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.