My wife, Nancy, and I have been blessed with seven kids…so far. It’s not very likely God will send us any more, but he’s known for doing weird things, and we’re always open to the prospect, so who knows? If he does decide the world needs more Beckers in it, then you can bet they’ll end up in Catholic schools, although we didn’t begin there.
Back in the day, we started off homeschooling – rather, Nancy started off homeschooling – but for a variety of reasons, we decided to transition to more traditional educational venues along the way. My older kids put in some time at a private Montessori school, and my oldest son did junior high at Trinity on Greenlawn, but, eventually we opted for Catholic schools for everybody – St. Matthew Cathedral for grade school, and then Marian for high school. We have five Marian grads, and two on the way. Go Knights!
I went to public schools growing up, but my wife received a Catholic education, so it was certainly natural that we’d consider that option when it came time to make a decision about where to send our own kids. But there was a lot more to it than simply going with the flow and carrying on a family tradition. In the case of St. Matt’s and Marian, there was the appeal of clearly demonstrated academic excellence along with so many opportunities for engagement with athletics, the arts, and other co-curricular and extracurricular activities.
But, really? When it came down to it? It was the integrated faith perspective that Catholic education afforded – the opportunity for our children to be educated in an environment in which faith is not only tolerated, but actively promoted and nurtured. We sent our kids to Catholic schools to learn chemistry, Latin, and sculpting, but also to be immersed in Scripture, the liturgy, and the lives of the saints. We knew that they would receive a fine intellectual formation at St. Matt’s and Marian, but, more than that, we anticipated that they’d also be formed spiritually and morally, to be supported in building strong character as well as a strong academic resume.
That’s true for all seven of my kids, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t draw special attention to my son, Nicholas – a senior at Marian High School, a soon to be graduate! I single him out because Nick has Down syndrome, and he’s part of the first cohort of Bernadette Scholars at Marian – a special certificate program for young folks with developmental disabilities like Nick that incorporates modified coursework with the general student population as well as focused formation for the Bernadette Scholars cohort in life and vocational skills.
What a tremendous gift Marian’s Bernadette Scholars program has been to Nick and our family, but it is evident that the Bernadette Scholars have themselves been a tremendous gift to Marian. Nick plays on the drumline, he has a part in the spring musical, he serves and reads at school Masses, and he’s an energic Marian booster all the time.
Plus, he’s just Nick – he’s a walking icon of God’s love. He’s a living reminder that all of us, no matter what, are put here for a reason, for a purpose. The Marian community has been an ideal place for Nick to grow into that purpose and be part of helping others grow into theirs.
Speaking of Nick, today happens to be World Down Syndrome Day, and I can’t think of a better way of marking it than being here with you – sharing with you about the rich, full life that my son is living, a life that has been unquestionably been enhanced and augmented by his time in Catholic schools. My wife and I are so, so grateful for our state’s support of school choice and for the many ways it has benefited Nick and all of my children. I truly hope it continues to expand in Indiana and beyond.
These remarks were presented at the South Bend Share the Vision Rally on March 21, 2023. The rally was an opportunity for school choice advocates and recipients to share from their experience and support the expansion of school choice throughout Indiana. For more information and ideas on how to get involved, contact the Indiana Non-public Education Association (INPEA).
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