Category Archives: Catholic Schools Week

Celebrating the Nation

This post was contributed by Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport, CT.

This week, the Church throughout the United States celebrates Catholic Schools Week. It is a time when we recognize the unique contribution that Catholic schools play in educating and forming a new generation of Catholic leaders for the 21st century.
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The origin of Catholic schools can best illustrate their enduring mission. At the turn of the 20th century, when Catholics began to arrive in large numbers to this country as immigrants, often their children were not welcomed in the public schools, in large part because of their Catholic faith. In some states, there was active persecution of Catholics. In other places, there was widespread discrimination that made effective education nearly impossible. The response of bishops and local Catholic leaders was not to run away from the problem. Rather, in order to make sure that their children could build a better life than they enjoyed and to ensure that they would understand and live their Catholic faith, tens of thousands of Catholic schools were built throughout the country. At their height, in the mid-1960’s, there were nearly 5.5 million children in Catholic schools in this country.

It is the deep desire to form children and young people in the Catholic faith and to provide them with a superior, holistic and rigorous education that remains the hallmark and mission of Catholic schools today. Catholic education seeks to unlock the gifts, talents and abilities of the children who attend our schools, in order that they may receive the best of educations. By doing this, the children entrusted to our care are also invited to encounter the love of Christ in their midst each day, so that they may come to know, love and serve Him. All children of every faith are welcomed and respected in our schools- to share in the gift of Catholic education.

For those parents who have already enrolled their children in Catholic schools, I am deeply grateful for the trust that you have shown in us to educate and form your children. It is certainly a financial sacrifice for many, providing a vivid testimony of the value placed upon a Catholic education in the minds of many parents. However, I also invite all parents to consider giving the precious gift of Catholic education to their children. It is an investment that will yield great fruit for their entire lives.

What is the IB Middle Years Programme?

This post was contributed by the IB partnership between Lakewood Catholic Academy and St. Edward High School.

The IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) is a pedagogical framework that encourages all students to make practical connections between their studies and the real world, and creates an environment where students learn through exploration and action. Lakewood Catholic Academy will be the first Catholic school in Ohio to deliver the IB Middle Years Programme (grades 5-8). St. Edward High School is home to the largest IB Diploma Programme (grades 11 and 12) in the state.

The Middle Years Programme of the International Baccalaureate is a framework for teaching and learning that targets students and teachers in grades six through ten. The MYP is not a curriculum. Rather, it outlines an approach to teaching and learning that emphasizes inquiry, reflection, and action. IB recognizes each student’s critical role as a citizen of the world and therefore encourages and promotes international mindedness. – Eileen McGuire, Lakewood Catholic Academy’s IB Coordinator

“The International Baccalaureate Programme believes that students learn best when their learning experiences have context and are connected to their lives and their experience of the world that they have experienced. Using global contexts, MYP students develop an understanding of their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet through developmentally appropriate explorations of:
• identities and relationships
• personal and cultural identity
• orientations in space and time
• scientific and technical innovation
• fairness and development
• globalization and sustainability.”
– Dr. Gregg Good, Executive Vice President of St. Edward High School

Catholic education is one of the most important challenges for the Church

This post was contributed by Sr. Lois Darold, C.S.JB.

When asked to write an article for Catholic Schools Week, I recalled the advice of my English teachers – write about what you know. I went back in memory to my mother and her efforts some 60 years ago to secure a Catholic education for my brother and myself. I thank all those parents who have shared their experiences and expectations of Catholic education with me.

THEN – January 1950. It was a bitter, cold and snowy day. The movers had securely packed our belongings into the van. My brother and I stood watch over the boxes that held his Lionel Train set and my Dolls of the Nations collection. We each clutched a favorite remembrance of our childhood home. Family, school and neighborhood friends waved “good-bye.” The dreaded day had come: Dad’s work required us to move from the Bronx to New Jersey.

In the weeks preceding our move we had many questions for Mom and Dad. They prepared us honestly for this turning point in our young lives: “yes” we would come back to visit our beloved grandparents and family; “yes” we would see our neighborhood friends again; “no” we would not be going to “our school” anymore. This response always brought tears – and a faithful promise from Mom. “Yes, you will attend a new Catholic school. We will know more when we get there.”

As we talked more and more about “The Move” it became apparent that Mom had drawn two lines in the sand: (1) Since she did not know how to drive, our new home had to be located near a bus line that would take her to a local shopping area; (2) There had to be a Catholic school within Mom’s walking distance.

Young as we were, the parish school that my brother and I had attended was a “home away from home.” Mom knew that the classes were crowded, but she also knew that the teachers – at that time all Sisters – cared for their students, even if some were more strict than others. Leaving the school where we had made our First Communion and received Confirmation was a very difficult part of The Move.

After a few days of settling in, it was only a matter of a few phone calls to learn where the church, the rectory and the school were located. Mom took us to meet the pastor, register the family, and greet the school principal, who welcomed us warmly. Mom was delighted to learn that the Sisters in this school were the same Community as the ones in New York. “You will be taught well by the Sisters” Mom promised. In that era of “Sister said,” Mom trusted the Sisters implicitly.

Efficient as always, Mom had brought all our needed papers. As Sister reviewed our Report Cards there were signs of approval. Yes, we were academically prepared to enroll in Grades 3 and 4. A tour of the school made Mom very happy. The classrooms were bright, still decorated with Christmas themes. The rooms were full but learning was taking place. The voices of teachers and students seeped into the halls. One class wrote “Thank-you” notes to God. Another calculated the path of the Christmas Star . God was present and acknowledged in this school.

Back at the school office Mom began to inquire about the tuition, uniforms and other items. She knew that the move had strained all their financial resources, but she would do “whatever it takes” to give her children a Catholic education. Mom opened her purse to give Sister the Registration Fee. Sister looked up, somewhat confused. Then came the stunning news. There was no room in Grades 3 and 4 for anymore students. Enrollment would not take place until the next school year.

Mom was crestfallen, but undaunted. With all the Irish that she could muster, she firmly but courteously explained to Sister that: her children had to go to a Catholic school. Mom directed us to wait outside while she spoke with Sister. From what we could hear, we knew that Mom’s determination was in full gear. As they came out of the Office, we heard Sister say: “ Let me think about this and pray to Saint Joseph (patron saint of the parish) We’ll speak tomorrow.” True to her word Sister called the next day happy to tell us that Monsignor had approved enrolling one student beyond the limit in Grades 3 and 4. Mom had her priorities right – “whatever it takes.”

Years later, I asked Mom why she was so adamant about our attending a Catholic school. She explained that her own formal education had ended with her 8th grade Graduation. From then on she had to work to care for her mother and she attended night school to earn her high school diploma. She received a good education in the business field, but there was one thing that she lacked and sorely missed: instruction about her Catholic faith. She would do everything she could to fill that gap for her children.

NOW – I have been in the world of Catholic education for all of my ministry years. I have met many parents across these years. Their primary expectation is simply stated:

My choice for our boys to attend Catholic school was simple: I wanted my children to grow up in an environment with a strong moral compass.

Like my mother, parents today also want what is best for their children. They speak of well-prepared teachers, state of the art technology, and opportunities to develop compassion “for these, the least of my sisters and brothers.” Beyond that, they want a schooling that enables their children to “really learn the faith and experience things only Catholic schools offer, such as First Friday Mass, Christmas pageants and religious retreats” where they can deepen their relationship with God. As one parent expressed it: “If Catholic schools start to resemble public schools then why should parents pay for Catholic schools?”

No person or institution is without fault or limitations. Parents are ready to cut schools some slack as they acknowledge the difficulty of funding the Catholic school via tuition. The Catholic school faces the challenge of finding funds that will open the school door to those who cannot afford it. The Catholic school faces the challenge of maintaining its Catholic identity in an increasingly diverse society; the Catholic school faces the challenge of learning how to talk to youth, creating new expressions of the “Catholic culture.” The Catholic school faces the challenge of taking up the mission of Jesus. The Catholic school faces the challenge of bringing forth young women and men who have the commitment and determination to remember Mother Church – whatever it takes.

The Catholic Identity of our Catholic Schools

Welcome to Catholic Schools Week. Today’s daily theme is to celebrating Your Community. The following piece is from SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM: A Blog by Cardinal Donald Wuerl.

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(Photo Credit: Jaclyn Lippelmann for the Catholic Standard)

Once when I visited one of our Catholic schools, on a particularly cold and blustery day, I asked the assembled students, “Why would you be here on such a miserable day?” One fourth-grader stood with great pride and answered,

I come to this school so that I can get a life.

His schoolmates nodded and applauded.

This enthusiastic youngster is exactly right. Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Washington, as elsewhere, exist to give others a life through formation of the whole person, including that all-important dimension of the spirit, by providing in particular an encounter with the transcendent, with the One who is “the way, the truth and the life” – Jesus Christ (John 14:6). It is not only the young students who are blessed by this encounter, but parents, teachers and administrators too.

Today we begin Catholic Schools Week. This annual celebration in the archdiocese and throughout the nation offers us a special time to highlight the value and uniqueness of our Catholic schools, where young people find academic success as they develop the gifts God has given them to build a better future not only for themselves, but for all of society.

What defines our Catholic schools is a focus on faith formation, academic excellence, moral development, and a strong sense of service. Rooted in the teaching mission of the Church, these places of learning are as diverse as the communities they serve. Students come from the city, suburbs and rural communities, and from families that are financially wealthy, middle income, and some live in poverty. There are also about 3,000 teachers who each and every day both instruct and provide the witness of faith to students, as well as many more administrators and support staff. Each plays a crucial role in the mission of our schools.

Implicit in the notion of Catholic schools is a strong Catholic identity, which manifests itself in an environment permeated by the spirit of the Gospel, visible communion and cooperation with the Church, both universal and local, fidelity to Catholic teaching, and a vibrant sacramental life. Notwithstanding many cultural and legal pressures to change, longstanding policies are in place here to ensure that the schools in the archdiocese remain Catholic. Our schools are committed to seeing that the revealed truth given to us by Jesus Christ is lived out on a daily basis in classroom lessons, daily prayer, service programs, school expectations, extra-curricular activities and, just as importantly, the personal witness of teachers, administrators and support staff.

Parents are thankful, as I am, for this faithful witness by those involved in the operation of our schools. Parents expect Catholic schools to be different, to be distinguishable from secular ones. That is precisely why they have chosen our schools. They want an authentic Catholic experience that provides not only excellent academics, but the moral and faith-based tools that will help their children to succeed in life.

Those who serve in our Catholic schools want this too and, in recent months, they have taken the opportunity explicitly to reaffirm their commitment to strengthening the Catholic identity of our schools through participation in various programs and special commissioning ceremonies. They know that it is particularly through setting a good example in their own way of life, through their own personal witness, that students encounter the transforming love of Jesus Christ.

Students and parents know that in the nurturing home that is a Catholic school, every child matters. Recognizing that parents are properly the primary educators of their children, it is clear why there is so much support for legislative efforts to empower parents to make educational choices for their children in addition to the substantial financial aid we provide ourselves through the Archdiocesan Tuition Assistance Program and other initiatives. In particular, we recognize the efforts of the District of Columbia Catholic Conference and so many others who work together for reauthorization of the highly successful D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and the engagement of the Maryland Catholic Conference in supporting the enactment of the Maryland Education Credit, for which surveys show high public support.

As we look to the future, we should do so with hope, confidence and enthusiasm, knowing that Catholic schools work. These communities of faith, knowledge and service are a blessing for the students who attend them, their families, the Church and the greater community. As we celebrate with joy the gift of Catholic schools this week, I ask that you join me in thanking all those who make our schools such wonderful manifestations of the kingdom of God. Let us also renew our commitment to work together so that our Catholic educational community continues to thrive.

Catholic Schools: In Our Parish

Welcome to Catholic Schools Week. Today’s daily theme is to celebrate Catholic Schools “In Our Parish.” The following excerpt is from Priestly Leadership in Catholic Schools: Reflections from NCEA Distinguished Pastors.

15 Priest Leader book_cvr“At least once a year, report cards for pupils in grades five through eight are given in personal interviews, conducted by the pastor, the parochial vicar, the principal, and the dean of students. The main idea is to help the kids understand that we care about a lot more than their academic accomplishments. We ask them about their spiritual life. We ask if they are praying each day at home. We ask if they are attending church on the weekend.

Sometimes I learn more than I was expecting. One time I was interviewing a sixth- grader and I asked him about Mass on Sunday. I heard him say, “No, Father. I do not go to Mass. I am sick.” I told him I hoped he would soon be better and offered to pray over him. He laughed. “No, Father,” he said. “I am not sick, like ill. I am Sikh. That is my religion.” I knew we had a few Muslims and a few Jewish kids, but nobody had told me we had a Sikh! I gave him a blessing and moved on to the next kid. That may not have been what I expected to learn, but I certainly learned more about our kids that day!

These interviews give us a “snapshot” of the children’s participation in weekly services. They also remind the children that this is important to us.”

– Reverend Monsignor Thomas F. Maloney, Diocese of Buffalo, 2013 Distinguished Pastor

Monsignor’s reflection reminds us that our Catholic school students come to us from all walks of life – we celebrate this in our parishes each week and especially during Catholic Schools Week through prayer and thanksgiving.

Monsignor Maloney’s full reflection and more from other distinguished pastors can be found in Priestly Leadership in Catholic Schools, now available in the NCEA store.

National Catholic Schools Week Day of Service

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National Catholic Schools Week is the annual celebration of Catholic education in the United States. It starts the last Sunday in January and runs all week, which in 2016 is January 31 – February 6. The theme for the National Catholic Schools Week 2016 is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. Through these events, schools focus on the value Catholic education provides to young people and its contributions to our church, our communities and our nation.

On Monday, February 1, schools are encouraged to celebrate Catholic schools in their communities during a “National Day of Service.” In collaboration with Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services, NCEA encourages schools to remember the opportunity to serve in their communities by working with Catholic social services and non-profit organizations.

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In our Winter 2016 issue of Momentum, NCEA, Catholic Charities USA and CRS offer creative ways to serve your community this year:

1: PRAY Reflect on the Year of Mercy by extending your service actions into lessons. Visit www.nceatalk.org and search Year of Mercy for reflections and resources on how schools can connect what they already do – such as collecting canned goods – to a bigger social justice message. Subscribe to our weekly Year of Mercy reflection emails, too!

2: LEARN Visit the CRS Education page and the CRS Resource Center which offer educators prayers, lesson plans, activities, and ideas for action all with a global perspective. education.crs.org or select Get Involved at www.crs.org.

3: CONNECT with your local Catholic Charities organization to volunteer on a local community level. Visit www.catholiccharitiesusa.org/find-help to search for an agency near you.

4: PARTICIPATE Consider having your community creatively raise money to purchase a representative goat ($80) or cow ($300) from the CRS Gift of Hope Catalog. Gifts from the Catholic Relief Services Gift Catalog are blessings to our poorest brothers and sisters overseas. They save lives and tell recipients just how much you care. The gifts in this catalog represent CRS projects that transform people and communities for the long term. We’re inspired by the people we serve, the work that we do and donors, like you, who make our work possible. gifts.crs.org

5: ACT Think about some ways that you can honor your relationship with creation in a way that cares for the earth and its people, and that honors God. As a school community you can do a number of things such as: pick up the trash on the school grounds, develop an action plan to prepare for disaster and brainstorm ways your class can protect Mother Earth.

Check out our digital version of Momentum to discover more ways to serve this Catholic Schools Week!

Reminder: NCEA to co-host #CatholicEdChat

Are you ready to celebrate the excellence that is Catholic education? Catholic Schools Week is less than two weeks away! Make sure to follow the conversation using #CSW16.

Join us on Twitter! @NCEATalk will be co-hosting a chat on Saturday, January 23, at 9 a.m. EST along with folks from #CatholicEdChat to discuss Catholic Schools Week and what schools are doing across the country to celebrate. NCEA Interim President Tom Burnford will be tweeting live for NCEA. Please join if you can!

NCEA Breakfast Club

This post was contributed by Annette Jones, Assistant-Director of Leadership Development and Ryan Lombardozzi, Social Media Coordinator at NCEA.

Since inception in September 2015, the NCEA Breakfast Club has been giving back to its member schools by presenting a book as well as a gift card to randomly selected member schools. The book, Gospels to Go: Guidance and Inspiration for Teachers by Melanie Svoboda, SND and the gift card to a local restaurant or bakery can be used however each school wishes.

Breakfast was wonderful!  The Gospels book has been used at all of our weekly staff meetings, said Sandy Lonergan, principal at St. Luke School in Woodburn, Oregon.

Our Lady Queen of Peace School (OLQP), located in Richwood, Texas was a recent recipient of the NCEA Breakfast Club gift. Their staff decided to use part of the gift card to thank the local police department in which two eighth grade students delivered hungry officers Panera for breakfast. The remaining balance on the gift card was used to provide breakfast for the teachers at OLQP!

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The NCEA staff members have been showing their pride in Catholic education. Each month, staff members have contributed a donation in order to participate in themed dress, such as favorite college or NFL team, Halloween colors, ugly sweater and favorite Catholic school or school colors. The NCEA staff have enjoyed these special dress days, but more importantly, have relished in showing appreciation to school staff members by giving breakfast and a prayer book to them.

Moving forward, during the first week of each month, NCEA will announce via social media that we are selecting the next school(s) to receive our NCEA Breakfast club gift! A post will be published on both Facebook and Twitter, and NCEA will randomly pick a member school to be the next winner. Make sure to follow us on Facebook at NCEAorg and on Twitter at NCEATALK!

Are you ready to welcome the Class of 2025?

This post was contributed by Jim Pavlacka, Director of Leadership Development at NCEA

Catholic Schools Week is one of, if not, THE most important week of the school year for most Catholic schools across the United States.  It’s typically during Catholic Schools Week when many elementary schools will offer their annual open house in order to lay the foundation for welcoming the next incoming class of kindergarteners, just as other grades – through secondary – focus on filling any seats that are available, for the following school year.

It is one thing to offer an open house and see what happens.  However, as we all know…if you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always gotten!  A Catholic school leader knows that sustaining the viability of their school is of utmost importance.  In order to effectively accomplish this, continuously implementing the principles of enrollment management is essential.  An annual ongoing marketing and branding campaign is critical.  So, you may be asking yourself, with Catholic Schools Week just a few short weeks away, what can we do now?  Great question!  It’s never too late to start or tweak your plans!

Your open house is a significant piece of the admissions and enrollment stages in the enrollment management process.  Understanding how to effectively promote and conduct a successful open house is vital.

As a diocesan and school level enrollment management consultant since 2008, here are some suggestions I can offer that all Catholic schools should consider…even with just a few weeks to go:

  • Do you understand where your prospective students and their families come from?
    • For example – Identify and explore the local neighborhoods, Catholic Churches without schools, local pre-K and preschool programs, large local businesses and organizations such as the Federal Government, military bases, colleges and universities, to begin.
  • Have you used effective strategic marketing and advertising to specifically and aggressively target your prospective students and their families?
    • For example – In addition to hanging banners and placing lawn signs around town as well as advertising in local newspapers and your school and parish bulletins and websites:
      • Do you visit the local churches, businesses and organizations and advertise in their publications, newsletters, bulletins and websites?
      • Do you leave cards, brochures, invitations everywhere you go?
      • Do you invite yourself to visit and speak with parents at the local pre-K and preschool programs?
      • Do you speak at each of the Masses at your school’s parish one weekend in January? When you do, Be Direct – Be Specific – Be Creative!  Your job is to orchestrate a communication flow that tells the story of your Catholic school in such a way that prospective students and their families want to hear it told.
    • Do you utilize effective, cohesive, internal branding during your open house?
      • The key to this is everyone a prospective family meets during an open house event or while on a tour of your school shares the same message. Reflect on the students, faculty, staff, home and school association members, school board members:
        • How do they represent your school?
        • Do they walk-the-talk?
        • Do they know-share-live the vision and mission of your school? Aka…Evangelize!  This is the message you want everyone to convey.
      • Have you offered more than one open house event during Catholic Schools Week?
        • Accommodating the needs and lives of your potential students and their families is central. Offer an open house on a weekend day and another open house on a week night after working hours so that the parents and potential students can attend and experience your school together.  Also, offer an open house during the school day as well so that potential families will have the opportunity to see the school in full operational mode.

Yes, with just a few weeks to go until Catholic Schools Week, you too can make your open house events more effective and prosperous with just a few specific targeted marketing tweaks and improvements!  If you have any questions or if I can be of any additional support, I can be reached at jpavlacka@ncea.org or 571-257-0010 ext. 2878.