Growing the faith

KAPAA – St. Catherine School is a tradition in Leiaiu Taber’s family. She attended the Catholic school, along with her parents, her four children, and her nieces and nephews.

“We sent our children for spiritual reasons so they are allowed to develop their faith,” Taber said.

This year, Taber’s sixth-grade daughter seems more enthusiastic about learning and Taber thinks it could be due to the introduction of Chromebook laptops for students in grades three through eight.

“She is doing much better,” Taber said. “They relate to it somehow. And this year she is trying to be more responsible.”

Other Kauai parents are seeing value in private education at a cost of nearly $5,000 per student each year. The school has seen a 25 percent growth in enrollment over last year.

“It’s not so much that we integrate religion and academics,” Principal Celina Haigh said. “It’s simply who we are and how we live, leading by example, kinda like Jesus did. It’s embedded in our teaching to make a well-rounded education.”

In fact, roughly one-third of the 201 students are non-Catholic.

“We’ve had students of all faiths and some with none, professed atheists,” Haigh said.

The school, founded in 1946, recently completed the renovation of its library into two kindergarten classrooms with 17 students each. Their pre-school grew to 48 students this year from 36 students last year.

Haigh believes there are several reasons for the increase. Compassion, respect and safety are key among staff and students.

“When you come to our campus, there is a sense of calm,” she said. “Everything we do comes out of faith.”

She added that parents are involved and are welcome to offer suggestions.

“We usually respond with, ‘We can try that,’” Haigh said.

Recently, Sally Harrison, a school employee, completed a work of sacred art for St. Catherine. The painting titled, “Jesus blesses the children” is on the back of one of the buildings. When it was unveiled, Haigh said there was a collective gasp.

“It was moving the way the sun shined on it – it glowed,” Haigh said. “We’re so blessed to have it.”

Harrison was inspired to create it after seeing a Tiffany stained-glass window.

“I tweaked it to make it multi-cultural to reflect the population at the school with Hawaiian, Filipino and Caucasian,” Harrison said. “I’m hoping the children and families get inspiration.”

And that inspiration is paired with the school’s emphasis to develop their own thoughts about religion.

“We want them to dig deep into their own ideas,” Haigh said.


Lisa Ann Capozzi, a features and education reporter can be reached at


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