January 29, 2021

Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Students share how Catholic education has changed their lives for the better

Bishop Chatard High School student Deysi Garcia-Vazquez, center, enjoys checking out the Indianapolis North Deanery high school’s new yearbook at the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year with fellow Trojans Emma Shea, left, and Gracie Dillon. (Submitted photo)

Bishop Chatard High School student Deysi Garcia-Vazquez, center, enjoys checking out the Indianapolis North Deanery high school’s new yearbook at the beginning of the 2019-20 academic year with fellow Trojans Emma Shea, left, and Gracie Dillon. (Submitted photo)

(Editor’s note: The Criterion asked four high school seniors from across the archdiocese to share how their Catholic education has had an impact on their lives. Here are their stories.)

By John Shaughnessy

She had the same fear and hope that nearly all students have when they attend a new school.

Fear that she wouldn’t fit in with the other students.

Hope that she would find a home, friends and a community that would help her grow as a person—all the things Deysi Garcia-Vazquez wanted when she left her public high school to attend Bishop Chatard High School in Indianapolis as a sophomore.

“Not only were the teachers and staff welcoming, but the students as well,” notes Deysi, now a senior. “This is when I knew that the education here would be life-changing. The thing I noticed was how dedicated both the students and teachers are toward each other and the education.”

Now in her third year at the school, she has also learned more about herself and what she sees as her place in the world.

“Being part of a Catholic school not only taught me to be closer to God, but it truly helped me find who I really was,” Deysi says. “Now I realize how many people truly need help, and that it is our job and duty to continue God’s work in helping others.”

She views her decision to come to a Catholic school as “a sign from God”—a decision that will continue to have an impact on her life after she graduates.

“God wanted me to get closer to him and wants me to continue in spreading his love and care for others. I will continue to volunteer at local food pantries, and I will continue to donate to those in need.

“I hope others see that Catholic education isn’t all about praying, but rather it’s finding your true self like me.”

A special place in the heart

As he prepares to graduate from high school, Trey Suggett talks affectionately about how his 12 years of Catholic education make a difference in his life.

“Catholic education holds a special place in my heart,” Trey says. “Being part of Catholic education has allowed me to push myself to the limits and enjoy learning. I am able to understand how to form connections as well as implement God in my everyday life.”

One particular influence stands out to Trey from his education at both Pope John XXIII School and Father Michael Shawe Memorial Jr./Sr. High School, both in Madison.

“I learned of a saying my teacher told me, and I’ve kept it in mind, ‘To love is to serve, and to serve is to love.’ If I love everyone around me, I am serving God and serving others. Seeing the community around me form and work together so that I may be blessed with a wonderful education is such a heartwarming experience.”

Trey believes the experiences he’s had and the foundation he’s been given will serve him well in his future beyond high school.

“I am always excited to face my future, and with a superb education with me, I feel as if I can take on new challenges and obstacles with ease,” says Trey, a member of Prince of Peace Parish in Madison.

“Everything I have learned will help me get along with others in college and even as I continue past college. I will be able to make connections with others, which in turn will benefit all of us. My Catholic education has benefited me greatly, and I hope to use it to help others to the best of my ability.”

‘The greatest gift’

As a senior at Seton Catholic High School in Richmond, Olivia Howard finds herself focusing on the people who have touched her life during her 12 years of Catholic education.

“I am filled with gratitude remembering the teachers, friendships and experiences which have helped to mold me into the person I am today,” says Olivia, who plans to major in elementary education in college.

“The love, support and example of my teachers through the years have matured me, challenged me and supported me as I learned to think critically, to dedicate myself to achieving my best, and to developing the talents God has given me.”

She places a special emphasis on how her faith has grown.

“The greatest gift of these years has been the nurturing of my spiritual journey, and my relationship with Jesus, and the nurturing in my Catholic faith,” says Olivia, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Richmond.

“It is that faith which will be my strength, my comfort and my joy going forward through all the seasons of my life. I will be forever grateful for the role that Catholic education has played in the development of that greatest gift.”

‘Christ at the center of all that we do’

As he tries to decide which college to attend, Sam Bowles knows that school will have to have one quality that is essential to him. 

“It is very important to me that the colleges I am looking to attend have a Catholic basis on campus, even if that means a small church where Mass is held every Sunday,” says Bowles, a senior at Our Lady of Providence High School in Clarksville.

“I want to be able to continue to attend Mass into college, which is something that is extremely important to me and has been important to me since a young age.”

Bowles has made that connection a requirement because of the education he has received at Providence and earlier in his grade school at what is now St. John Paul II School in Sellersburg.

“Having a Catholic education throughout my life has significantly changed my life, and it has created a basis by which I can follow God,” says Bowles, who is 17.

He envisions his Catholic faith and his relationship with God being a significant part of his long-term future, too.

“The values and beliefs I follow now are largely centered around what the Catholic Church believes. I will do my best to continue to hold these values close to my heart in my future endeavors. This is true even down to the relationship I am currently in, in which we have both chosen to hold Christ at the center of all that we do.

“I hope to continue this journey of life through the Catholic lens by which I have been taught.” †


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