A few years ago, a visitor traveled to Grand Rapids, Michigan, to tour Sacred Heart Academy, a classical, K-12, parochial Catholic school that has turned around completely after nearly closing its doors.
The visitor said, “This is incredible. This is like looking into the past.”
Fr. Robert Sirico, then the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, replied, “No, what you’re looking at is the future.”
A bright future for Catholic parochial schools would be a welcome change. The number of elementary students in parish schools has declined nearly 75 percent since the 1960s, and weak catechesis has propelled many Catholic parents toward independent schools and homeschooling.
But a change is underway. Sacred Heart Academy is one of a growing number of parochial schools that have embraced a more distinctly Catholic formation in both the faith and the liberal arts, which is attracting more Catholic families and strengthening parish life.
And Fr. Sirico, whose faith and leadership made the transformation possible at Sacred Heart, has helped spark excitement among other priests and bishops to bring about the renewal of parochial education.