“I like to kid with him sometimes,” Miguel Zamora said about his son Ezra, a student at St. Patrick School in Lufkin. “Ezra, do you want to go to another school? And he’s like, ‘No, I like St. Patrick’s,’” Miguel said with a smile. “We’re starting to see how strong he is with the school. He really likes it.”
For parents, the education of their children is important. The catechism teaches that parents “have the first responsibility for the education of their children” and “have the right to choose a school for them which corresponds to their own convictions.” (2223, 2229) For some families, this means homeschooling; for others, public schools; and for families like the Zamora family, it means the local Catholic school.
Going to St. Patrick’s “helps connect what we teach at home with what’s going on at Church,” Mary Zamora said. “Ezra is very proud to be at school here.”
More than just academics
Born and raised in Lufkin, Miguel and Mary Zamora grew up in St. Patrick’s Parish. They have two boys, with a third baby on the way. Ezra, their oldest, is in kindergarten at St. Patrick School. Their second son, Luca, will join the Pre-K3 class in the fall.
Established in 1955, St. Patrick School has become a home for many families like the Zamoras who desire Catholic education for their children. The school offers classes for Pre-K3 through eighth grade. With more than 80 students at the school, St. Patrick’s provides an intimate atmosphere for learning, growth, and formation for the whole person.
For Mary and Migeul, having the Catholic faith incorporated into the school was a draw for them.
Miguel explained, “To be a whole person, that’s the type of curriculum they want to do here. To make you a whole person.”
“Which is equally as important as the academic side of things. To be a good person,” Mary added. “I like that it’s faith-based. It’s important to teach kids basic knowledge. But it’s also important that your kids know how to be kind and love each other.”
“Academics are very important,” Lourdes McKay, principal of St. Patrick School, said. But providing a Christian formation is also just as important.
“Instilling the kids with values, for example, such as compassion, respect, and love for one another, those values are not separated from what they are learning,” Principal McKay explained. “They are integrated into what they are learning. It’s important for the future of our world, for the future of our nation, to not only have well-rounded, solid kids academically and intellectually but also spiritually.”
For Ezra, St. Patrick’s has been a great place for him to learn and grow. Mary explained how Ezra will learn songs at the weekly school Mass and when he hears the same songs at Mass on Sunday with his family, he will exclaim, “That’s my song!”
“Because he heard it at school, he thinks that it’s his song,” Mary said with a smile. “He’ll bring me clovers and he’ll say, ‘This is my school flower!’ The clover for St. Patrick. So he’s very proud.”
A caring and committed community
The St. Patrick community is also a caring and committed community, with families involved in both the parish and school life.
As a parent at the school, Miguel serves on the school board. He was looking for a way to get more involved in the community, so when he was invited to join the school board by Father Denzil Vithanage, the pastor at St. Patrick’s, he accepted.
“I wanted to be involved and see what we can do to help the school grow,” Miguel explained. “I didn’t go to Catholic school, so it’s very interesting to see how Ezra can grow in his faith in school.”
For the past 10 years, Mary has been the youth minister at the parish. “I felt like I could have a positive impact to help bring in more kids,” Mary explained. “But not even about bringing in more kids, but helping just plant that seed with whatever kids I could reach. As a young person, I could relate better and help them and hopefully be a role model and example for them.”
Miguel often helps Mary in her ministry with the youth. “Most people go to church on Sunday and leave it be,” Miguel explained. “But if we can get some supplemental information on their faith on Wednesday nights, it helps them. We always tell them there is no dumb question. If you don’t know something, you can ask here. You don’t have to feel afraid.”
Miguel and Mary also discussed the great care Ezra receives at St. Patrick’s from his teachers and fellow students.
“I would say that all the teachers, and not just the ones working directly with Ezra, are all very attentive to all the kids. They are all going to know Ezra’s name,” Mary explained. “It’s a tight-knit community. Even the older kids watch out for the younger kids.
“It’s nice to see everybody really does help everybody,” she continued. “You can see that through the teachers and also through the students as well. I feel like that’s really cool.”
“We have here at the school a very strong sense of community,” Principal McMay stated. “Parents are involved with the school. The church is involved with the school. We have a lot of people who come and volunteer and work for us. They take part with us in doing this amazing job that we do daily here in forming the students and in making them better.”
Catholic education supporting family life
For Mary and Miguel, Catholic education has supported their family life, helping them pass on the Catholic faith to their children.
“While we’re very involved in our church, it doesn’t mean we are perfect at influencing our children through the faith,” Mary explained. “Where we’re lacking in that area, the school definitely helps us with our faith and helps us be accountable for our child.”
“As a family, it’s been good for us to have Ezra here in school,” Mary continued. “Our lives are busy, so it really helps to center us as a family and really keep what’s important in front of us, which is God.”
“It feels perfect in a way,” Miguel concluded. “[Ezra] is learning what he needs to know for school, and he’s also getting the faith-based part of it. It makes me feel comfortable knowing that he’s getting that. It’s a really good school here.”