Founding a School to Offer the Youth a Path to the Faith

My name is Jutta Graf and I studied at ITI back in its very early years from 1998 to 2003. When I received my Master’s in Sacred Theology, I was very attracted to pursuing further theological studies. I had profited enormously from the STM program at ITI, since it was academically vigorous and profound and at the same time embedded in a life of prayer. Yet, I had a vague, but strong idea that I should dedicate my time to children and youth, whose natural hunger for God is often not satisfied, so I decided to go back to my hometown of Linz in Austria and study for a teaching degree in both theology and mathematics.

During my years there, I served as the head of a local Pro-Life group. The philosophical background I had acquired at ITI helped me to write and publish booklets and to give talks on life issues in schools and parishes. When I received my teaching degree and began gaining some experience as a teacher, I had the chance to dive into theology once more and write a dissertation on the development of Catholic doctrine in the works St. John Henry Newman.

I dedicated the next years mainly to my family and three children. But I was still concerned about the fact that so many young people either grow up without any chance to learn about their faith or they grow up in Catholic families, but still have hardly any preparation for being the "salt" and the "light" that Jesus asks us to be. Together with other families, I began to think about starting a Catholic school that would provide children with a good education and a strong foundation in their faith.

At about the same time, I came across the pedagogical method of Charlotte Mason (1842-1923), a British philosopher and educator. From the first moment I learned about her method, I was struck by how similar it was to the approach I had experienced at ITI: on the one hand, it is deeply rooted in the Christian faith, and on the other hand, it focuses on reading original texts that are able to inspire children's hearts and minds. At ITI, I had experienced how life-giving it can be to read the works of great authors and discuss them in depth. Charlotte Mason convinced me that even young children can grow through reading or observing, narrating and discussing. She believed children should be nourished by the "best thoughts of the best minds". Having experienced this approach myself, I was sure that children would greatly profit from the kind of education Mason promoted. So, eventually, all the parts came together, and with the help of God's providence, we were able to start the school in 2018 with 23 students. Two years later, the school has grown to 50 students. God has provided everything we have needed so far: dedicated families, school rooms, teachers, a supporting organization of which we are part, and some (though of course never enough) finances. Parents tell us they are grateful for the growth they have already seen in their children. And I, too, am grateful for everything God has given to make it possible, particularly also for the formation I received at ITI.

For more information on the "Privatschule Die Lerche" please check the website The school is member of the international network "Ambleside Schools International" (