Community valued as part of Catholic education


JASPER — One evening as Greg and Erin Fuhs sat down to dinner with their children — Landon, 11, Nolan, 8 and Cole, 4 — the boys started arguing about who would say grace. That, Greg said, was the moment he realized he and Erin made the right choice in sending their children to Holy Trinity Catholic School.

“I just remember laughing to myself because my sons were arguing over who wanted to say grace,” Greg recalled. “How cool is that?”

Stories like the Fuhs’ became a focal point this week as Catholic schools across the U.S., including Holy Trinity, celebrated National Catholic Schools Week. The National Catholic Educational Association started the weeklong event in 1974 as a way to showcase the value of Catholic education.

For families at Holy Trinity — which serves students in preschool through eighth grade — the value is great, and that value comes from having the Catholic faith taught everyday alongside academics.

“To have that and to be able to express that openly is important,” Erin said.

Part of the religious education at Holy Trinity involves students of all ages participating in the weekly masses by taking on roles such as serving or reading the Bible verses for the day.

To Mike and Ann Shappard, participation in Mass is key not only to their sons’ growth in their faith, but also teaches them essential life skills such as public speaking. The Shappards have two sons, seventh-grader Luke and fourth-grader Sam, who attend Holy Trinity. Outside Holy Trinity, Sam participates and excels in theater, Mike said, which is likely due in part to Sam’s participation in masses.

“The boy basically has no nerves when it comes to being in front of people,” Mike said.

Mike Fischer has also seen how the faith education his children — eighth-grader Riley, sixth-grader Reece and third-grader Ty — receive will benefit them in the real world. In July 2018, Mike’s father, Jim, passed away. Mike said his children didn’t struggle with the death as much as they could have. Instead, they understood that their grandfather was in heaven with Jesus and that they’d see him again one day. Mike attributes his children’s understanding of the loss to their daily Christian teachings at school.

Academics is another reason parents choose Holy Trinity. Although the Shappards acknowledged that all Dubois County schools are academically strong, they were drawn to Holy Trinity, in part, because of the smaller class sizes and more one-on-one attention their sons could have at the school.

The smaller class sizes also lead to strong relationships between the teachers and students that, in Greg’s opinion, are another reason Holy Trinity stands out.

“You can just tell that the teachers really love what they do,” Greg said. “They love that they can weave their faith into the classroom.”

The faithful and close-knit community that is nurtured in Holy Trinity bleeds over in the Holy Trinity community as a whole, with the parents forming strong relationships among themselves and with school staff, too.

“We always say all our public schools are great, but those relationships (at Holy Trinity) stand out,” Erin said.

The Shappards stressed that they don’t feel their sons have missed out on anything by attending Holy Trinity. Ann said sometimes there’s a misconception that since Holy Trinity is smaller, its students miss out on some of the extracurricular opportunities available to public school students. Thanks to a good relationship between Holy Trinity and Greater Jasper schools, Ann said, that’s not the case. The Shappards’ son Luke, for example, wanted to play football, which isn’t offered at Holy Trinity, so he was allowed to play with the Jasper Middle School team. A similar program exists for Holy Trinity middle school students who want to participate in band.

“We’re lucky that we live in a community where the public schools and the Catholic school have that relationship,” Ann said. “We kind of feel like we have the best of both worlds.”

While Holy Trinity’s parents see many pros to the education path they’ve chosen for their children, the main draw for all of them was the faith element. Although the Shappards know the Catholic education won’t guarantee their children make the right choices all the time, they hope the emphasis on faith will give them a strong basis to at least try to make the right choices.

Mike Fischer agreed.

“I think it’s one of those things that 15 or 20 years down the road, [my kids are] going to be very grateful for their Catholic education,” he said. “It’s probably the best investment we could have made in our kids and their future.”

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