|CHICAGO — At the first Round Table for Catholic
Home-School Support Group Leaders, held the weekend of April 29th - May 1st, local, regional, and state
leaders shared practical suggestions and concerns in support of Catholic
Dr. Mary Kay Clark coordinated the round table in response to
requests from home- schoolers across the country. Fifteen states were
represented: Leaders from California, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont,
Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming attended. Dr. William
Luckey of Front Royal, Va., acted as facilitator; Fr. Francis Holland of
Essex Junction, Vt., and Fr. Charles Fiore of Madison, Wis., also
participated. Kathie Ondracek, a resident and home-schooler in the
Chicago area, handled the local coordination. Ginny Seuffert of Illinois
and Mary Clair Robinson of Iowa also assisted in topic ideas for the
All home-school leaders, whether attending or not, were asked to join
in a novena that began April 20th to pray that the Holy Spirit and the
Blessed Mother would guide participants of the round table.
Topics of discussion fell into three main areas and included the
needs of home-school support groups, the problems within the Catholic
Church, and the spiritual crisis in America. The general consensus was
that the home-schooling movement is definitely playing a growing, major
role in preserving the Roman Catholic faith in America, and that
Catholic home-schooling families are a bastion of orthodoxy today.
The conference stressed the advantages of networking with established
religious orders, parishes, and groups offering spiritual services, as
well as of being involved with local parish and sacramental programs.
Within that framework, priests who will confer the sacraments upon
home-educated children were praised. It has been the experience of some
that many priests are uninformed about home education and do not truly
Many parent leaders shared their experiences with parish priests who
insisted that home-educated children be enrolled in local CCD programs
to receive the sacraments. These priests may ignore parental concerns
that such programs are not always teaching the faith in its entirety and
that parents are the primary educators of their children. Many priests
would not agree to have private interviews with home-educated children
to be certain of their readiness to receive the sacraments.
Fr. Holland stated that no priest could rightfully do so. Fr. Fiore
further explained that parents should realize they are the primary
educators of their children, a right conferred on them by God Himself,
and should stand firm when approaching their pastors about conferring
the sacraments upon their children.
"Parents must realize they hold the high ground and kindly but
firmly explain that they are part of the parish and that they
home-school their children simply because it is their right. The
sacraments cannot be denied by anyone — pastor, bishop, cardinal, or even the
Holy Father himself — because a child was prepared for the
sacraments by his parents. Priests who understand the rights of parents
will have no problem with this. Pastors may examine children for First
Confession, Communion, and Confirmation. Students who display an
understanding commensurate with their age are qualified to receive the
sacraments," said Fr. Fiore.
Concern for local orthodox priests was also expressed by different
leaders, as these same priests are often the ones who receive much
pressure from their parish councils or hierarchy for their orthodox
ways. Home-schoolers should not put too much pressure on such priests,
but instead should be quietly visible to them to show support and
The importance of avoiding stigmatization as radicals or eccentrics
who are "bucking the public or parochial school system" was
also discussed. Home-schoolers should emphasize that parents are, again,
the primary educators of their children in all of their educational
needs — including religious, moral, physical,
and civic training — and the Church has always taught this.
The round table examined comprehensive ways to introduce religious
vocations to both boys and girls.
A small array of ideas, religious orders to contact, the other
sources to look for were exchanged. Leaders also showed interest in
finding Catholic resources to help them teach the faith, Catholic
history and science, and also art and music, especially in the
One extremely important topic was the need to organize Catholic state
home-school groups. As Dr. Clark observed, "There are Catholic
aspects that we can't get from Christian Protestant state groups.
Catholic state organizations can accomplish two things. First, they can
present everything from the Catholic viewpoint and second, they can help
Catholic home-schoolers network about matters that concern home
education and the Church, especially in emergency situations like H.R. 6
and the current altar girl business."
Leaders also discussed how many Christian (but not necessarily
Catholic) state or local home-school organizations want those who join
them to sign a statement of faith. Most leaders agreed it would not be
morally right to sign a Protestant statement of faith as most of these
include such clauses as "the Bible is the infallible and last word
of God" and "man is saved by faith alone." Quite
obviously, a Catholic could not in good conscience sign such a statement
and most of the Catholic leaders agreed they would not do so. Some
participants also pointed out that many predominantly Catholic states do
not have state Catholic home-school organizations, but they do have
Christian ones where Catholics are not welcome to share Catholic
materials. Catholics should therefore begin to form their own state
Ginny Seuffert added that she would like to see more organizations
formed within the next year to get a communications network going at the
state level. There should be at least one centralized contact person per
state for that purpose.
Plans for next year's round table are being coordinated by Chicago
area leaders. Requests for information should be addressed to:
231 S. Grove Ave.
Oak Park, IL 60302.