While the United States of America remains a bastion of Christianity in an increasingly secular western world, surveys over the past 20 years have shown slow but steady slippage in church attendance and denominational identification.

Nurturing religious faith is an increasingly uphill battle, even in the United States, which for a quarter of a millennium has been a rich beneficiary of Judeo-Christian theology, philosophy and ethics.

It is a boon to the City of Papillion, then, that St. Columbkille Catholic School has stood firm amidst the storm for 100 years.

This Sunday, school officials will mark their splendid anniversary with an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. They have earned a good turnout.

Whether you are able to attend or not, it is worth spending a moment to reflect on what it takes for a private school to survive in the face of vastly better funded public schools that enjoy free, generous and mandatory access to taxpayer wallets.

The private school, especially the private religious school, is a creature of commitment. The parents who send their children to a religiously based school commit not only to bearing the cost of their children’s education, but also to bearing the cost of educating their neighbors’ children. There is no tax break for those who place no burden on the public school system. They pay just the same.

The temptation for financially stressed parents — and all parents are financially stressed — to throw in the towel and choose a “free” education is intense. That enough of them for a hundred years have bitten the bullet and made the sacrifice is testimony to their desire to give their children the gift of faith. It is also testimony to the dedication of teachers and administrators who must make their offerings affordable, a goal often achieved by paying good and loyal teachers less than they could make in the secular schools.

This is hard work. It is saintly work, when the easier alternative is so readily at hand.

Let us give great credit, then, to all the saintly teachers and parents who for 100 years sacrificed worldly wealth in order to make a Catholic education available to so many.

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