The 44th annual National Catholic Schools Week that began Jan. 28 has as its theme “Learn, Serve, Lead, Succeed.”
As a slogan, it has a nice ring to it.
As a succinct description of Catholic education, it rings true.
Our Catholic schools, those here in the archdiocese and others around the country, never stop producing stellar results.
That’s why the celebration of Catholic Schools Week is a perfect time to highlight all that’s good about our schools and to remind parents that a Catholic education is about more than academic success—although that’s a major accomplishment.
Catholic schools, however, realize that the spiritual development of a child goes hand in hand with academic achievement. They want to build character and instill the Christian values that will carry the students from childhood through the teen years and into adulthood.
“Catholic schools transform lives,” said Bishop George V. Murry of Youngstown, Ohio, who is chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education.
Yet, as the bishops’ Education Committee knows all too well, Catholic school systems around the country are facing serious and ongoing challenges, primarily financial, as they seek to carry out their mission. Shifting demographics, tuition costs and changes in the practice of the faith have all taken a toll, as has competition from publicly funded charter schools, which offer parents a tuition-free alternative to traditional public schools.
That doesn’t mean that Catholic schools aren’t forging ahead.
In the archdiocese, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Timothy McNiff is about to unveil Phase II of the Pathways to Excellence strategic plan launched six years ago to restructure school governance and consolidate buildings and staff, resulting in more efficient use of education resources and improved learning environments.
While Phase II plans have not yet been released in detail, they do include the addition of special education teachers and resource rooms, continued cutting edge science and technology programs, a chaplaincy program and increased emphasis on continued improvement of state test scores.
Dr. McNiff, interviewed by CNY for Catholic Schools Week, described the educational environment in the archdiocese as a time to “look forward with confidence, to make sure that the future is going to be just as bright.”
The U.S. bishops also are laser-focused on what they call “transforming” Catholic schools in response to the well-known challenges all are facing.
Towards that goal, a Jan. 17-18 meeting sponsored by the University of Notre Dame at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Washington, D.C., headquarters drew 30 bishops, educators and representatives of Catholic education organizations.
Bishop Murry said the goal is to ensure that Catholic schools will remain a vibrant and important part of family and Church life.
“The conversation was very, very good, very frank, and, I think, very helpful in terms of mapping out a plan to go forward into the future in revitalizing our schools,” he said.
We wish the bishops and Catholic school officials here and around the country success—the same success they’ve long had in educating and forming our children as good Christians and good citizens, and helping them build a lifetime relationship with Jesus Christ.