There are a lot of Olympians from all over the world participating in Rio 2016 Olympic Games, a wonderful chance for huge amounts people from all over the world, both athletes and spectators, to come together and root for one another in a global arena. However, you might have heard of a few specifically: Katie Ledecky, Lia Neal, and Anabelle Smith are names you probably recognize, as all three have won medals in the games.


But that’s not the only thing these athletes have in common: They, along with Olympians Erin Rafuse, Gaby Lopez, KK Clark, are all products of the Sacred Heart Schools, a Catholic school network of over 145 Catholic education institutions founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart.


“Our athletes recognize that their gifts comes from God and are not to be wasted,” the school’s communications director Donna Heckler told CNA.“They are taught to take personal responsibility for themselves while being self-disciplined in their efforts,” she said.


Coming from four different countries and from and from an institution over 200 years old, these athletes have a lot to be thankful for.


“Ledecky attended Catholic school –  Little Flower School in Bethesda through 8th grade, and then Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart for high school – her whole life. “My Catholic faith is very important to me. It always has been and it always will be. It is part of who I am and I feel comfortable practicing my faith. It helps me put things in perspective,” Ledecky told the Catholic Standard in a recent interview. She also confirmed that she says a “Hail Mary” before each event. “I do say a prayer – or two – before any race. The Hail Mary is a beautiful prayer and I find that it calms me,” she told the Catholic Standard.


While Heckler noted that they have no secret to producing Olympians, she did say that the school “does have a secret to producing amazing people. That secret is seen in the five Goals and Criteria of the Sacred Heart Schools that bind the schools together.” According to Heckler, the network of Sacred Heart Schools focuses on instilling five main goals in their students: a personal relationship with God, respect for intellectual values, social awareness and action, community building, and personal growth. “The Goals and Criteria, which are Sacred Heart educational principles, are foundational to this year’s dedicated Sacred Heart Olympians,” the schools press release stated.””


The Sacred Heart schools are run by the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart. There is a focus on challenging every student to be their “most authentic selves,” as well as a strong faith, commitment to the transforming power of the Spirit of God, and the value of community, it’s clear that the Sisters are helping to inspire students to a life of determination, commitment, and faith that is an inspiration to many. These athletes are just a small few of the successful students of Sacred Heart schools specifically, but also of a Catholic education worldwide.


It is wonderful to see athletes that will come to inspire generations of children who are not just excelling physically, but who have a strong foundation of self-discipline, a relationship with God, and values that are inspirational in and of themselves.