News of Catholic school closing was met with a totally unexpected response

Multiple parishioners approached Donoghue and Father Stack, arguing that what the parish needed was a more rigorous curriculum and authentic Catholic spirit. One of the loudest of these voices was that of Michael Hanby, a professor at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. Hanby had lately been introduced to a local homeschooling community’s miniature school, known as the Crittenden Academy, which had inspired him to write an essay describing his philosophy on the subject. That November evening, attending the consultation and listening to the parish’s presentation, he recalls thinking, “I’m not sure that the school they just described is really worth saving.”

Following the meeting, Hanby sent a letter saying as much to Father Stack, including a copy of his essay on education and emphasizing that “a wonderful birthright [was] being denied” the children of the community. Students needed, he argued, “to love thinking and to have something noble to think about,” but Catholic schools had instead “drifted toward a public school model.” His essay, Donoghue recalls, presented “a good analysis of where Catholic education had gotten off track,” and she was impressed with its proposed remedies.

What was most amazing, though, was that it was a “beautiful fit” with a change she and Father Stack had already been contemplating since they’d attended a leadership consortium two weeks before the call from downtown: a school where rigorous curriculum was combined with authentic Catholicism without apology. “It was already clear,” Donoghue explains, “that [the old] model had run out of steam.” Hanby’s vision for education — along with other essays they read, including Dorothy Sayers’ “Lost Tools of Learning” — articulated a methodology for their goals “more fully and more completely” than she and Father Stack could do themselves.

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