A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak with some of the new principals in our diocese as part of their ongoing formation. I talked briefly about the spiritual role that principals play in Catholic schools and what it means to be a spiritual leader.
This seems an important topic to me because, while principals may receive training in management, curriculum, and finances in their education programs, very few get formed in what it means to work in a specifically Catholic educational setting.
There is any number of topics that we could have talked about, but I distilled them into five points:
- The primary job of a Catholic school — and therefore the primary responsibility of the principal — is to build disciples for Christ. Everything else is secondary.
- Principals must encourage parents to assume their role as the primary catechists of their children. Parents cannot outsource religious instruction to schools or PSR programs. For better or for worse, children will follow their parents’ example.
- Principals are responsible for the spiritual formation of their staffs. This means more than just the occasional diocesan formation class; it means forming them through prayer, retreats, and spiritual reading, and inviting them to participate in the faith.
- As part of their oversight of curriculum, principals must ensure that the catechetical textbooks and materials used in their school conform to the teachings of the Catholic Church.
- Finally, principals must be an example of joyful faith and holiness to their staff, faculty, and students.
Admittedly this is a tall order! But, as spiritual leaders acting on behalf of their pastors and the Church, principals are responsible in assuring that our schools are not just placing of academic learning, but places where the faith is nurtured and students can become the saints they are called to be.