Category Archives: Proclaim

Keeping Catholic schools affordable

The following article is a re-post of Keeping Catholic schools affordable by Chaz Muth and Carol Zimmermann | Catholic News Service.

Franciscan Fr. Greg Gebbia, principal of Christ the King Preparatory School in Newark, N.J., talks with students during lunch in 2017. Christ the King is part of the Cristo Rey Network. OCTAVIO DURAN | CNS

Making Catholic education accessible to everyone has been a mission of the church in the U.S. for centuries, but keeping it affordable in modern times has required innovative methods.

Religious orders and parish schools labored in the 19th century to bring education to everyone, which meant keeping it inexpensive. This could be done more easily when the majority of faculty and staff were priests or women religious and some schools were subsidized by tithing parishioners.

By the end of the 20th century, however, funding sources became scarce, the cost of education escalated, schools were staffed by the laity and tuition became almost out of reach for middle and lower-income families.

To make Catholic schools more affordable, dioceses, religious orders and individual schools are taking new steps.

The Diocese of Arlington offers different options for tuition assistance. The diocesan Tuition Assistance Program was made possible through contributions from parishioners and the Rooted in Faith-Forward in Hope Capital Campaign Endowment.

The diocesan Scholarship Foundation is part of the Virginia Education Improvement Tax Credit program and provides scholarships to low income, new students to the diocese.

The St. Beatrice Special Tuition Assistance serves single-parent households with multiple children in diocesan schools.

Individual School Tuition Assistance is funded by individual diocesan schools or parishes, and is managed by each school.

Last winter, the Diocese of Charleston took part in its first “Day of Giving,” an event sponsored by the National Catholic Educational Association. The diocese raised more than $56,000 during a 24-hour period Jan. 30-31 for all Catholic schools within the diocese.

In total, more than $859,000 was raised nationally from 6,948 donations to 825 schools, three dioceses and the NCEA during the 2018 Day of Giving, an annual collection for Catholic schools.

St. Joseph’s School in Hazel Green, Wis., tackled the tuition challenge for parents head-on by announcing plans to significantly restructure student tuition beginning with the 2018-19 school year, essentially making it tuition free.

Under the new plan, student tuition will be 100 percent supported by the parish. Tuition for the Catholic kindergarten to eighth-grade school will be reduced to zero and school operating costs will be covered by fundraising efforts and general parish support.

This overhaul is something we have been working toward for a while,” said Andrew Tranel, a member of St. Joseph’s Parent Education Commission. “We are now to the point where we are able to offer a Catholic education to every family who sees the value in it, regardless of their income level. We are beyond excited to be able to do this.

St. Joseph’s pastor, Father Ken Frisch, said if this model is successful, it could inspire more schools to follow this framework.

In the Archdiocese of Portland, the Catholic Schools Department recently released a plan to sustain schools and extend a Catholic education to more families with a new fund for tuition aid.

The Catholic Schools Endowment Foundation of Oregon will seek gifts from individuals, estates, organizations and businesses who believe more children should have access to the values and success Catholic schools offer.

The separate not-for-profit foundation housed at the Archdiocese of Portland Pastoral Center now has more than $7 million but leaders say it must grow significantly to meet the need.

Portland Archbishop Alexander K. Sample has told the foundation board he wants no family to be left out of Catholic schooling because of finances — something many families say keeps them away.

Peter Corrado, who directs the foundation, said: “Catholic education is not a privilege. It is a right for Catholics. We want any parent who wants to send a child to Catholic school to be able to. If people choose public school because Catholic school is unaffordable, that is unacceptable.”

Barbara McGraw Edmondson, chief leadership and program officer at the NCEA, acknowledged that cost is a big factor preventing students from attending Catholic schools, but she said it also has led to innovative fundraising efforts and alternative tuition models especially to serve urban students. She said 29 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of school scholarship program in place — meaning vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts.

One unique alternative tuition model is offered by the Cristo Rey schools, which use a corporate work-study program where students are required to work in the community one day a week, earning job experience and a wage that helps pay for their tuition.

It’s been 22 years since the first Cristo Rey school opened in Chicago and three more are slated to open in 2019 in Oakland, Calif., Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas, putting the total at 35.

Nationally, there are 38 religious communities sponsoring Cristo Rey schools; in some areas, two communities work together in the same school. The Jesuits partner with 12 Cristo Rey schools, the most of any religious community.

It costs about $13,000 a year to educate a student enrolled at the Cristo Rey New York High School in Harlem, said Bill Ford, the school’s principal.

He said the income from the student’s salary pays for the majority of the tuition. Fundraising pays for the second highest percentage and the parents are responsible for the remaining $1,500.

This way, everyone has skin in the game,” Ford said. “We see this as a key element to the success of these students. The student is working for the tuition, making it more valuable to them, and the parents and school are also invested.

The good news about the expansion is that the school model, started by Jesuit Father John Foley, exclusively targets students in poor communities who otherwise might never receive a college-preparatory, Catholic high school education.

The bad news is that with so many pockets of poor communities, there is no end in sight to the need for Cristo Rey schools, said Elizabeth Goettl, president and chief executive officer of the Cristo Rey Network.

Cristo Rey’s team, she said, “receives one to two calls a week” from representatives of failing schools or from community leaders desperate to find a way to help educate their children.

Contributing to this story were Amy Wise Taylor in Charleston, Mary Uhler in Madison, Wis., Ed Langlois in Portland and Michael Brown in Tucson, Ariz.

Preserving Catholic school’s charism ‘has to be intentional’

The following article is a re-post of Preserving Catholic school’s charism ‘has to be intentional’ by Katie Rutter

A statue of Mary overlooks the Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg, Ind., May 16. On the entryway of the school is written an excerpt from St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of Creatures,” recalling that the school was founded by the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg. (Credit: Katie Rutter/CNS.)

Although women religious – once synonymous with Catholic education – have been disappearing from U.S. classrooms in recent decades, many Catholic schools are taking extra steps to make sure that even as these sisters age or their numbers decrease, the charisms that infused the schools they founded will not be lost.

This was the challenge faced by the Oldenburg Academy of the Immaculate Conception in Oldenburg, Indiana. The school, founded by the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg in 1852, came under laity supervision in 1994 and no longer has any women religious on staff.

Yet their spirit still lives within the walls they established 166 years ago.

“The Franciscan values have helped me to understand my role in this world,” said outgoing senior Rachel Stoll, one of the 200 plus students at the academy. She readily reeled off three of the values held dear to the Oldenburg Franciscans: care of creation, prayer and dignity of the human person.

“One of the unique values that the religious men and women brought to their Catholic schools was a distinct charism in addition to their catechetical formation,” said John Schoenig, senior director of teacher formation and education policy for the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education.

Your life would have been much different as a Catholic school student if you were in a school run by the Daughters of Charity than if you were in a school run by Benedictines,” he said. “It’s because the charism would have been there.

That notion of charism in the schools eroded as religious vocations declined and Catholic schools were staffed by lay teachers who came from many different universities, worshipped in many different parishes and had many different approaches to education, Schoenig said.

But in recent years Catholic schools nationwide have recognized the need to rediscover the charisms of their founding religious orders.

Barbara McGraw Edmondson, chief leadership and program officer at the National Catholic Educational Association, said this understanding is emphasized each year at annual NCEA conventions when speakers stress: “We stand on shoulders of giants.”

“And we really do,” she added, noting that it’s crucial for schools to keep that alive in any way they can because the founding orders are “such a gift and a legacy of Catholic education.”

At Oldenburg Academy, values of the Franciscan charism are emblazoned on a huge black-and-white mural of smiling women religious that graces the front hallway.

But as this school has discovered, preserving the legacy of its founding order requires a commitment deeper than slogans or photographic displays.

It has to be intentional. It isn’t just going to happen. You have to make a decision to work on it,” said Oldenburg president Diane Laake, who added that the school is “doing a better job at claiming and naming and identifying the charism than we did 30 and 40 years ago.

Now the school has a specific Franciscan curriculum in religion classes and group trips to Assisi, the Italian hometown of St. Francis. A Franciscan value is also chosen each year to define school activities.

“It is truly a Franciscan school,” said Franciscan Sister Marjorie Niemer, who acts as a liaison between the academy and the Sisters of St. Francis of Oldenburg. “We are extremely proud of what the administration and the board of directors has been able to do to promote Catholic education, Franciscan education.”

The school’s Franciscan identity is bolstered by the close proximity of the sisters, since the academy is on the same campus as the Oldenburg motherhouse, where about 120 of the 183 remaining sisters still live. Students frequently pass sisters in the hallway, sometimes lending an arm to help a sister’s unsteady feet.

The students also have the opportunity to “adopt” a sister and eat lunch with her once every two weeks, in a school-sponsored program called “Adopt-a-Sis.”

“I feel like I’m really close to them,” said Nicholas Hoff, an incoming sophomore. “They almost seem like family to me.”

St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati similarly focuses on promoting the spirit of its founding order, even though only seven sisters remain in the Ursuline Sisters of Cincinnati. The all-girls school preserves its charism by focusing on the spiritual development of the lay faculty.

“I put on a yearly retreat, we run small faith groups for our faculty and staff, we put on board of trustee retreats,” said Liz Curran, coordinator of Ursuline Spirit Initiatives. Hers is a full-time staff position entirely dedicated to preserving the school’s charism.

A small on-site museum contains the history and some mementos of the Ursuline Sisters of Cincinnati as well as the story of the order’s founder, Italian St. Angela Merici. The school’s motto is that each student will be a “thinker, leader, nurturer and prophet” just like the saint.

The order’s founder “challenged herself to be the best she could be; she definitively committed to building a better world,” explained St. Ursula Academy president and alumna Lelia Keefe Kramer.

“St. Angela’s life is very relevant to what we’re asking of the girls today,” Kramer told Catholic News Service.

Another Ursuline-founded school system, Sacred Heart Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, works to keep the school’s charism alive for students of all ages.

Founded in 1859 by the Ursuline Sisters of Louisville, the campus now contains four separate schools that educate preschoolers through high school students.

Seniors at the all-girls high school, Sacred Heart Academy, take a charism course about the history and spirituality of the Ursulines and the preschool students experience this history firsthand by interacting with about 20 of the 61 remaining sisters regularly; exchanging notes, crafts and prayers. A few times each year the sisters travel from their assisted living facility to visit the classrooms.

“We’re very proud of our Ursuline sisters and I think that this keeps that spirit alive,” said Lisa Houghlin, executive director of Sacred Heart Preschool.

“We’ll always find a way to show that connection,” she added.

Contributing to this story were Carol Zimmermann and Chaz Muth in Washington.

‘Busting at the seams’: Enrollment at Winona Area Catholic Schools reaching decade highs

The following article is a re-post of ‘Busting at the seams’: Enrollment at Winona Area Catholic Schools reaching decade highs by 

The number of students attending Catholic schools in Winona is rising to the highest level school officials have seen in years.

According to an enrollment report, 455 students are enrolled for the 2018-19 school year at Winona Area Catholic Schools, which serves students from preschool through sixth grade — up 34.6 percent from just three years earlier. Numbers at Cotter Schools, for students in grades seven through 12, are also higher: 350 for the current school year, up 19 from last year.

The first day for WACS and Cotter Schools was Monday. Winona Area Public Schools, which closed two elementary schools due to declining enrollment and budget constraints, begin after Labor Day.

WACS, comprised of St. Mary’s Primary School and St. Stanislaus Elementary School, is “busting at the seams,” according to principal Pat Bowlin. Seventy-one students enrolled in this year’s kindergarten class, a number that Bowlin said hasn’t been that high in two decades.

St. Stan’s added two classrooms this year to prepare for the influx of students, and Bowlin said three more rooms that currently house services like reading support and after-school care may need to be converted to regular classrooms in the coming years. He also hired three additional teachers for the school year.

“A lot of families made the switch this year,” said Linda Schrupp, local admissions coordinator for both WACS and Cotter. Cotter’s junior high program for grades seven and eight, designed to prepare the students for the academic rigor of high school, has seen the largest growth.

Schrupp said the boarding program at Cotter, which allows international students to study there, is down 20 students from last year. She pointed to the national dip in enrollment at boarding schools for foreign students, noting that parents from other countries are hesitant to send their children to study in America.

Tuition at the Catholic schools, which formerly rested at about $6,000 for Cotter and $2,750 for younger students, has been cut by almost half after a generous donation from benefactors about six years ago. It’s been paramount in marketing the schools as an option for Winona families, Schrupp said, letting them know that “you don’t have to be wealthy to go to these schools.”

The tuition cut also made it possible for some families to pay full price to send their children to school, freeing up aid money for other students who may need more financial help, Schrupp explained.

But lower tuition isn’t the only draw, Bowlin said. After all, every parent has a free option in town with the Winona Area Public Schools.

They still have to see value in what we’re providing,” he said. “And I believe we are.


The following article is a re-post of MAKING THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOUR CHILD by Kathy Mears, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.

Our schools are preparing our students for college and career, but most importantly, they are preparing them for life.

As we contemplate the end of summer and the beginning of fall, we all know that our schools will soon reopen to thousands of students and their teachers. We also know that for some families, a school has not yet been chosen or that parents are beginning to wonder if they have chosen the right school for their child(ren). As in many aspects of our lives, parents have more options than ever and the thought and research that goes into selecting a school that will match a child’s needs, takes time.

Catholic schools are one of the options that parents should explore for their child. Our schools are places of academic excellence. Parents, teachers and students working together make a difference for our children. According to the most recent SAT results, students in the Archdiocese of Boston scored on average, 581 on the evidence-based reading and writing components on the SAT, which is higher than the Massachusetts average of 538 on the same subtest. In math, the average SAT score for students in our schools was 580, while Massachusetts students scored 534.

Academic excellence in our Catholic schools is not optional. Students are expected to work hard and our teachers are expected to instruct in ways that engage our students. Parents are also asked to be a part of the formula that supports our academic excellence. Parents, students and teachers work together to assist each child in reaching his or her potential. The stronger the relationship among parent, student and teacher, the more likely we are to find academic success. Our schools value the relationships that exist among families and our faculties and staffs. We know that it does “take a village” and revealing that community of support and caring to our students is an integral part of what makes us different and what makes us excellent.

Smaller class size and time on learning are other factors that support academic excellence in our schools. With an average number of 17 students in our elementary classrooms and 18 in our secondary classrooms, our students receive a lot of individualized attention. Our schools believe in minimizing disruptions to maximize learning time and our students show up for school each day, as our average attendance rate hovers around the 97 percent rate. These things matter and help our students to achieve.

The most important aspect of our Catholic schools that parents should consider is the integration of faith and spirituality with our curriculum and extracurricular activities. Our schools are preparing our students for college and career, but most importantly, they are preparing them for life. Our teachers and principals work every day to teach our children how to serve others. Last year our students performed more than 175,000 hours of community service. Students from preschool to seniors in high school learn that they have a responsibility to help others in any way they can. As a result, national studies show that our students are more likely to volunteer as adults and to engage in civic activities.

Integrating our faith into all that happens during the school day is part of the way that we help to prepare our students not only for college or a career, but for life. Learning that prayer, quiet conversations with God through the opportunities our schools provide leads to a relationship with Jesus, our students grow in their understanding of the Church. They also come to realize that they are known and loved by a community of believers, who want them to do well, who want them to do good, who want everlasting life for them.

Options can be very good for families. They allow parents to provide the best opportunities for their children to reach their potential. Our Church believes that each child can learn, that each child of God deserves the chance to develop their academic, physical and spiritual skill sets. We believe in Catholic education and know it to be a great way to help children find truth and beauty. We are eager to work with your family to help your child develop not only the skills that one needs to successfully navigate life, but to help them on their paths to develop life skills, the fruits of the spirit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control and faithfulness. For when an education achieves those goals, it has been successful.

Epiphany church opens Catholic school

The following article is a re-post of Epiphany church opens Catholic school Aug. 16 by Karen Zurawski.

Epiphany of the Lord Catholic School in Katy, Texas opens its doors to students Aug. 16. It represents the culmination of four years of planning, work and fundraising for the elementary and middle school.

“This was a complete parish effort that took a couple years of activity in fundraising,” said Denny Dellinger, development board co-chair. “It started four years ago with a master plan for the parish and about 12 or 18 months of fundraising.” Pledges over a three-year period got funding for the school, he said, and the development board followed with periodic fundraisers to supplement the initial pledges.

“We currently have just over 90 students,” said Principal Nicholas Morgan of the school which will offer grades prekindergarten through fourth. Eventually the school will also include grades 5-8

“We expect to have about 100 students by the first day,” he added. The school will have 14 teachers, two in prekindergarten and two in kindergarten and one teacher per class in grades 1-4.

“We will add at least one grade each year over the next three to four years until we get to eighth,” he added. “However, if the demand is high enough we may add two grades one year, either 2019-20 or 2020-21.”

Dellinger said, “We really hope for explosive growth in the school. We believe it will be a fabulous academic experience and a wonderful addition to parish life. These are really exciting times for us.”

The Epiphany school is the newest and our 60th Catholic school in the 10 counties of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, said Jo Ann Zuniga, media relations manager for the archdiocese, which is the largest Roman Catholic diocese in Texas and the fifth largest in the United States.

The $12 million, two-story school has approximately three classrooms per grade. “We have a library, art room, music rooms, science lab and STEM lab,” said Morgan. There’s no cafeteria, but students will eat in one of the existing buildings on the campus of the Epiphany of the Lord Catholic Community at 1530 Norwalk Drive, Katy.

The parish raised about $5 million during a capital campaign and the rest of the project cost is financed through a loan. Fundraising wasn’t easy. Dellinger said fundraising started on the heels of a downturn in the energy sector that affected the whole area. “Then Harvey hit which wiped out a large number of folks personally and totally changed their ability to participate.”

Annual tuition is $7,500 for a Community member and $9,060 for a non-Community member with discounts for families who have more than one child enrolled at the school.

Sponsors also have stepped forward. A July church bulletin lists sponsorships for the STEM lab of $30,500; the art program at $12,500, a nurse’s station at $8,000; and library books at $35,000. Since then, Morgan said sponsors also have stepped forward for library furnishings at $50,000 and for an exterior statue at $22,000. Sponsors also were being sought for the playground at $100,000, for the music program at $14,000 and for sponsor-a-classroom (full classroom technology) at $25,000.

We offer an alternative to the public schools with a faith-based but academically challenging approach to education,” said Morgan. “Our four foundations from our mission statement is what will set up apart from other private and public schools – faith, knowledge, compassion and character will be taught, celebrated, recognized and incorporated into our daily lives.

Dellinger said, “Both my wife (Lyn) and I from bringing up all the kids have always recognized the importance of education in development of the next generation. I myself had gone to Catholic schools from first grade on to a master’s degree. I’m familiar with the integrated approach of academics and theology and we believe in it. When the parish as a whole through the master-plan system decided the school was a priority, we knew we would be supporters of it. Father Tom asked us to lead the capital campaign and that got us started.”

Pastor Father Tom Lam celebrated the Mass of Dedication for the school on Aug. 4 with Cardinal Daniel DiNardo.

After the Mass, the cardinal blessed the new school as congregation members assembled in the building. “We dedicate this building to the education of youth, to the progress of sciences and arts and to learning,” said DiNardo.

It was a great event on a number of fronts,” said Dellinger. “Everyone was thrilled with the physical aspects of the school and how it had all come together. Every aspect of the parish — we have 6,700 families in the parish — people from every different demographic represented at the dedication. All were very supportive and happy. The dedication went quite well.

After the Mass and building dedication and blessing, the school was open to tours. Dellinger said it was the first time many folks were inside the building.

“The rewards are many many fold. My wife and I took the approach and believe this is part of our way of paying back for all the wonderful blessings we’ve had through our life. It’s part and parcel of being part of the parish and the community,” said Dellinger.

People may email or visit for information.

Donovan Teacher brings Berlin, Germany into her classroom

This summer, Christine Mooney, Director of Instructional Technology, traveled to Berlin, Germany where history came to life and she also attended the Global Leadership Summit hosted by Education First. Students from around the world gathered to collaborate and ideate about “The Influence of Technology on Society” and its impact on the areas of the environment, communication, economy, culture and health and wellness.

Students were assigned groups where they were introduced to students with different cultures and experiences, and sometimes even different languages. Together, they were taught and used Design Thinking – a creative problem-solving process for identifying a problem in our daily lives and developing a new solution for how technology can help to improve it. Ms. Mooney worked with a team of educators in listening to the three-minute presentations of different groups where they identified the problem, and presented a prototype for a technological solution to it. There she contributed her constructive thoughts of “I like,” “I wish” and “I wonder” about the presentations in order to help the student groups before their presentations to the judges. The winning group’s presentation will be displayed at the Nobel Museum, right along other Nobel Prize winners in Stockholm, Sweden. Ms. Mooney said,

It was incredibly inspiring and hopeful to see the work of these teens. The power of the student groups’ empathy and teamwork and the solutions they came up with amazed me. I am so thankful I had this opportunity. As a lifelong learner, I want to incorporate some of the strategies in use at the summit and the history I saw in the vibrant mix of old and new in the city into my classes.

Catholic schools look ahead with innovation but also focus on tradition

The following article is a re-post of Catholic schools look ahead with innovation but also focus on tradition by Carol Zimmermann, 

Kindergartners point to honeybees working May 24 in an observational hive located in the library at St. John Fisher School in Portland, Ore. The hive is being used as a tool to teach students to be good stewards of the planet, a Catholic value. (CNS photo/Chaz Muth)

If anyone could rest on their laurels, it’s Catholic schools for all they have accomplished in their U.S. history, educating in the faith and teaching children of all backgrounds in cities and rural areas across the country.

Acknowledging these past achievements alone might not be enough to propel these schools into the future, but it’s an important first step because it recognizes the need to tap into – and promote and market – the spirit of the early Catholic schools and their founders and to adapt that creativity and innovation to today’s world.

The future of Catholic education: It’s bright. It’s bright as long as our Catholic educators, our Church, our leaders, have an open mind and make sure what they do, how they teach and interact with young people is relevant, said Barbara McGraw Edmondson, chief leadership and program officer at the National Catholic Educational Association.

She said it’s also crucial for Catholic schools’ future that educators and Church leaders understand and not shy away from the culture young people live in today.

We need to step right in … and show them the way to navigate a very complex world, she added.

Edmondson said school leaders want Catholic schools to be what Pope Francis has asked of the Church: to be “disciple-making places.” And she hoped they would evangelize in such a way that Catholics and non-Catholics would say: “I want that for my child. I want to be part of that community because I feel a goodness about it.”

No doubt that was part of the intention of the early Catholic schools, to educate, but also educate in the faith, in mission territories and then in cities after the huge influx of Catholic immigrants in the late 19th century.

Catholic schools had plenty of support too. The First Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1852 specifically urged every Catholic parish in the country to establish its own school and these schools, primarily led by women religious, flourished. By 1920, there were 6,551 Catholic elementary schools teaching 1.8 million students and by the mid-1960s – the height of Catholic school enrollment – 4.5 million students attended more than 13,000 schools.

That hardly compares with today’s statistics.

The most recent NCEA figures, for 2017-2018, show Catholic school enrollment at 1.8 million students in 6,352 Catholic schools.

In 2017-2018, 16 new schools opened and 110 consolidated or closed, but those that closed include some that consolidated and re-opened as new entities. NCEA breaks down the closures to a net loss of 66 elementary schools and 11 secondary schools. The report also notes that 1,872 schools have a waiting list for admission.

The trend line does not look good, but recently it’s balanced out, said Peter Litchka, associate education professor and director of the educational leadership program at Loyola University Maryland.

He noted the shift in demographics in recent years, causing Catholic schools to close as families have moved out of cities. But he also pointed out, as many have said before, that at the height of Catholic school enrollment, it didn’t cost as much to attend these schools, because faculty and staff members were often women religious who worked for low salaries.

Now, most, if not all, are lay teachers, he said, noting that tuition reflects current wages and health benefits.

And that, for many, is the bottom line because for many families, it’s just too expensive to send their children to Catholic school.

Litchka told Catholic News Service that most Catholic schools now have enrollment managers who help families tap into available resources to help with tuition.

He also said schools are focusing on promoting what they do day in and day out – being Catholic – which is a drawing point regardless of where people are from and can attract new students.

In response to rising costs, Catholic school leaders emphasize that 29 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of school scholarship program in place – meaning vouchers, tax credits or education savings accounts.

Schools are stepping up to the plate with some innovative fundraising and school tuition models. Dioceses are establishing education endowments and religious orders are supporting schools such as Cristo Rey that offer work study programs to supplement tuition.

One parish in Wisconsin, St. Joseph’s in Hazel Green, tackled the tuition challenge for parents head-on by announcing plans to significantly restructure student tuition this year, essentially making it tuition free, supported 100 percent by the parish.

In an interview this spring with The Visitor, newspaper of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota, Tom Burnford, NCEA president, said that Catholic schools are the responsibility of the entire Church.

They’re a ministry of the Church in the same way the Church reaches out to the poor. Catholic schools are not just for those who ‘use them’ – as in the parents who have kids in a Catholic school. They are an evangelizing ministry of the Catholic Church and a very successful one. They form citizens who are successful in this life – in secular jobs, secular roles in the world – and also in faith and in service to the Church. So Catholic schools belong to the entire Catholic population.

In addition to looking to cut costs, schools are also looking to promote themselves better and to focus on their foundational roots.

Edmondson said every year during the NCEA convention, speakers emphasize: “We stand on shoulders of giants,” referring to the women religious who founded so many Catholic schools.

“And we really do,” she added, noting that it’s crucial for schools to keep the orders’ charisms alive, something many schools are working hard to do – from stressing the school’s history to including those from the order, even aging religious, in school-sponsored events.

Another key aspect to the enrollment factor is the need to include more Latino students.

As Edmondson put it: If we want our schools to flourish, if we want our enrollment to increase and not be on a decline, we have to engage those who are our Church today.

She told CNS it is a commitment of NCEA and other Catholic organizations, universities and dioceses to examine: “How do we find our way and how do we make ourselves the place where Hispanic families say, whatever it is, whatever the hurdles are” they would send their children to Catholic schools.

As someone who attended Catholic schools, sent her children there, taught there and was a Catholic school superintendent, Edmondson said her overall perspective of Catholic education is: “I truly believe in it and I believe it has the ability to make a difference in the world.”

Now as an NCEA official who visits Catholic schools all over the country, she remains convinced “there is something good there.”

As a leader in Catholic education, she added: “I want that goodness to continue to grow.”

Contributing to this story were Chaz Muth in Washington and Mary Uhler in Madison, Wisconsin.

Science and Religion Come Together at Donovan Catholic

Photo Left to right: Mike Lacy, Michael Santos, Mary Beth DeBlasio and Kenneth Oliver

A team of four teachers from Donovan Catholic High School participated in the Science & Religion Seminars in June, an initiative exploring the interface of science and religion at the University of Notre Dame’s McGrath Institute for Church Life.

Besides hearing from scholars in religion and the sciences, teachers from high schools around the country who participated in this year’s Science & Religion Seminars gathered to design innovative lesson plans that will help students see the interface between subjects they might have thought had nothing in common.

Donovan faculty members Mary Beth DeBlasio, Michael Santos, Mike Lacy and Kenneth Oliver, represented their school at the weeklong Foundation Seminar. Unique among the seminar attendees, the Donovan Catholic team participated entirely online.

In lectures and workshops, these teachers worked remotely with leading researchers – including Dr. Karin Öberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics – and other educators from 25 Catholic high schools across the nation selected for the sessions. They collaborated to create lesson plans for exploring the relationship between science and religion with their students.

When our high schools excel at exploring that interface, students take two giant steps forward,” said Jay Martin, co-director of the initiative, along with Patricia Bellm at Notre Dame’s nationally known McGrath Institute that helps bridge the academy and the Church. “The students gain theological insights grounded in reason, plus scientific knowledge that boosts them toward faith-filled lives, as well as tomorrow’s careers.

The initiative assists schools in expanding the coordination among teachers and principals. Selected from approximately  60 Catholic schools that applied for this summer’s Foundations Seminar, the Donovan Catholic team joined with other participants to better understand the coherent pursuit of truth that spans different high school subjects, the leaders of the initiative said.

Twin sessions of the Foundations Seminar, one held on the Notre Dame campus and one in New Orleans, prepared educators to return to their schools this fall as advocates among their colleagues, ready to implement new lesson plans.

Our resources help to produce effective plans that nourish the Catholic imagination and allow science and religion teachers alike to feel comfortable in their own skin, said Bellm of the McGrath Institute.

Participants heard experts in biology, chemistry, physics, and theology shed new light on the compatibility of modern science and the Catholic faith.

Our school is incredibly blessed to have teachers who view what they do in their classrooms as a vocation, and not just a job,” said Principal Ed Gere. “Their commitment of time and energy in attending this seminar truly illustrates how they are striving to serve the Church by working toward an authentic integration of science and religion.

The McGrath Institute is now preparing for the 2019 Foundations Seminars, as well as the 2019 Capstone Seminars and Institute Days. Go to for information.

New L.A. STEM school inspired by JPII

The following article is a re-post of New L.A. STEM school inspired by JPII by the Catholic News Agency.

John Paul II taught often that science and religion follow complementary paths toward the same goal – truth.

A new high school in Los Angeles – the St. John Paul II STEM Academy – aims to help students find truth – by teaching faith, and, at the same time, teaching the methods and principles of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The Burbank school, which plans to begin with 60 freshman in August 2019, is an initiative of the Department of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The archdiocese says the school will offer daily prayer and regular Mass to students, while, at the same time, providing science and technology classes, along with internships and apprenticeships at local businesses.

STEM courses- those in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math- will be single-gender, according to the archdiocese, while the rest of the school’s course offerings will be co-educational. The school will focus on preparing students for careers especially in media arts and trade technologies, according to the archdiocese.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles says the creation of the new school is a sign of a growing Catholic population in the region, and increased interest in Catholic education.

At the Department of Catholic Schools, we have a vision of growth that is based on the demographic reality of an increasing Catholic population in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Dr. Kevin Baxter, senior director and superintendent of Catholic schools, said.

St. John Paul II STEM Academy, Baxter added, “it is a great indicator that our vision is one of building and opening and not closure and consolidation.”

The school will open on a campus formerly occupied by Bellarmine-Jefferson High School, a Catholic school that closed in May because of low enrollment and increased operating costs, according to an October 2017 statement from the school. At the time of that statement, the school’s enrollment was 98 students.

“STEM schools” have risen in popularity in recent decades, especially as funding has become available for STEM curricular models through grants from the National Science Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and other organizations. The National Catholic Education Association has promoted the model for Catholic schools, along with the so-called STREAM model, which incorporates religion and arts into the traditional STEM curriculum.

Importance of Catholic schools today

The following article is a re-post of Importance of Catholic schools today by Michael Lancaster, Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Madison.

Why do Catholic schools exist? When you look at this from a student’s view, there are two clear goals: 1) College and 2) Heaven. While we hope that students realize these goals in this order, Heaven is clearly the more important of the two.

Catholic schools strive to put students firmly on the path to holiness that one day they may attain Heaven. Catholic schools introduce students to Jesus and invite them to form a relationship with Him so they may discern His call for their lives, strive for holiness, and attain Heaven.

Teach body, mind, soul

In this context, Catholic schools teach students by forming their whole being: body, mind, and soul so they may fulfill their God-given potential to become the people God is calling them to be and in so doing, serve their neighbors, contribute to their communities, and find joy in their lives.

These are lofty goals, so how are we doing? Let’s consider the research. A study published May 31, 2018, “Self-Discipline and Catholic Education,” concluded that, “Regardless of demographics, students in Catholic schools exhibit more self-discipline than students in other private schools or public schools. Specifically, they were more likely to control their temper, respect others’ property, accept their fellow students’ ideas, and handle peer pressure.”

All of these are skills necessary for further education and success in employment, participation in a global economy, and contributing to one’s community.

Impact on Church

Regarding the positive impact of Catholic schools on the Church, studies conducted in the last five years by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University show that among millennials, those who attended Catholic schools are three times more likely to consider a priestly vocation (for men) and twice as likely to consider entering Religious Life (for women).

They are also over six times more likely to attend Mass weekly, participate in their parish, volunteer, and tithe.

Academic excellence

Academically, Catholic schools hold high expectations for students, instilling solid study skills and work ethic.

Results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) over the last 20 years show that students in Catholic schools consistently score higher in reading and math than students attending public schools.

Catholic schools focus on faith, working to form the whole child academically, physically, intellectually, spiritually, emotionally, and socially. As the Church has said,

The Catholic school is committed to the development of the whole person since in Christ, the Perfect Person, all human values find their fulfillment and unity. (The Catholic School, 35)

This is done in a community imbued with high expectations emphasizing personal responsibility and the dignity of each person with Christ as the model. In this way, Catholic schools instill students with morals, virtues, self-discipline, and knowledge, preparing them to succeed in further education, seek holiness, and live meaningful lives.

How to help

The benefits of Catholic schools are clear. They benefit our families, our parishes, and our society.

However, in order to continue and improve this positive work, Catholic schools need our help. So, how can you help? The most direct ways you can help are by contributing time, talent, treasure, and prayer.

Even if you don’t currently or never have had children in a Catholic school, helping is easy.

Forty percent of our parishes sponsor a Catholic school. Other parishes don’t have a Catholic school, but are linked or clustered with parishes that do.

If you live in a parish that has a school, please consider making a donation directly to that school. If your parish is linked or clustered with a parish that has a school, please support the school in your linked or clustered parish.

All Catholic schools welcome donations of time, talent, and treasure. All parish Catholic schools receive some financial support from their parish. When you donate to your parish, you help support and sustain the school.

While giving financially to Offertory, fundraisers, dinners, auctions, and annual funds is a great way to support Catholic schools, it is not the only way to give. Volunteering in the classroom, as a student tutor or helping out with events and fundraisers is a great and much needed way to support Catholic schools. Contact a school to learn more.

As always, we should never underestimate the power of prayer. Please join me in daily prayer for our teachers, our students and families, and for the principals and pastors who lead our schools, especially as they prepare to begin another school year, that they may be filled with all the graces that they require in order to lead, serve, and teach students and their families.

Catholic schools today perform amazing work that is needed now more than ever. They benefit our parishes, our communities, our Church, and our nation.