The Benefits of Receiving a Catholic Education

Catholic education can benefit children in a number of ways, including instilling spiritual values, building a base of ethics, and exposing them to the rich tradition of Catholicism in the arts. Through Catholic education, students learn to sense the presence of God all around them in the world.

 

Catholic education helps students understand the role of suffering in a person’s life as well as the importance of a community that both challenges its members to be better and supports them. It gives them a profound understanding of scripture and how it applies to their everyday life as well as a framework for understanding the part played by both success and failure.

 

The strengths of Catholic education are not limited to building an inner spiritual life. Private school attendees tend to grow up to be adults who are more civically engaged, and one survey has found that Catholic school graduates are the most likely of all private school students to become active in this way. This civic engagement includes volunteering, political involvement, and donating to charity. 

 

Because Catholic schools strongly promote service, students tend to carry this regular practice into their adult lives, where they can continuing helping others in God’s name. Students also develop a strong sense of self-discipline. 

 

This is the result of a clear moral vision that they create as they study scripture. Their ethics are underpinned by theology, not a list of rules. However, they are taught to conduct themselves in accordance with the example of Christ, the gospel of love, and the Ten Commandments.

 

The Catholic church has a long and proud history of art, music, and literature created to glorify God as well as a rich tradition of ritual. Students in Catholic schools have the opportunity to be exposed to this tradition.

 

Catholic education is rooted in the belief that excellence in the conduct of one’s life and achievements that reflect God’s glory. This is the point of striving for success, both academic and otherwise, and not the success itself. 

 

Furthermore, in the Catholic tradition, the students who graduate from Catholic institutions are considered the Church’s greatest product. They are charged to go out into the world and change those around them as well as the world itself. 

2020 and the Catholic Church

Some say the Catholic Church is in decline and yet others say it is a Church in hospice. It is true the U.S. Church has experienced about a 3% decline in the last ten years confirmed by two massive PEW studies … and a decline in religious vocations, but don’t be too quick to rush to judgment without carefully considering the data. Most of the Church closures are old inner-city parishes where the demographics are changing. Many of these inner city parishes were established in close proximity in the late 1800’s as each was founded to minister to a particular immigrant population – Irish – Italian – Polish etc. Today, 49% of Catholic adults have a graduate college degree, make an above average income and very few experience protracted periods of unemployment. And, most do not live in the inner cities.

 

Catholics in the suburban parishes are doing just fine … and there has been no aggregate decline in the number of baptized Catholics who routinely attend Mass in the last 50 years. All these demographics correlate neatly with Catholic fertility rates … the aggregate baptized Catholic population fluctuates over decades between 23% to 27% of the U.S. population.

 

Catholic schools continue to maintain a presence in the inner cities to serve the urban poor and often the new immigrant population because they are Catholic and education is a path to breaking a cycle of poverty.

An Interview with Steve Virgadamo

( from an interview with Gordon Nary )

 

Gordon: When were you appointed to Associate Superintendent for Leadership at the Archdiocese of New York and what are your primary responsibilities?

 

Steve: In 2014, I was working at the University of Notre Dame as a Director in the Alliance for Catholic Education Program and I accepted an invitation to come to the Archdiocese of New York to take responsibility for the Leadership Formation of Catholic School leaders. The Archdiocese of New York was already engaged in reimaging Catholic education via new governance and finance structures. Much of the focus had been on restructuring and regionalization of schools. Structure is important, but the real key to success is transforming the culture – changing the way we do things. So the key ingredient to re-imagining Catholic schools is re-culturing. Re-culturing involves constant attention and focus of the key executive leaders as it takes time and energy. This is perhaps why those who staff the Catholic education offices across the country and those who serve as school leaders in a Catholic school building need to lead with purpose, an intensity, enthusiasm, hope, a missionary zeal and always be growth minded. I readily accepted the invitation as Catholic school improvement efforts rely heavily on Leadership. In my 30 plus years of partnering with Catholic schools I can say with certainty that the difference between a good Catholic school and a great one is the school leader.Great Catholic school leaders – serve first – build trust and always, always bear witness to their values. Successful Catholic school leaders must be great communicators and focused on building a culture which will have a positive impact on student learning, achievement and Faith formation. The best Catholic school leaders manage by walking around as they get to know the students by name and by observation identify areas where teachers can improve. Most importantly, Catholic school leaders are filled with a missionary zeal and are unwilling to give up on a young scholar. The very best Catholic school leaders are the epitome of pastoral and instructional leadership.

 

And of all of the things I have done in my career in serving the Church, I know this will be one of the most rewarding as my work in the Archdiocese of New York is the formation of the next generation of Catholic School Leaders.

 

To paraphrase John Kennedy’s inaugural address : Let it be known to all friends and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Catholic school leaders, born in the latter half of the last century, educated in a post Vatican II Church, hardened by scandal and committed to serving Christ and His Church.

 

Gordon: When did you receive the National Catholic Education Association President’s award and named one of the most influential people in Catholic Education, and what was the response by the Archdiocese of New York and your family?

 

Steve: I was blessed to receive the award in April 2018. I was honored, but also humbled. My colleagues at the Archdiocese of New York, as well as Pastors, school leaders with whom I worked in over 6,000 Catholic schools were so supportive and filed my inbox with congratulatory notes and stories of how our encounters had impacted their lives and ministries. My parents probably wanted to take credit for the award, as in an effort to nurture me in my Faith; they enrolled me in a Catholic school. That decision was a precursor to my future, as I spent so much time in the principal’s office that by the time I graduated and they handed me the diploma, I had the equivalent of a Masters degree in Catholic School Administration. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur taught me how to run a successful Catholic school.

 

My favorite Gospel message is the Transfiguration. Jesus reveals himself to the Apostles and each wants to just stay on that mountain with him, but he says …oh no boys back down that hill there is more work to be done. So while the President’s award was for a lifetime of achievement…I know there is still much more work to do to renew the face of Catholic education.

 

Gordon: What are the challenges for Catholic Education in the United States?

 

Steve: The present down-turn in the world economy has impacted enrollment in Catholic schools. Not just families, but parishes and diocese across the country no longer have the resources to keep every Catholic school open. When the number of Catholic schools peaked in 1965, there were 6,046,854 students enrolled in 13,700 schools. Since then just about half of all Catholic schools have closed in the United States. But the role of the Catholic school remains just as valuable today as in the past.

Catholic schools are not simply alternatives to public schools or private schools. They have their own distinctive ethos. The Catholic school pursues truth in all academic disciplines within the context of the Faith. With an Incarnate view of the world, there are no secular subjects. “Only in faith can truth become incarnate and reason truly human, capable of directing the will along the path of freedom” (Pope Benedict XVI, Address to Catholic Educators, Washington, D.C. April 17, 2008). By their very existence, Catholic schools proclaim the enriching power of the faith as the answer to the many challenges that face us.

 

Catholic school alumni have the tools to, bridge the growing gap between culture and religion, reason and faith, life and morality. This is why Catholic education must continue to play a vital role in preparing students for lives of leadership. To form our young intellectually, morally and spiritually as Catholic is not a secondary work of the Church. It is part of the Church’s essential mission. Hence, the importance of the Catholic school. To say it another way, the Church has a mission and therefore we have Catholic schools.

Recent research has indicated that the second largest group identifying themselves with any religion classify themselves as “fallen away Catholics”. Many of these fallen away Catholics are choosing to enroll their children in a Catholic school for the rigor of the academic program and the differentiation of instruction. When this occurs our Catholic school leaders have an opportunity to light what I refer to as the re-evangelization lamp. Just as we built our church with Catholic education in the 1800’s with Catholic education, today we have an opportunity once again to rebuild it via our schools.

 

Despite the financial challenges facing Catholic schools and the great efforts to keep as many as possible open, the question is not whether Catholic education is worthwhile for our church and society. Studies have shown that young Catholic parents today are much closer in their belief to Catholics prior to the Second Vatican Council than they are to generation after the Council. They want Catholic schools. The question is not whether or not they can afford a Catholic education. The deeper question is whether we as a Church and as society can afford not to give a Catholic education to all our young whose families desire it for their children.

 

Other studies have shown that our Catholic schools serve the urban poor and minorities better than any other education option. More and more large numbers of non Catholic families particularly in large metropolitan areas desire a Catholic school option for their children. Catholic schools serve all hungry for an education and enroll non Catholic families because we are Catholic. Fundamentally, I believe that parents are the primary educators of their children. It should be the birthright of every family to choose the best education for their children regardless of their ability to afford a residence in an affluent zip code with top performing schools. School choice for parents in my mind is a civil rights issue. And if parents choose to exercise their civil right by choosing a faith based school for their child, then so be it. Should that be an education in the faith, then so be it. So, as a Church we must double down our efforts to introduce school choice legislation in every municipality.

 

Lastly I must add I grieve school closings for the human cost. With each lost school I see the faces of hundreds of young scholars who are denied an opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ.

 

Gordon: Pope Francis was a teacher. What impact has the current Papacy had on Catholic Education?

 

Steve: As Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Pope Francis said:

 

­“The education of children and young people is such an important task in forming them as free and responsible human beings. It affirms their dignity as an inalienable gift that flow from our original creation as children made in the image and likeness of God. And because education truly forms human beings, it is especially the duty and responsibility of the Church, who is called to serve mankind from the heart of God and in such a way that no other institution can.”

 

Early in his Papacy, Pope Francis addressed Catholic school teachers and administrators. He said:

“In a society that struggles to find points of reference, young people need a positive reference point in their school. The school can be this or become this only if it has teachers capable of giving meaning to school, to studies and to culture, without reducing everything to the mere transmission of technical knowledge. Instead they must aim to build an educational relationship with each student, who must feel accepted and loved for who he or she is, with all of his or her limitations and potential. In this direction, your task is more necessary now than ever. You must not only teach content, but the values and customs of life.”

 

Later in his Papacy when addressing the members of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, the Vatican Office which oversees church affiliated schools and colleges around the world, he said: Catholic schools and universities play a key role in evangelization and in creating a more humane world built on dialogue and hope. Future generations who are “educated in a Christian way for dialogue, will come out of the classroom motivated to build bridges and, therefore, to find new answers to the many challenges Catholic schools should serve the church’s mission of helping humanity grow, build a culture of dialogue and plant the seeds of hope. Educators are just like mothers and fathers who give life open to the future.”

 

Before his visit to NYC, Cardinal Dolan asked Pope Francis what he wanted to see and he replied one of those great Catholic schools that has contributed to building the Church in America. In the same day, he walked the hall of the United Nations, the Halls of Congress and the hallowed halls of a Catholic school.

 

Gordon: Thank you for a great interview.

11 Things For Catholic School Leaders to Consider Heading Into November of 2020

In this article Steven Virgadamo, a renowned expert in Catholic School Leadership shares some wisdom with Catholic School Leaders.

 

Looks like you made it!

 

October 31– Another month of your Apostolic work as a Catholic School Leader is in the history books. Congratulations!

 

To help you prepare for your next month in your leadership ministry Steven Virgadamo shares a few insights for new and experienced Catholic school leaders:

 

  1. As St. Benedict said – Listen with the ear of your Heart. Continue to listen carefully to the staff- the faculty, lunch staff and custodians. We are larger than the sum of our parts! More often than not the faculty, staff and custodians have a pulse and perspective on what is working and of course what is not,”
  2. Continue to honor the history of the school, and avoid using words like at another school I worked…”
  3. By now, you have a good read on your faculty and have identified teachers who have a passion for knowledge and “upping their game”. Encourage them to take measured risks and support them as they will help those more fearful of change to adjust to new pedagogies.
  4. Relationships matter. Focus on building community and never ever forget to admit when you are wrong or hold your ground when it is right for the children to do so.
  5. Research indicates a direct link between classroom management and academic success. Never stop practicing MBWA (Management by Walking Around), be visible in the hallways, dining facilities, playground and of course a mentor to new teachers.
  6. Keep your eye on the goal – the  SMART Goals and be prepared to measure the effectiveness of your year in relationship to the goals.
  7. Test scores, test scores, test scores…be creative and innovative, work with teachers to conduct formal and informal student assessments in all academic disciplines but particularly focused on increasing students performance in Math and ELA.
  8. Model behaviors and be sure your staff perceives you as a lifelong learner. Staff meetings should be professional development opportunities not just informational monologues
  9. As you gather with the students and parents for first Friday liturgy, remind them that this is a school and Church built by God, it is HIS House and the more time that they spend in it and get to know Him and love Him the happier they will be.”
  10. Remember to manage up – as well as down –  Keep your Pastor, Board, and  Superintendent in the loop. Each is a great resource. Consult with them regularly and be sure to share both triumphs and tribulations.
  11. Keep a professional journal. It will be a great resource for you and will empower your growth as a school leader in service to the Church.

 

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, make memories and be joyful as you are an important partner in Our Father’s business.

10 Leadership Lessons from Steven Virgadamo

  1. Listen without interrupting. (Proverbs 18)

  2. Speak without accusing (James 1:19)

  3. Give without sparing. (Proverbs 21:26)

  4. Answer without arguing. (Proverbs 17:1)

  5. Pray without ceasing. (Colossians 1:9)

  6. Share without pretending. (Ephesians 4:15)

  7. Enjoy without complaint. (Philippians 2:14)

  8. Trust without wavering. (Corinthians 13:7)

  9. Forgive without punishing. (Colossians 3:13)

  10. Promise without forgetting. (Proverbs 13:12)

Steve Virgadamo & Bursari

Some say the Catholic Church is in decline and yet others say it is a Church in hospice. It is true that the U.S. Church has experienced a 3% decline in the last ten years confirmed by two massive PEW studies, and a decline in religious vocations, but don’t be too quick to rush to judgement without examining the data. Most Church closures are old inner-city parishes where the demographics changed. in the 1800’s, many inner city parishes were established in close proximity as each was founded to minister to a specific immigrant population. Today, 49% of Catholic adults have a graduate college degree, have an above average income and few experience extended periods of unemployment. Most do not live in the inner cities.

 

Catholics in suburban parishes are doing just fine and, prior to the pandemic, there had been no aggregate decline in the number of baptized Catholics attending Mass in the last 50 years. These demographics correlate neatly with Catholic fertility rates. The aggregate baptized Catholic population, over decades, fluctuates between 23% to 27% of the U.S. population.

 

The Church has a mission of evangelization. Part of that mission is fulfilled through the operation of Catholic schools The Church supports economic justice for all and maintains the presence of Catholic schools in the inner cities. These schools serve the urban poor and often the new immigrant populations, because education is a path to breaking a cycle of poverty.

 

For the Catholic church to continue to prosper in its mission, church and school leaders need to adopt the best practices in management, finance, communication and leadership formation. Integrated, powerful solutions which pay attention to the interplay between what is uniquely Catholic in an organization’s culture, and the 21st century tools which help Catholic schools and parishes implement the best practices in their temporal affairs, are needed today more than ever. 

 

 Steven Virgadamo, a long time advocate for the Catholic church to establish performance standards in areas of management, finance, human resources and communication, says: “Bursari, the next generation transaction processing platform powered by Fiserv, is one of the best financial practices to come available for Catholic schools and parishes in quite some time.”

 

For those of you who have not already joined the many satisfied users, we strongly urge you to visit Bursari.com to sign up today, or to call or write Steven Virgadamo at 855-963-3220 or Steve.Virgadamo@Bursari.com.

Top Catholic High Schools in the United States

Many people trust Catholic high schools to give their children the highest level of education mixed with religion. These schools are built to fit your needs and provide education towards the next level of life. We’ve got a list of some of the top Catholic high schools.

 

Cistercian Preparatory School; Dallas, TX

 

Cistercian Preparatory School was founded in 1962 as a Roman Catholic school. Many of the courses at the middle school level cover subjects usually taught at the high school level. The upper school curriculum keeps students on the educational track.

 

Regis High School; New York

 

This private Jesuit university-preparatory school was founded in 1914. The Regis High School program is based on a basic liberal arts curriculum. Students choose a language to study to help them have a multi-faceted education. All of the courses offered at Regis are extensive and accelerated.

 

Saint Louis Priory School; St. Louis, Missouri

 

This Roman Catholic secondary day school was founded in 1955. Students are offered over a dozen advanced placement courses, all shaped by the Benedictine order’s tradition of Christian humanism. The St. Louis Priory School focuses on Roman Catholic theology.

 

Delbarton School; Morristown, NJ

 

The Delbarton School is an all-male private Roman Catholic college preparatory school. Founded in 1939, this private school offers 24 Advanced Placement courses. This school is a host site for the NJ Seeds’ young scholar’s program. This program allows academically qualified, yet economically disadvantaged students to attend class on the campus.

 

Loyola High School; Los Angeles, CA

 

The Loyola High School of Los Angeles was founded in 1865. For over a century, the Jesuit preparatory school has been preparing students to enter the working world. This school takes students from over 200 zip codes in the LA area. It has a large focus on service projects and is also known for its athletics success.

 

Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart; Lake Forest, Illinois

 

Founded in 1858, Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart is a school exclusively for young women. Its curriculum is flexible and does not confine the students to a certain level for many courses. This strong academic program provides the best education for young women.

The Fall Semester – Student Nutrition and Scholarly Performance

By the time late September rolls around many parents are frustrated that an elementary school child is not eating well at school. Many have already succumbed to that ever-tempting “lunchables” and a bag of chips. Never forget that a child’s meal is a building block to their health and academic success in school.

Here are a few tips to packing a nutritious lunch that kids love;

  1. If you are packing a sandwich, use whole grain bread. The bread must have 3 or more grams of pure fiber to be“true” whole grain bread.
  2. Package the lunch to look like the popular off the shelf items like “lunchables.” Cut sandwiches into fun shapes like hearts and flowers.
  3. If your scholar won’t eat a sandwich try nutrient dense muffins. You take any basic muffin recipe, use gluten free flour and coconut sugar. Add veggies like Carrots etc.
  4. Be sure to include fruit like grapes, apples and bananas.
  5. Make a trail mix – nut free of course – but you can include things like raisins, dried apples, berries and you can even add some dark organic chocolate chips.
  6. Ditch the Juice and replace with water. Add some food coloring if you need to make a more desirable presentation.

Meals rich in fiber are proven to satisfy hunger which will allow young scholars to focus better on school work. Whole foods for scholars will instill overall well-being and lifelong healthy eating habits. Most importantly, practice what you preach. If your children see you eating well, they too will grow up eating well.

How to Develop Empathy in Children

Empathy isn’t always taught in schools, but in a lot of ways, it’s one of the most valuable lessons that a child can learn. Learning empathy helps a child show compassion for others, understand that everyone has a unique perspective, keep judgmental thoughts to a minimum, and grow into a healthy, compassionate adult that others can look up to. As with anything else, it’s best to start teaching empathy as early as possible. Here’s a few ways that parents can instill a sense of empathy in their children.

1. Teach Children About Their Emotions

One of the best ways to teach children to be empathetic is to help them understand their emotions, so they can later recognize those same emotions in others. Parents can talk to their kids about feelings, help them recognize and identify their different emotions, and limit their screen time as much as possible. Spending hours in front of a screen instead of interacting with real people can stunt their empathy later in life.

2. Help Children Understand Perspective

It can be difficult for children to understand that everyone has a unique perspective. But if a parent starts teaching them as early as possible, it’ll be easier for them to grasp the concept later in life. Their parent can illustrate the concept by saying “How would you feel if someone did that to you?” when the child misbehaves. They can also relate the child’s experiences to others to help them understand what another person might be feeling. Parents should teach their children to “walk in the other person’s shoes” so they understand that everyone has a unique perspective on life, and shouldn’t be judged or condemned for seeing the world differently.

3. Teach Children the Importance of Morals

Instilling their children with a strong sense of right and wrong is one of the best ways to ensure their children will be healthy, compassionate adults. When a child understands that an injustice has taken place, they’ll feel compelled to help and do whatever it takes to make a change. Parents can teach their children about compassion in small ways by encouraging them to show manners, signing them up for volunteer activities, teaching them about the importance of friendship, and more.

Steve Virgadamo

Essential Factors for Effective School Leadership

Leadership is essential to the success of any school. Without proper leadership, there would be no one to plan out the route or direction that the school should be heading in, and there would be no one to guide the district down that path. Not everyone has the ability to be a leader, however, especially for a school. In order to lead a school effectively, there are certain factors people need to aspire toward achieving. Here are some of those factors.

 

Organizational Knowledge

 

The first step to effective leadership is having extensive knowledge of the instructional environment. You need to know what a student will need, the strengths and weaknesses of your fellow staff members, the different instructional programs available in the program, student data, and scheduling. 

 

Effective school leaders take all of this knowledge and turn it into the foundation that the school will be built upon, then move onto approaching the specifics of how the school will be run: how will they address their students’ needs? Who will all be part of the leadership teams necessary for running instructional programs? What programs, exactly, will be taught, and how will this help develop the education students are receiving?

 

Scheduling

 

To achieve a high level of performance, effective leaders will need to be able to schedule their schools for success. This can mainly be observed in what a student’s typical day will look like: when they’ll attend classes, how long the classes will last, how struggling students will be supported during the day, etc. Finalizing details like this will help maximize the number of available support staff at the school while making sure that there are no restraints on necessary resources—this is particularly crucial if the school district is struggling monetarily. 

 

Outside of the school day, scheduling data meetings should be a high priority for school leaders. These meetings will impact how instruction is taught at the school, so it’s important for leadership to allocate time and resources where necessary (one example being hiring substitute teachers). 

 

There are, of course, many other factors that contribute to effective school leadership: using data collected and making decisions based on the facts, having high expectations and positive beliefs that reflect on the culture of the school, and much more. Though aiming for these factors will contribute to a successfully run school, no one expects one person to have all of the answers. It’s a matter of asking the right questions, turning to others for help, sharing a sense of ownership in the problem, and sharing a sense of ownership in the solution that makes someone the best leader that they can be.