to fulfill the command of Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20, to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”