Friday, January 31, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 31

1. Bishop Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., auxiliary bishop of Seattle and chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Migration, commented January 29, to immigration reform principles released by House Republicans at their retreat in Cambridge, Maryland.

2. Kevin Baxter, Superintendent of Elementary Schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, writes in a guest blog for the USCCB: "Today’s task, indeed, obligation, is to ensure that Catholic schools grow and thrive so they can continue to serve generations to come. "

3. During the next few days, USCCB will provide social media updates, photos and more from the Phillipines, as a delegation will head with Catholic Relief Services to visit areas impacted by the recent typhoon there.

4. The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering will be held in Washington next week, as the Catholic Church in the U.S. seeks to fulfill Pope Francis' goal of being a "Church that is Poor and for the Poor."

5. God loves you.

Leadership: Key to Catholic Education Success

By Kevin Baxter

For long-term growth and sustainability Catholic schools need strong leaders who focus on clear Catholic identity, rigorous academics and active stewardship. Quality, Catholic-centered education attracts students and parents. Even in low income neighborhoods, when these characteristics are present we see successful Catholic schools. Creating quality and ensuring that that value is present at a school starts with vision.

Catholic school leaders must indicate that growth not only is possible but also attainable in the coming decades. In Los Angeles, we educate fewer than 10 percent of the Catholic school age population, and I imagine one finds similar percentages in other dioceses. The potential for growth in Catholic school enrollment is not something discussed often given time spent focusing on schools that have closed (or are closing) and the challenges faced by those that remain.

That vision – that school enrollment growth is attainable – builds on leadership and innovation. The leadership must be transformative and present a bold vision of growth along with a clear plan for how to achieve it. To simply convey the vision with words and not actions will not lead to successful change. In order to be transformative an effective leader must tell people what they need to hear and not what they necessarily want to hear. In doing so the effective leader must maintain the respect of those who follow to lead them to understanding and acceptance.

Innovation, at its most basic level, consistently rejects the status quo and explores new ways to educate students and operate schools that effectively prepares students for the world of tomorrow. Catholic schools need to adapt and innovate to meet the needs of the 21st century family and student. Ways that worked in the past will not work in the future; change is a requirement for growth. The advent of new technologies requires new approaches in how we govern and educate students in Catholic schools. This includes how we integrate technology into classrooms. It also involves innovation in curriculum, for example, establishing dual language immersion schools to better meet the needs of the contemporary student and family.

As stewards of God’s creation and the schools that have been entrusted to them, Catholic school leaders must ensure that the schools where they serve remain available to future generations. Today’s Catholic school leader stands on the shoulders of the saints who built the schools and educated generations of students. Principals didn’t set out to start a small business of their own. They inherited a gift from decades of predecessors. Their predecessors’ task: To building and establish schools. Today’s task, indeed, obligation, is to ensure that Catholic schools grow and thrive so they can continue to serve generations to come.


Kevin Baxter is Superintendent of Elementary Schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 30

1. In today's guest blog, John Schoenig, Director of Teacher Formation and Education Policy for the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), writes:
"Perhaps the most important promise we make as citizens is the one we are invited to consistently renew to our children: that we will do whatever it takes to ensure that every child, regardless of color, creed, or socioeconomic status, has equal access to an outstanding education."

2. "Super Pope" was short-lived in Rome this week.

3. During February, the USCCB honors the contributions of African Americans and remember their struggle for civil rights. The month kicks off with a Day of Prayer for the African American Family.

4. Pope Francis spoke to a group from the University of Notre Dame Thursday and encouraged them to continue to defend the school's Catholic identity.

5. God loves you.

Renewing our Zeal for Educational Choice

By John Schoenig

In early 1840, the new coadjutor bishop of New York found himself embroiled in a heated dispute over education. At the heart of the debate was a growing concern that public support for religious schools represented a grave threat to the nation. As scores of newly arrived immigrants came ashore daily, fear arose that this increasing “Catholic menace” would grow beyond control if unchecked. There was a movement to permit public funding to support families in religious schools, but others countered that it would undermine efforts to assimilate young people into American culture and promote civic virtue.

In a display of vision and zeal, this new bishop (who would soon become New York’s first archbishop and is now widely known as “Dagger John” Hughes) deconstructed arguments against Catholic schools and provided a lasting witness to hope for Catholic school families. Although Archbishop Hughes didn’t prevail in his battle to allow for state funding of New York’s Catholic schools, he nonetheless galvanized the Catholic community against the growing political pressure that sought to stifle Catholic schooling and educational choice.

In many ways, Archbishop Hughes helped save the Catholic school system at one of its most vulnerable hours, when many were interested in establishing “common schools” as the exclusive provider of K-12 education. For Archbishop Hughes, the issue wasn’t about political power or cultural divisiveness. It was a simple and straightforward matter of social justice. For Archbishop Hughes the issue was about the fundamental rights of parents as primary educators.

In many ways, this dispute bears a striking resemblance to contemporary efforts to expand parental choice in education. Almost 175 years later, the modern education reform movement is in desperate need of healthy dose of Dagger John’s clarifying voice. The sad reality is that every family in America has the ability to exercise educational choice – except those most at-risk. It is only those families on the margins of society – those for whom a high quality education could be an engine of lasting empowerment – who have no real choice in where their child is educated. This is unequivocally unjust. It is not worthy of a nation with such a proud legacy of protecting the dignity of the under-privileged.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia now have programs that provide public funding for families to enroll their children in the public or non-public school of their choice. These programs, often referred to as “parental choice” or “school choice” programs, offer tuition scholarships to families, providing them with the ability to select the best education for their child. This year, more than 250,000 children are enrolled in the school of their choice through such programs. Once thought to be a “fringe” issue in education reform, this concept has taken hold as a common-sense policy measure that puts families and children first.

The Church has played an instrumental role in the passage and implementation of many of these programs, which empower children with the educational opportunity that is their birthright. As we look to the future, we will more than ever need voices both within and outside the Church demanding that the right to an education in the faith be protected.

Perhaps the most important promise we make as citizens is the one we are invited to consistently renew to our children: that we will do whatever it takes to ensure that every child, regardless of color, creed, or socioeconomic status, has equal access to an outstanding education. It was this sentiment that helped animate Dagger John Hughes in his epic battles during the “Great School Wars” nearly two centuries ago. For Archbishop Hughes, parental choice was as much about equality as it was about choice. This remains the case today.


John Schoenig is the Director of Teacher Formation and Education Policy for the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 29

1. The Associated Press reports, "The House voted Tuesday to bar federal subsidies to Americans signing up for health insurance plans that cover abortion." Before the vote, Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the USCCB, called the bill “one small step toward a society that promotes life and not death for unborn children and their mothers.”

2. The chairmen of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committees on Domestic Justice and Human Development and International Justice and Peace, along with representatives of Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Charities USA, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and Catholic Rural Life, responded to the agreement of the Farm Bill Conference Committee, commending their ability to set aside partisan differences to advance a farm bill.

3. Our guest blogger today looks at how Catholic education gets more bang for the buck.

4. Have you seen this graffiti of Pope Francis on the Roman streets yet?

5. God loves you.

The Value of Catholic Education – Best Bang for the Buck!

By Wayne Morse

No doubt about it, the value of Catholic Education is constantly on the mind of school parents and families, and it’s on Catholic educators’ minds as well. Catholic schools in Cincinnati, where I work, operate in school districts where the quality of education is high and the cost for the family is virtually nothing. So what makes a Catholic School a good value?

Like any question about value – there are two sides to the equation – cost and benefit. The cost of operating Catholic schools is a fraction of the cost of public schools. This is primarily due to two things: our teachers and staff are not compensated at the same levels as public school staff, and our schools are subsidized through parish support and institutional fundraising.

Why would our teachers and staff work for less? It’s because working in Catholic Education is viewed as a ministry, a vocation, a calling to serve our children and pass on the faith to the next generation. In elementary schools, parishes provide 25 percent or more of the cost of operating the school. This represents a large share of the ministerial capacity of our parishes, routinely one-third or more of the parish budget. Our high schools expend significant fundraising effort to offset their costs, and the primary donors are the alumni of the school – those that have lived the experience themselves and know firsthand the impact that Catholic Schools played in their lives.

Why would parishes and alumni continue to support our schools at such a hefty price? It’s the same answer as before; it’s a part of our faith, a ministry of the Church and a sign of our discipleship of Jesus Christ. Do we struggle to make ends meet? You bet we do. We’re always looking for cost savings, and new funding avenues. We struggle keeping our school tuition affordable for as many as possible while providing fair and equitable compensation for our staff.

On the benefit side of the value equation, we look at many measures to substantiate our school’s value, things like:

· Our students consistently outperform national norms on standardized tests. In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, elementary schools produced academic results that were more than 2 grade years ahead of national norms (our 8th graders tested well into 10th grade academic levels). Not only that, we see students grow consistently as they progress through elementary schools (from 1 year ahead of norms in 3rd grade to 2+ years by the 8th grade).

· Our high schools also outperform national norms on standardized test. ACT scores for 2013 showed that our students were consistently ranked above the 70th percentile in English, Mathematics, Reading, Science, and Composition rankings.

· Our strong academic results open the door to success at the college level. For example, over 2/3rds of graduating high school students in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati earn merit based scholarships for college, totaling over $250 million per year, an average of more than $75,000 per student. Catholic schools represent a strong investment that prepare our students for college and provide a direct payout in college affordability.

These are great results, no doubt about it. Our heritage continues in strong academics. We educate the whole child as well, through challenging extra-curricular activities: sports, fine arts, performance arts, music and a multitude of academic and cultural clubs and organizations.

However, we still don’t think these are the most important values of Catholic Education. That is raising our children in the Catholic faith. Teaching the Catholic faith and values, worshiping as community, and putting our faith into action through service of others, these are all part of the witness we pass on to students. People recognize our students as people with a strong moral foundation, persons of character and determination, people of service, fully prepared to assume leadership roles in discipleship of the Catholic faith throughout the world for the rest of their lives.

Across a wide spectrum, we develop talent, intellect and souls. When you put together the costs and benefits of a Catholic education, we believe the value is – priceless.


Wayne Morse is associate director of school finances in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 28

1. Cardinal Seán O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the USCCB, urged support for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act (H.R. 7) when it comes before the U.S. House of Representatives. In a January 28 letter to the House, Cardinal O’Malley called the bill “one small step toward a society that promotes life and not death for unborn children and their mothers.”

2. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, will travel with a delegation to the Philippines, February 2-7. Over the course of the trip, U.S. Church officials will see recovery efforts in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck November 8, 2013. The trip is organized and sponsored by Catholic Relief Services, the international relief and humanitarian agency of the U.S. bishops, who mounted an emergency response within hours of the typhoon. Read Archbishop Kurtz's blog on why he is going to the Philippines as well.

3. Bishop Richard Pates wrote to Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. should urge the government of Israel to cease and desist in efforts to unnecessarily confiscate Palestinian lands in the Occupied West Bank. Bishop Pates, of Des Moines, Iowa, is the chairman of the Committee of International Justice and Peace of the USCCB and wrote  a January 28 letter that specifically addressed the situation in the CremisanValley, which he visited earlier this month.

4. The Super Bowl is this Sunday and Catholic youth across the country will be participating in the Souper Bowl of Caring. Over the years, Christian churches have raised $90 million for soup kitchens, food banks and other charities in communities across the country.

5. God loves you.

Why I'm going to the Philippines

Note: This blog first appeared on Catholic News Service.

By Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

Pictures and numbers that show the disastrous effect of Typhoon Haiyan numb the mind. More than 4 million people have been displaced -- about the population of Kentucky. More than 1.1 million homes have been damaged, more than half of them totally destroyed. The death toll is more than 6,200 -- the population of a small town.

Numbers like that overwhelm everyone. That's why on the eve of the Super Bowl, I'm packing sneakers to join a delegation with Catholic Relief Services to meet with Filipino church leaders and people from Samar and Leyte, the two Philippine islands in the eye of the storm. I'll visit Palo, just south of the city of Tacloban, and I'll walk through rubble to let people know that the Catholic Church in the United States cares and will help. I and others are visiting personally so that we can wrap our hearts and minds around the situation. This firsthand look will enable us to adequately convey to fellow Catholics the spiritual, physical and emotional extent of the damage.

The Filipino diaspora in the United States, more than 4 million people, make up the second largest Asian-American community in our nation. They agonize for their homeland. This trip reflects solidarity of the church in the United States with Filipinos on both sides of the Pacific. Catholicism's liturgies and devotions are integral to the Filipino community. The Philippines are 80 percent Catholic, the third largest Catholic country in the world, after Brazil and Mexico.

Filipinos now seek to rebuild their infrastructure of schools, churches, hospitals and seminaries. For these needs, the only source of help is other churches, who understand that faith sustains people. Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila will meet us to provide details. He holds a master's and doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. Having lived in the United States, he has full confidence and high hopes for the generosity of his sisters and brothers from the USA.

The trip highlights the person-to-person solidarity that we feel for suffering people. We are thankful that people survived the Typhoon Haiyan's assault, but now the survivors need clean water and other aids to maintain basic hygiene. They need soap, buckets, detergent and water purifying kits to prevent spread of disease. Survivors live amidst debris that blocks streets and roads. They need help to clear avenues so aid can get through. They need hammers and saws and tarps to keep out the rain from their emergency A-frame houses. The creation of permanent housing stands ahead of them.

This challenges the entire Catholic Church. On Nov. 10, two days after the typhoon struck, Pope Francis told the world "the victims are many and the damage enormous." He asked that we "try to get our concrete aid" to the typhoon survivors. He initially donated $150,000 for relief efforts. On Christmas, he spoke of the Philippines again.

American Catholics responded quickly, too. CRS, the U.S. church's international aid agency that is backed by the generosity of U.S. Catholics, has collected tens of millions of dollars so far for Philippines disaster relief. To date, CRS has provided 200,000 people with emergency shelter, clean water and sanitation, and debris clearing. The agency has installed water taps and water bladders to provide tens of thousands of people with clean drinking water. It has begun construction of model homes that can be easily adopted by local communities in Palo. It's all part of our commitment to our Filipino brothers and sisters as they rebound.

Of all who can help, Americans stand first in line. We understand solidarity. We're can-do people who walk with people in need. That is part of the message I hope to deliver on Super Bowl Sunday when I land in the Philippines. As people at home participate in our sports tradition and root for the Seattle Seahawks or the Denver Broncos, I'll check the score from an ocean away and immerse myself in another U.S. tradition: showing support for people in desperate need.

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Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Access to Catholic Schools by Underserved Populations

By Father Joseph Corpora, CSC

For the most part, parish schools were founded by religious women from dozens of religious communities, who for love of their Lord left their homelands to come to the United States to serve immigrants and their children. They loved their faith, had experienced its saving power in their own lives, and wanted to pass it on to the next generation.

So successful was this endeavor that, without envisioning it, the Church in the United States produced the world’s largest “private” school system. And everywhere the Church did this, parish life thrived, children of immigrants were taught, and those children grew up to become good citizens for heaven and for earth. These children – Irish, Poles, Germans, Italians, Lithuanians, and more – came from humble roots economically. Their Catholic education put them directly on the road to fuller participation in American economic and civic life.

Today Latinos are the greatly underserved population. Depending on the data that one looks at, somewhere between 44 and 55 of 100 Latino children in public school kindergarten will receive a high school diploma and 12 of those 100 will earn a college degree. Of 100 Latino children who go to Catholic school, 96 will receive a high school diploma and 25 will earn a college degree.

We have a historic opportunity now to repeat history for the Latino population. Latinos are the nation’s fastest growing school age population and the least likely to graduate from high school. More than 70 percent of practicing Catholics in the United States under the age of 35 are Latinos. This is the future of the Church, and in many places, it is the current reality.

The Church needs to make Catholic education accessible to the Latino population. Latinos will be the future leaders in parishes and in dioceses. Latinos will be the presidents of the parish pastoral councils and of the school advisory councils. Latinos are the future employees of our parishes and schools. They are the future leaders of much more than the Church. We need to provide them with the same opportunities and possibilities that we provided for the children of European immigrants.

Latinos will respond to this invitation. They will welcome the opportunity for a faith-centered education. They are coming to know that the cities and towns they live in, in the United States do not evangelize in the same way they did in their countries of origin. They need schools to help with this task. They want their children to know their faith, to remain Catholic and to have the opportunity for a better life. They will remain loyal to the faith.

The Church must figure out ways to make Catholic schools accessible and affordable to Latinos. The challenge is huge for Church leaders today. They must develop and implement strategies to bring Latinos into Catholic schools. It is a moral obligation for today’s church. Everyone will win. Latinos will be given a first-rate Catholic education. They will become leaders in society and in the Church. Our schools will thrive. Our parishes will become more vibrant. And would it be too much to say that, through these efforts, we will renew the face of the earth?


Father Joseph Corpora is a Holy Cross priest and director of university-school partnerships in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), based at the University of Notre Dame, and working to build partnerships with schools and dioceses as leader of ACE's Catholic School Advantage campaign. The initiative’s goal: To double the percentage of Latinos who send their children to Catholic elementary and secondary schools by 2020.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 27

1. Catholics are celebrating Catholic Schools Week this week and we are sharing blogs throughout the week about various aspects of education. John-Mark Miravalle writes today about forming lay faculty members in sound Catholic teaching.

2. Feb 8 is a day of prayer for human trafficking victims & survivors. Learn how people can combat humantrafficking in their community.

3. The Catholic Social Ministry Gathering is in Washington, D.C., February 2-5. Learn more about how the Church advocates for those on behalf of those in need.

4. reports: "Pope Francis has written a letter to his friend Rabbi Abraham Skorka of Buenos Aires on the occasion of Holocaust Memorial Day which is marked on January 27th. The letter will be read out Monday evening at a concert in Rome entitled “Violins of Hope.”

5. God loves you.

Forming Lay Faculties in Sound Catholic Teaching

John-Mark L. Miravalle

For the last eight years, my colleagues and I at School of Faith, a public association of the faithful that offers doctrinal and spiritual formation for Catholics through catechetical programs, have spent most of our time forming the faculties of Catholic schools throughout the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas.

The formation consists in an unusual combination of retreat, catechetical instruction, discussion and sometimes even apologetics. We work to form lay faculties of Catholic schools not only in a Catholic mindset, but also in a holistic Catholic life of fidelity to the Church, comprehension of doctrine and intimacy with Jesus.

It’s a tall order that keeps us humble. Teachers can be tough to teach. Some schools are eager and welcoming at the outset; others take time to warm up to the idea of regular formation. But as different branches in the diocese have come together, there’s been a significant shift in the self-awareness of Catholic schools, a new appreciation of what it means to be a Catholic school.

A Catholic school, like every other Catholic initiative, exists primarily for the sake of holiness. It doesn’t exist primarily to get kids ready for college. It doesn’t even exist to give a kid a well-rounded education. As Hilaire Belloc wrote in the 1920s, “It is good to be able to read and write and cast up simple sums; it is better still to know something of the past of one’s people, and to have a true idea of the world around one. But these are nothing compared with the Faith.”

And that’s what a Catholic school exists to do: to give kids the faith. And not just intellectual faith either, but lived faith. Holiness. A Catholic school exists to make Catholic saints. We want Catholic schools to prepare kids for college, we want Catholic schools to prepare kids for the world, but more than anything we want Catholic schools to prepare kids for Heaven.

In sessions with faculties we try to give solid exposition and explanation of Church teaching. We hone in on controversial or confusing questions, and try to give really compelling answers, so that the teacher can answer the students’ questions with confidence and conviction.

But we also know the teacher’s influence on a student isn’t just intellectual. Often when a teacher changes a student’s life it isn’t in a question-and-answer context; it’s in a one-on-one context. In those situations teachers don’t just need factual knowledge about the faith – they need to know the Lord. They need to have the relationship with Christ that allows Christ’s love and truth to pass through the teacher to the student.

Which is why forming lay faculties in sound Catholic teaching means forming them also in prayer and encouraging and supporting them in their own relationship with Jesus.

Because, ultimately, only Christ Himself can transform the life of a student, or form the mind and heart of a teacher, or renew a Catholic school.


John-Mark Miravalle has been a School of Faith instructor since 2005 and holds a doctorate in theology from the Regina Apostolorum in Rome. He teaches adult parishioners and Catholic school faculties and offers classes to University of Kansas students at the St. Lawrence Center.