What makes for a healthy Catholic school?

Posted on Posted in catechesis

This is the question our Diocesan Board of Catholic Education has been wrestling with this year. And, as you may guess, it is not an easy question! There are many different factors that contribute to our schools. But, as we’ve reflected on the question, we’ve settled on three key themes:

Catholicity “ This is the sum total of the Catholic identity of our schools. It starts with an identifiably Catholic environment “ crucifixes and statues in the classrooms, icons on the wall “ but can’t be confined to that. It also includes regular prayer, teachers and administrators who uphold the doctrines of the Church, recognition that we are part of a Church that is larger than our parish, and families that participate regularly in the Sunday Eucharist.

Expertise “ Because our schools are places of learning we need excellent educators to lead them. Teachers with state certification who are engaged in continuing catechetical formation; school boards with members who can contribute their knowledge and skills; principals committed to leading even in difficult times; all of these contribute to the shared knowledge and wisdom needed to help students achieve their potential.

Resources “ Of course, no program can run smoothly without adequate resources in place. This means tuition, of course, but it also means support from the parish as well as corporate and individual donors; the time and talent of volunteers; up-to-date textbooks and technology; and robust fundraising activities such as annual fund drives and auctions.

Which of these is the most important? While I’m tempted to say the first, the truth is that they are interdependent; a Catholic school cannot thrive without all three. A school with a foundation in the Church and a strong endowment, but without a solid curriculum or well-prepared teachers, will not graduate students ready for the next phase of their live. A school with excellent teachers and a vibrant faith life but no funding won’t keep its doors open long!

Our challenge is to keep all three pistons firing in order to maintain the œengine  of our schools.


6 thoughts on “What makes for a healthy Catholic school?

  1. “Which of these is the most important?” nThere is no need to keep the doors open if there are resources and a strong curriculum/ expertise but little Catholic Identity. It is very true that all three are essential in order for a school to thrive, However, in the end…when a child is educated what do we want each child to have gained more than anything else? I hope the answer is – a foundation in the Faith that compels them to 1) be a faithful follower of Christ, 2) be a person who gives back to their community because of their response to faith and 3) to know that Heaven is their ultimate goal – not fortune or worldly success.

    1. Agreed — my question was less about “which is of ultimate importance” and more “which is most important for the health of the school.” Catholicity gives the school its purpose and mission, which requires the other two.

  2. I believe what is most important is the “Catholicityu201d–not to the exclusion of the other two. Expertise in administration, curriculum design/implementation and in invitations to stewardship in order to amass resources is essential. nnBut the more important challenge for Catholic schools today is to get CRYSTAL CLEAR on what makes them Catholic. If by “catholic identityu201d we mean the imparting of Catholic teaching within a distinctively Catholic atmosphere, then I’m not sure our schools as we know them today will survive on a large scale much longer. nnHowever if by “catholicity” we mean having developing and forming in our students a Catholic imagination–a way of seeing the world and of responding to unique challenges and opportunities that arise daily, then we not only stand a chance, but I think we’ll be indispensable. nnI can find expertise in other places for less money.nI can find schools with greater financial security.nI can find schools who provide make more resources available to its students.nnBut show me a place that can teach my sons how to think Catholic, how to imagine responses to challenges and opportunities that donu2019t yet exist, how to make their way as Christu2019s disciples in a world and marketplace that will be drastically different than we have nowu2014and Iu2019m all in. nnIn a world that is becoming increasingly virtual and more convenient, we must get clear on who we are and what unique value we offer to our families. n

    1. Well said! We don’t emphasis that “Catholic imagination” nearly enough — we think “Catholic identity” is about the externals, rather than how we form students to understand the world (which requires teachers with strong Catholic imaginations)!

  3. You definitely must have the successful integration of all three elements. What good is great Catholic formation if the student can’t get into college or succeed in other areas of life. And, of course you need resources for that. nnHowever, if a school were to *lean* in one direction…I would say it should be in the direction of Catholicity. In the end that will produce the greatest overall life-benefit. But of course, you knew I would say that didn’t you? 😉

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