I went to a Catholic Girl’s School and I’m Not Catholic


…but I loved that school I entered the school in 9th grade. At first, I was nervous because the vast majority of students were Catholic, we had to take theology classes, and we had mandatory mass every month. I know this is random, but a girl I went to high school with just posted a link to an article about Catholic girl’s schools and it made me nostalgic!

All my nerves were unfounded. Yes, most girls were Catholic, but our religion almost never came up. Freshman year I invited my best friend to a church lock-in. Her parents knew I was not Catholic and they were okay with that as long as I didn’t belong to a certain non-Judeo-Christian religion, which I did not So, all was well. We prayed every morning during assembly, but no one looked at me oddly for not making the sign of the cross. It was okay if I did not say the prayers along with the others. All anyone expected was for me to be polite during the prayer and not disturb those who prayed. In other words, If I was quiet no one cared.

I was nervous about theology classes, not because I was afraid to be exposed to new belies, but because I figured the others would have a leg up on me and I’d do poorly. Again, this concern was unnecessary! First of all, Theology classes may be a loose term. Freshman year amounted to sex ed, which surprisingly, was not limited to abstinence or heterosexuality. Sophomore year was about the Bible, but the teacher presented outside information. Sure knowledge of the basic stories was helpful, but not needed because the teacher explained the plots while teaching. Junior year was comparative religions. That was interesting! No one had a sure grasp of every religion we studied, so no one had an advantage. Senior year was the best, it was a social justice course It wasn’t so much about Catholic tenants anymore, as it was about what you, individually, believed were moral actions and why. As long as you could articulate your beliefs and support them logically, it did not matter whether you agreed with Catholic teachings or not. It was helpful to me because it forced me to really think about why I believed what I believed.

The first couple of times I was in mass, I was nervous. However, there were procedures for people who were not Catholic Again, the only real expectation was that you did not ruin anyone else’s time. So, when they had communion I could approach the priest if I wanted to, instead of making the sign of the cross I crossed my arms across my chest in an X, like I was doing one of those faith falls where you trust the people behind you to catch you. In that case, the priest would bless me and I’d go back to my seat. After taking communion, people knelt in the pews. I could do this and use the time for my own contemplation, or I could not. No one ever chastised me. In fact, if I felt like it, I could remain in my sea the entire time, neither approaching the priest during communion, nor kneeling.

I’ll always be grateful to my high school! They were uncharacteristically understanding and compassionate. You know those crazy stories of administrators suspending kids for imaginary gun fights? My school was level-headed. At 16 I used the school computers to research Gor and I joined a forum using my school email address because at the time, I was clueless about technology. An administrator on that website contacted my school, even though I lied about my age! I was terrified!! I thought I would get kicked out! Instead the school talked to my parents and asked if they wanted the school to block my internet access until I could use it safely. My parents agreed and it was a reasonable consequence. They were not punishing me, they were keeping me safe!

During junior year, I relapsed with my eating disorder. I barely made it through the 2nd semester before being hospitalized. I was still in treatment during the beginning of my senior year. M school was absolutely wonderful! They worked in concert with my treatment programs to ensure I got all my work. They were understanding about due dates and tests. They did not penalize me for missing half days. For a time, I did half days, starting at going to school once a week for a half-day and then working up from there. I did not reach full time until November! Yet, I graduated on time because my school was so understanding and helpful. I remember more than one girl I was in treatment with did not have helpful schools and some had to repeat grades or fight tooth and nail just to have communication between the treatment center’s tutors and their school. I would not have graduated with my class if my school was not amazing! Plus,, we had a senior year retreat before classes started. I missed it because of treatment and they had a bag of notes made for me. 🙂

Things weren’t perfect but I loved that place. I miss it! If I have daughters and I can afford private school, I will send them there, even though I’m still not Catholic! Sure there was normal teenage behavior, like rumors. Apparently, everyone knew about me. When I got to PHP in my home town, I met a girl from my school who was a year younger and she said she was not surprised to see me there because people talked about me last year. Honestly, with my symptoms and rapid weight loss, it was hard to miss. Gossip is a normal thing for teenage girls.

Yes, I wore a uniform and it was freaking easy! I miss that to! I barely had any clothes during high school because I only wore other clothes on the weekends. It was great to wake up every week day and not have to worry about what I was going to wear or if I’d look stupid or what clothes were clean. It was quick and easy. Going to college, buying a wardrobe, and wearing a new outfit every day was tough! I don’t mean I didn’t  know how to fit in, I mean it was easier to have a uniform! Some people think uniforms are the great equalizer, making it unclear whose parents are wealthy and whose are not. Eh, that is not always true. Our shoes and socks were regulated, but some girls had designer purses or cars for their 16th birthday. Whatever. I still like uniforms! Also, every was relaxed. No one cared about how the looked because there was no one to impress. Almost no one worse make-up. Some girls cared more than I cared and did wear make-up or hair accessories, but no one thought poorly of either choice. The only time I ever wore make-up in high school was for special occasions. It irks my mom now that I continue that habit at 23!

Contrary to popular belief, the nuns at my school were sweet, non-judgmental old ladies who taught a few subjects and lived at the school. I never had a class taught my the nuns, but I never heard a bad word whispered about them ad they always greeted us cheerfully.

I know all girl’s schools have a catty reputation, but there really was not drama! At times people would argue or create drama, but it was rare. Our class was small, 70 girls per grade. If anything, we were very supportive of one another. I’m friends with all of them on Facebook. Last November one girl invited all of us to her house for a get-together. This Christmas season, another girl suggested we all – yes, all – go out clubbing. That is not my idea of fun, but my point is even though I may not be best  friends with all of them, we are friendly. If I was in dire straights, I could ask any one of them for help and they could do the same. Also after hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans school was closed for some time and many of the other Sacred Heart schools in the U.S., including my own, took their girls in until the school was repaired.

Also, one of my teachers volunteered, without my parents even asking, to sit with me at lunch when I first started eating lunch at school again to give me accountability. She was awesome! 🙂

I’m a Daughter of the Sacred Heart and I have the ring to prove it at convents around the world. My family went to Italy and at the Church at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome is run by Sisters of the Sacred Heart. There is a miraculous painting there. I wanted to see it because I’d heard about it in school, but it was after hours. The painting was located in a school adjacent to the Church and it was closed to the public during the time of day we arrived. I found a nun who spoke English and asked about the painting when she told me it was off limits. I explained where I went to high school and showed her my ring. She got keys, unlocked the building and led me to the painting! ❤ According to the Wikipedia page I looked up for the correct name of the Spanish Steps, it is no longer run by the Sacred Heart, but in 2008 (after the Wikipedia page claims it was turned over to others) the Sisters of the Sacred Heart were still there and in charge.

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