Tag: papal

Make a New Year’s Resolution to Plan for Possible Taxmageddon

Pope To Youth: Find Jesus In Ecumenism

Pope To Youth: Find Jesus In Ecumenism

Note: This post is from catholictruthblog.com

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All the blether about youthful “restlessness” reminds me of the assumption, commonly heard in conversation, that all teenagers are rebellious. I questioned it when I was a teenager myself and I question it now. It seems designed to ignite rebellion in young people. And sadly, only a minority, seem to be mature enough to not want to be “restless” or “rebellious”.

Well Begun, Half Done: 10 Benefits of Catholic Education

Well Begun, Half Done: 10 Benefits of Catholic Education

Disability, Education, and Faith

“Each of us, sooner or later, is called to face — at times painfully — frailty and illness, both our own and those of others,” said Pope Francis on June 12th, when he gave a homily celebrating Mass for the Year of Mercy jubilee of the sick and persons with disabilities.


Celebrating love and solidarity over focus on physical perfection and hiding away those who do not fit a standard or idea as a way to make the world a better place, His Holiness also said “The world does not become better because only apparently ‘perfect’ — not to mention fake — people live there, but when human solidarity, mutual acceptance and respect increase.”


Assisted at the altar by several alter servers with Down Syndrome, the Mass took place in St. Peter’s Square, and showcased several other people with disabilities including a reading of Scripture written in Braille, and Pope Francis made clear that while limitations are part of being human, we don’t always understand that. We have this idea that “sick or disabled persons cannot be happy, since they cannot live the lifestyle held up by the culture of pleasure and entertainment.”


“In an age when care for one’s body has become an obsession and a big business, anything imperfect has to be hidden away, since it threatens the happiness and serenity of the privileged few and endangers the dominant model,” the pope said. “In some cases, we are even told that it is better to eliminate them as soon as possible, because they become an unacceptable economic burden in time of crisis.”


He goes on to talk about that those attitudes hindering the real meaning of life, which “has to do with accepting suffering and limitations,” and that those, the sick and weak, cast aside by society, are exactly the ones that Jesus loved most. Love is the only real path to being happy. “How many disabled and suffering persons open their hearts to life again as soon as they realize they are loved! How much love can well up in a heart simply with a smile!”


“Each one of us has a different way of understanding things. One understands one way and another in a different manner, but we can all know God.”


This is something I believe we must focus on in education as well. There are any number of issues facing children in health, access, and ability. But to truly teach a great and faith-based education, one must put accessibility and diversity at the forefront.
“Differences are a richness because I have something and you have something else and by putting the two together we have something more beautiful, something greater,” the pope said. Diversity is not something to fear, but is “the path to improvement, to be more beautiful and richer.”

Common Core in Catholic Schools: The Big Debate

There has been a lot of talk in secular and nonsecular schools, both public and private, about the Common Core learning standards set in public schools. Private schools are not obligated to use the Common Core standards, while public schools do not have the option. Initially, about half of the 195 diocese in the United States adopted Common Core at the initial roll-out, but we are seeing more and more Catholic Schools opt-out of Common Core practices as time goes on. Why?

There are letters upon letters online and in publications about Common Core and how it relates to the Catholic faith, but education centers around so much more than English and math. It is up to the families, the parents, and the communities as well as the schools in the church to raise children in the faith. Faith based curriculum can live alongside many methods of teaching math and English in schools. While there are many positive things to be said about Common Core Curriculum, there are also many detractors. Can Catholic schools work standardized curriculum into a well rounded Catholic identity?

It is no secret here that Catholic schools have performed exceptionally in academic success, with statistically astounding rates of graduation (students from Catholic schools are twice as likely to graduate college with a Bachelor’s degree when compared to children who graduate public high school) and that, comparatively, virtually no students drop out of Catholic School compare with the rates of public and non-Catholic private schools. Does Common Core improve or detract from these impressive stats?

Common Core often uses more creative, artistic/hands-on, and spatial parts of the brain to teach concepts that standard math textbooks often did not. It is immersive and rigorous, enforcing more critical thinking and allowing for less “guessing” work. It is more collaborative and encourages discussing problems to solutions to work them out. It is also specially designed for advancing equity amongst children from all backgrounds, being held to the same methods, taught the same way, regardless of city, state, affluence, or previous knowledge, and allows teachers to serve students more equally, with less room for favoritism or inequality in teacher. The consistency allows for flexibility in moving schools, and later entering college with the security of having the same baseline information wealth as your peers. It can also be a feather in the cap of an already well-performing school who can now perform just as well, but now has hard, statistical data of success.

Detractors for Common Core (particularly in Catholic education) are concerned that focus on keeping up pressure on math and English scores in Common Core will push faith to the wayside in classes. There is concern that a constant focus on taking tests and “test prep” throughout the year does not educate children, merely sends them through an endless cycle of “absorb and regurgitate” and does not leave lasting educational foundations. There has also been a lot of discussion in secular and nonsecular schools alike, that the age at which Common Core starts for children is too young when compared with the complexity of the problem-solving, leading more children to feel overwhelmed and under-equipped for the work and phobic about those subjects later on in life.

There is also the factor of losing students to public, private, and charter schools, which has been a concern in Catholic education for quite some time. Do you avoid Common Core curriculum in order to potentially attract the parents and students who are unhappy with Common Core Standards in public schools, or do you use Common Core for the exact opposite reason, proving the tuition bills are worth it, and that your school is competitive with any other school academically?

Many Catholic schools are opting in for partial Common Core participation, with a focus on end of the year tests to make sure that children are meeting the standards, with few to no tests in between and much less focus in the classroom curriculum on the standards themselves. Because private schools are not beholden to the Common Core standards, they are able to pick and choose more freely in the amount of Common Core being taught, in order to not leave any stone unturned.

In this 2013 letter printed in the Washington Post, 132 Catholic professors wrote a letter which was sent individually to each bishop in the United States, beseeching them to help course-correct education in Catholic schools and universities across the country. From the letter: “In fact, we are convinced that Common Core is so deeply flawed that it should not be adopted by Catholic schools which have yet to approve it, and that those schools which have already endorsed it should seek an orderly withdrawal now.” “We find persuasive the critiques of educational experts (such as James Milgram, professor emeritus of mathematics at Stanford University, and Sandra Stotsky, professor emerita of education at the University of Arkansas) who have studied Common Core, and who judge it to be a step backwards. We endorse their judgment that this “reform” is really a radical shift in emphasis, goals, and expectations for K-12 education, with the result that Common Core-educated children will not be prepared to do authentic college work. Even supporters of Common Core admit that it is geared to prepare children only for community-college-level studies.”

In March 2014 Bishop David Zubek sent a letter assuring parents and educators that the Diocese of Pittsburg is not using the Common Core State Standards in any of it’s schools. “The Common Core is a set of minimum standards, intended to help public schools with their effort to prepare students for higher education and the workforce,” wrote Bishop Zubik. “Schools in the Diocese of Pittsburgh have always set higher standards, and we continue to challenge students to exceed those standards.”

Kathleen Porter-Magee, Superintendent of Partnership Schools, a group of six urban Catholic Schools residing in Harlem and the South Bronx in NY has decided that the dangers of opting out as a school greatly outweigh the arguments against Common Core. Her schools choose to utilize the curriculum to it’s fullest, ensuring that they standards they hold for the students are kept high and regularly achieved. She speaks about the John Hopkins study on race biasing the expectations teachers have of student’s academic achievement. She believes that the benefit of bias-free benchmark testing, and that many of complaints against frequent testing are really masking the root of the issue: the problem lies in poor implementation decisions from school faculty.

In the end, it is up to the schools, the faculty and leaders, and the Diocese to determine the best fit for their schools. Catholic schools have the privilege to make that choice rather than by mandate. I believe that a school soundly based in faith, with a focus on academic achievement alongside spiritual growth will raise children to be devout and whole in mind, body, and spirit, regardless of the implementation of Common Core State Standards.

Rev. Bechina to Give Vatican Lecture at University of Notre Dame

Reverend Friedrich Bechina, F.S.O. is the undersecretary of the Vatican’s Pontifical Congregation for Catholic Education. It has had many names and forms in the past, with the “Congregatio pro universitate studii romani” being founded in 1588 by Pope Sixtus V. In it’s current form, The Congregation for Catholic Education is the Pontifical congregation of the Roman Curia responsible for: universities, faculties, institutes and higher schools of study, either ecclesial or non-ecclesiastical dependent on ecclesial persons; and schools and educational institutes depending on ecclesiastical authorities.

Rev. Bechina will being giving the 2016 Keeley Vatican Lecture titled “The Holy See’s Higher Education Policy from St. John Paul II to Pope Francis” at the University of Notre Dame on April 6th. Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C, president of the University will begin by introducing him. “I have been working for the Congregation for Catholic Education for more than 12 years. Next to the daily work in the office, I have gotten to know the world of higher education and universities through a hundred “business trips” and many contacts. Now I am jointly responsible for the management and the organization of the internal work and the contacts with more than 2500 Catholic institutions of higher education.” Said Rev. Bechina.

Friedrich Bechina is a native of Vienna in Austria. He has served as an officer in the Austrian army, and studied economics, philosophy, and theology first in Vienna, following that with an education at the Gregorian Pontifical University in Rome, where he earned a doctorate in 1997 for his doctoral thesis “The Church as the Family of God.”, for which had received much acclaim and awards. He also received the sacrament of ordination in the same year. He served in the Austrian Archdiocese of Feldkirch for many years before being appointed to the Congregation for Catholic Education and was then later appointed undersecretary. He is a former elected member of the Bologna Process Follow Up Group (BFUG, 2008/2009) and is currently elected member of the Bureau of the Steering Committee for Higher Education and Research (CDESR) at the Council of Europe.

The University of Notre Dame has said that he will not be the only visitor, but will also give the community and the school the opportunity to interact with other distinguished representatives from the Holy See and from significant dioceses in Europe. They are clearly thrilled to have his involvement and visit to the Notre Dame campus.

To get an idea for his speaking, you can view Father Bechina interviewed by students for the campus news program at Cabrini College about human trafficking:

All About National Catholic Schools Week

National Catholic Schools Week is a celebration that takes place every year in the U.S. Founded in 1974, National Catholic Schools Week begins the last week of January and runs through the entire week (this year it runs from Jan 31st until Feb 6th.) Each year has a theme and a focus for the week. The theme for 2016 is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge, and Service.”

While it varies from school to school, celebrations can include all manner of activities from Masses to open houses, curriculum for students, and getting students and schools involved with parishioners, families, and communities outside of the school. Some schools will participate in food drives for the needy, spirit days for the schools, liturgies, games with prizes, special Mass, and open houses to bring families into the school. The focus here in all areas of curriculum and community events is shining a light on the value that Catholic education can provide to young people and the church and community around it. From the academic excellence, and faith-based learning, Catholic schools all over the country boast great test scores, high school graduation rates, college attendances, and more.

While there are some challenges facing Catholic schools today with declining enrollments and school closures, there is so much to celebrate in our schools and churches. 32% of Catholic schools have waiting lists for admissions and new schools are opening everywhere. The enthusiasm, excellence, and benefit to the children, young adults, communities, and nation are immeasurable and exciting. Each day of the week has a daily theme for focus, teaching, and celebration during National Catholic Schools week, be it in your homes, schools, or church, and each day’s theme is different.

In addition, Wednesday is National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools, and Friday is Teacher and Principal Appreciation, which will fit nicely into the themes for the days of the week, so make sure to celebrate those, too! Use the hashtag #CSW16 to post about your activities to join in the conversation and fellowship on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, and see what others are doing nation-wide!

Sunday – In Our Parish

Monday – In Our Community

Tuesday – In Our Students

Wednesday – In Our Nation

Thursday – In Our Vocations

Friday – In Our Faculty, Staff, and Volunteers

Saturday – In Our Families


Year of Mercy Resources for Teachers.

The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is, under the leadership of His Holiness Pope Francis, a time for the Catholic Church to open it’s doors and hearts to the saving mercy of Christ. It began December 8th of this year, 2015, and runs through November 20th, 2016. Pope Francis is calling all Catholics to “find the joy rediscovering and rendering fruitful God’s mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time.” You can read a summary of the Papal Bull in which the Holy Father announced the Extraordinary Jubilee Year, but what does this mean for teachers? How can we include this in our curriculum and make it relevant for students of all ages and backgrounds? The following are some resources I have collected to help educate in the ways of mercy, from day-to-day relevance to a breakdown of the Corporal and Spiritual Works of mercy.


Below is a brief summary of the Corporal Works and Spiritual Works of Mercy, followed by a long list of links compiled to as a resource for teachers and students of all ages. It includes activities, lesson plans, creative talking points, and even some links to correlate works of Mercy to historical and current events outside of the Church.


What are the Corporal and Spiritual Works of mercy?

  • Pope Francis has asked us to rediscover the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Throughout the Gospels Jesus admonishes us to follow his example, an example that sets down tangible ways we might better serve our brothers and sisters in need. As its name implies, the Corporal Works are directed toward serving the body: corpus, in Latin, means “body.” While the Corporal Works of Mercy focus more on the needs of the body, the Spiritual Works focus on the needs of the soul. Just as we should help others with their physical needs, so too must we help them with their spiritual needs.


Seven Corporal Works of Mercy:

  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Clothe the naked
  • Shelter the homeless
  • Visit the sick
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead


Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy:

  • Admonish the sinner
  • Instruct the ignorant
  • Counsel the doubtful
  • Bear wrongs patiently
  • Forgive offenses willingly
  • Comfort the afflicted
  • Pray for the living and the dead


Year of Mercy Activities for Religious Education, Students, Reference, and Families:


Tools for Development

steve-virgadamo-catholic-school-ideasMy name is Steve Virgadamo as I am sure you know. I am the Associate Superintendent for Leadership at Archdiocese of New York. I have worked in Catholic education institutions for many years. That being said, I know how to properly motivate and mold students and faculty to be their best and develop into positive members of the Catholic community. Below you will find progressive tools for personal development. Enjoy!

Strategic Direction:

The best schools have a crystal clear purpose and direction. The students and faculty that comprise these schools also share this important trait. The schools have carefully picked specific criteria to further their highly acclaimed institution. There is no wave of the wand to magically make a school better but instead there are daily routines that work based on specific situations to improve the best practices of the organization. These organizations have a strong sense of leadership, strategy, and energy surrounding them which allow them to continually succeed. Its up to each school to develop best practices and test out different things.

Continuous Improvement:

The best in the business are never complacent with their actions. They are always looking for the next steps and ways to improve their organization. The future must be looked at on a constant basis and systems must be put in place to help achieve long-term goals. Regularly using enforced measurements and/or indicators will help in this thorough process. Focusing in on the areas of improvement and how to better the organization as a whole is of the utmost importance to the survival and forward progress of the school.

Cultivate Relationships:

The old phrase you scratch my back I scratch yours definitely applies to this tip. Cultivating strong bonds between other people and professionals is of the most important things a school can do. You never know who can help, or get the word out, or stand by you when things get tough. The best schools out there embrace service for all communities and the betterment of surrounding areas and looking to the future.

Thank you for reading!

-Steve Virgadamo