Education Officials Discuss Catholic Identity, School Choice

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The education officials sat down in the school library for an interview after they toured Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School.

As executive director of the Secretariat of Catholic Education for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Mary Pat Donoghue serves as the lead staff to the committee on Catholic education, she explained. “In that capacity, it is important for me to go out into the field and to find models of excellence and great success.”

The visitors had also toured Blessed Sacrament Upper School on West 52nd Street. “There’s great vitality...I was struck in both places by the dedication of the administration and the teachers. And this is what gives us hope in Catholic education,” Ms. Donoghue said.

Angela Dinger, vice chair of the board of directors of the National Catholic Educational Association, said the NCEA’s role is “to look for best practices, to share those, to give professional development opportunities, to convene educators together in both learning but also in faith development, and encourage them and celebrate Catholic education.”

Affordability of Catholic education is a chief challenge for parents. “Catholic educators across the country are engaging in ways to pursue alternate revenue sources for schools,” Ms. Donoghue said. “What we’re finding is that a system that’s entirely tuition-based, by its nature, will disadvantage those who can’t afford to pay tuition.

“So the degree to which we can leverage government programs…the degree to which we can find philanthropic sources, grants, other types of revenue, will be ways that we can mitigate some of that burden on the parents.”

Michael Coppotelli, the archdiocese’s associate superintendent for student services and public policy, acknowledged the Inner-City Scholarship Fund in the archdiocese, which raises “millions of dollars for our schools and provides scholarships to our students. We could not operate the schools in the archdiocese of New York without the partners and donors of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund.”

The fact is that “we are living in a time in which the culture around us grows more and more hostile to faith, and to our Catholic beliefs,” Ms. Donoghue said, adding that the parents whom she and Ms. Dinger met at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs School “conveyed how appreciative they are that their children will receive a formation in Catholic faith.”

The bishops, Ms. Donoghue concluded, “rightfully see Catholic schools as an instrument of faith formation and transmission, evangelization.”

“Catholic identity starts and ends with understanding Christ as the organizing principle—all things cohere in Him,” she said.

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