Tag: avoiding burnout

Not On My Watch

“Not on my watch” is the mantra of the  new Catholic School Principals mentored under Steven Virgadamo.

Test scores and enrollment will not decline, nor will the Catholic identity be curtailed in Catholic schools across the Archdiocese of New York, assure the 21 new elementary school principals as they embark on building up the Church through the schools and pupils entrusted to their care…”

According to Virgadamo, the homework has been done to adequately prepare for the inevitable generational shift in leadership that has become a reality.  Nearly seven years ago, with the help of benefactors, the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy was established. Virgadamo, the executive director, describes the academy as the equivalent of a naval war college for school leaders.

Fifty years ago, a sense of mission and identity in Catholic schools was taken for granted because the teachers came from the same religious community, Virgadamo noted. Thirty years ago, as the number of religious in the schools diminished, a new generation of lay school leaders emerged who were mentored and formed by members of the religious community who staffed the school. Today, programs such as the Curran Catholic School Leadership Academy are needed, he said, to prepare school leaders to create the same kind of unified school culture that ultimately becomes the charisma of the school.

More than 200 individuals from across the country applied for the 21  Catholic school principal positions in the archdiocese for this year, Virgadamo noted. Many cited the opportunity to be part of the team history will remember as those who rewrote the script of Catholic schools from a declining system to one which is growing and flourishing, he added.”

Keep Your Kids Catholic: Sharing Your Faith And Making It Stick

Note: This post is from The CatholicKey Online. Please check out this and more work over at their website!

Review by Scott McKellar

Marc Cardaronella, diocesan Director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute, has written a very timely book about the need for parents to share their faith with their children. The sad truth is that the majority of Catholic children will leave the church before the age of 21. As Catholic parents, this is not the outcome we hope for. What can be done?

Cardaronella suggest that there are three things we can do to avoid this outcome. First, secure your own faith. The example of our own faith as parents is essential. We cannot just passively expect the parish education program to do this job for us. If we value our own children’s faith, we will work on our own faith life. Cardaronella shares his own faith journey to illustrate how to grow in faith. The most essential component is to foster our own personal adherence or voluntary commitment to Christ. Only then can this be shared with our children. He notes, “The child must also be led to understand this great gift as a personal invitation to share in the Christian life. . . accepting the invitation leads to conversion” (p. 14). This theme is developed in detail in Part II of the book, “Is your own faith secure?” This section forms a kind of self-guided retreat on the condition of the heart. Cardaronella gives prayers and reflection questions and practical advice on how to deepen your personal faith.

The second component is to educate to foster faith. Very often parish education programs focus exclusively on passing on information about the faith. Clearly learning about the faith is important and it is necessary to gradually give our children a systematic understanding of the faith, but without a second component this type of learning can fall flat. Turning to Blessed John Henry Newman, Cardaronella suggests a different model which focuses on personal influence and witness. This theme is expanded in Part III, “What kind of education fosters faith.” Again giving the reader practical reflections, prayer questions and further resources Cardaronella highlights those aspects of learning that are crucial for developing faith. This section is divided into three topics. The first in understanding the Bible as the story of salvation. Cardaronella gives practical advice on how to approach the Bible and pass on the faith to our children. The second section involves the story of the liturgy in which he helps the reader to understand Mass and the liturgical year more deeply. He concludes this section with helpful guide to mentoring relationships.

The final component is to create a home of faith. Once again it is clear that Parish and school programs only have a tiny influence in our children’s lives. Our home is the primary influence. Cardaronella suggest four ways that parents are vital for passing on the faith to our children. The first is influence. Parents have far more effect on their children than they are aware of. Cardaronella notes, “If you want your children to grown up to be good Catholics, be one yourself! (p. 28). The second is to teach through relationship. Cardaronella notes that although parents might assume they are too “uncool” to teach their children, researchers have shown that even teen children are still listening and open to being taught even if they act uninterested. But in order to do this you need relationship with your children. The third vital parent behavior is to talk about faith. The experience of talking about our faith makes it something that is not vague but specific and challenging. Cardaronella warns “In order to articulate faith, you have to internalize it and understand the reasons why you believe it” (p. 31). We need to be open to honest discussions and not merely appeal to the rules. The final component is religious practices. Adolescent faith is activated through specific spiritual and religious practices. This theme is expanded in Part IV, “How to create an environment of faith?” In this section Cardaronella discusses the topics, ‘Training in godliness,’ ‘Seeking personal relationship with God,’ ‘Praying from the heart,’ and ‘Structuring life to support faith.’

A final important section involves helping your children to make an act of faith. Cardaronella applies the tools of evangelization to the family. What is the message of the Gospel and how do we present it to our children? He presents three different moments of Catholic commitment, the age of reason, early teens, and late teens.

Overall this is a very practical guide for parents that will help them to get the most out of their family faith experience. Each section of the book ends with reflections, prayers and applications that make the book a life changer.

Scott McKellar is associate director of the Bishop Helmsing Institute.


Catholic School Leaders Leaving it all on the Field of Play

Much has transpired since we opened this school year. Some great days, some challenging days and we have even witnessed some days of minor miracles. And yet for most Catholic school leaders, especially those who have already given everything they have, these last few months or weeks of school can seem like an eternity. No matter how hard you try to pace yourself, a Catholic school leader who is dedicated to giving teachers, students and parents their all, sometimes doesn’t have much left when May and June roll around. Every Catholic school leader needs to approach the end of the year in a way that works best for him or her. But then again, every Catholic school leader needs to remind themselves in May/June to not “spike the ball on the 5 yard line”. Every Catholic school leader will feel better about summer vacation if they know that they have left it all on the field as they cross the finish line of another academic year.

The following strategies are important all year round but even more important to help Catholic school leaders be more effective and focused on myriad professional demands during the last lap of the academic year:

Find Time for Yourself

Doing something that allows you to get away from education-related stuff is important. It’s great to have this hobby as a regular part of your life to keep your stress levels down over the course of the year. This hobby doesn’t have to be a solo activity. It could be something that you do with your spouse, friends, children, or whomever you want. The idea is devoting time to something (other than be a school administrator and minister) that makes you happy.

Partner with Another Catholic School Leader

It’s always good to have someone whom you can count on to be there for you when things get stressful. It’s even better if this someone is also a Catholic school leader, because he or she will have a better understanding of what you’re dealing with at the moment.. He or she can walk you through problems that would have been easy to deal with in September, but seem to be impossible by May. The other side of finding a teammate is being a teammate in return. As much as you receive, you’ll need to give as well. This might sound like more of the stress that’s been leading you to burnout, but helping others can actually make you feel great. It can also help you understand other problems that you deal with at school. Having a partner with whom you can share stressful situations helps prevent you from “crashing and burning.”.


Writing on a regular basis is a wonderful way to keep the fire burning throughout the school year. This can be in a private journal or on a blog for the world to see. Writing helps get ideas out of the head and safely memorialized. I often require new school leaders to journal in their first year of service and have even encouraged some to do so with a spouse as serving as a Catholic school leader is a family commitment. The writing process can be very powerful for people dealing with high levels of stress. Writing can sometimes provide a different perspective.


As the Jimmy Buffet song says, “if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.” Find the things that make you laugh and do them. The Mayo Clinic lists many of the positives of laughter when it comes to stress. The short-term benefit of laughter can “stimulate many organs, activate and relieve your stress response, and soothe tension.” The long-term impact of laughter can “improve your immune system, relieve pain, increase personal satisfaction, and improve your mood.”