Skip to Content

Catholic Parochial Schools

Called “parochial schools” to distinguish them from secular and Protestant private schools, Catholic schools exist in many communities that have substantial Catholic populations. Local parishes often run elementary schools, while dioceses tend to operate secondary schools. Religious orders and Catholic universities also run parochial schools.

In some urban areas, parochial schools have better reputations for academic achievement than many public schools. It is not unheard of for non-Catholics to send their children to parochial school for this reason. These schools commonly have fewer discipline problems than public schools, facilitated by the almost universal practice of requiring school uniforms. Catholic schoolchildren study the same academic subjects as do traditional schoolchildren, with extra time allocated to religious instruction.

More than 200 Catholic universities and colleges exist in the United States, with an enrollment of approximately one million students. The Catholic University of America in Washington DC is the nation’s only pontifical university, founded by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1887. Most other Catholic colleges exist under the auspices of one of the devotional or public service orders. The Society of Jesus (the Jesuits), for example, operates Fordham University in New York, Georgetown University in Washington, DC, Boston College, and 25 other institutions. The Sisters of Mercy operate 16 institutions, including St. Joseph College in Connecticut and St. Xavier University in Chicago. The Vincentians run St. John’s University in New York and DePaul University in Chicago.

Next Section:Discrimination Against Catholics

Religion in America: Chapter Home

Life in the USA Home Page.