Catholic schools in the Bible-belt growing, despite national trend

.- A recent report showed signs that despite national trends to the contrary and an overwhelming protestant population, attendance at Catholic schools in places like Tennessee are on the rise. The Diocese of Nashville, for example, which runs 22 Catholic schools within its 38-county borders, has seen an influx of some 750 new students in the past seven years.

Although the growth is slow, studies show that it is also steady. Says Rick Musacchio, spokesman for the diocese: "The growth we've seen here is tremendous."

The Nashville Diocese includes some 71,000 registered families who make up about 3.4% of the overall population in Middle Tennessee.

Hans Broekman, principal of Pope John Paul II High School in Hendersonville, TN was recently quoted as saying, "The Catholic church has always taken education very seriously…From a Catholic perspective, education is about teaching as Christ did and trying to help people discover the truth about themselves and the truth about the world."

Studies show that one reason for the growth is a recent influx of Hispanic families and northerners moving to the region.

The Nashville area is reported to be one of the fastest growing in that part of the country. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of nearby Spring Hill grew some 18% between 2003 and 2004.

Traditionally Protestant, the region is seeing the Catholic school‘s populations growing in members of many different faiths. Many see the Catholic schools as having more opportunities for their children then public alternatives.

Largely though, Catholic families are finding a fast-growing enclave in which to teach their children the faith. "There's been this massive influx of new faithful looking for Catholic education for their children," added Broekman. "Southern Catholics take their faith very seriously."

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