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Navigating a Faith-Based Approach to Education

saint john's prep student convocation

Do You Have to be Catholic to Attend Catholic School?

This is a familiar question as a school with the word Saint in our name. The short answer is no—students are not required to be of the Catholic faith in order to enroll at Saint John’s Prep. A broader exploration might consider, “what does an education at a private preparatory school look like—and how is theology or religion part of the academic and spiritual experience?” Below is a look at our perspective.

Saint John’s Prep at a Glance 

We define our institution as a premier arts and sciences world school where we prize imagination, creativity, and discovery. Saint John’s Prep offers experiences that nurture curiosity and expand horizons.

We are an independent college preparatory school guided by Benedictine values. Students in grades six through 12 from diverse backgrounds immerse themselves in a learning environment surrounded by the natural beauty of our pristine woods, prairies and lakes shared with Saint John’s Abbey and Saint John’s University.

According to the National Catholic Educational Association, approximately 83 percent of students enrolled at Catholic-based schools are Catholic. At Saint John’s Prep, approximately 40 percent of our student body identifies as Catholic. Our students are both day students (who live within 30 miles of campus and travel to and from school each day) and U.S. and international resident students (they live on campus during the school year in Saint Michael Residence Hall who have diverse backgrounds of culture, faith, and family values. 

Community formation provides opportunities to embrace differences and provide mutual support. Shaped by our Benedictine values, the educational experience at Prep sets its sights on the transformation of mind and heart. We encourage an active sense of belonging in our school and empathic engagement with the world around us.

Overall Appeal

Families of all backgrounds benefit from being a part of Catholic institutions; a Catholic school education can provide more than a religious perspective or foundation. Independent or private schools focus on academic excellence, commitment to values and self-discipline, and well-rounded arts and athletics offerings make them appealing to parents and students.

For some students, Saint John’s Prep is their first experience with values-based or religious studies and traditions. These experiences weave together a tapestry that spans academic exploration and religious teachings as well as historic and global influences. These conversations are holistic, occurring across disciplines (from biology and world studies to geography and theology) inside and outside of the classroom. 

Catholic schools like ours are dedicated to developing the minds and nurturing the spirits of both Catholic and non-Catholic students from any background. What leads our families of other faiths and beliefs to pursue an education outside of their district’s (free) public school in favor of a Catholic one? The reasons vary from academic rigor to smaller class sizes to athletic participation to arts and sciences focus.

Benedictine Values 

We foster a culture of respect and inclusion directly stemming from our Benedictine values—a tradition upheld since our founding in 1857. We exist to bring educational development and personal formation to our students, preparing them for lives of purpose, service, and achievement.

Students, teachers, staff and guests often reflect on the sense of belonging and community felt at Saint John’s Prep. This is a reflection of our intentional practice of the Benedictine value of hospitality: “We practice hospitality and respect for all persons. To offer warmth, acceptance, and joy in welcoming others. Let all…be received as Christ.” (RB 53.1) 

We strive to “listen with the ear of the heart,” as stated in the Rule of Benedict, to the needs of all people connected to our school community. An education grounded in the Benedictine tradition calls for a lively interplay between rigorous thinking and the development of practices for a purpose-filled life. Though thousands of years old, it remains relevant today as a living tradition we embrace at our school.

Choosing Saint John’s Prep

There is far more to the decision to attend or send your child to Saint John’s Prep than religious affiliation. The best way to explore fit is for your family to take a campus tour and visit our school community. During your visit, you’ll have the opportunity to meet with members of the admission team as well as faculty and students. Your child will also have the opportunity to shadow classes with a student host and share a meal with our community. Getting a sense of our school comes from being immersed in the hallways and classrooms and walking amongst the trees and breathing in the air, being surrounded by the culture that is uniquely Saint John’s Prep. 

Learn how your child can benefit from an education at Saint John’s Prep—connect with someone from our admission team to explore the opportunities that await you.

Connect with Admission

Connect with the Saint John’s Prep Admission team to learn more about why Saint John’s Prep could be a great fit for your family.

Contact Admission