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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.

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.

Teaching Easter in Classrooms

Easter is the culmination of the most important week in the Christian calendar, and marks the grand, triumphant culmination of the season of Lent.

 

Although Easter is commonly associated with bunnies and eggs, chicks and flowers, the true meaning of Easter centers on the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. When teaching Easter in the classroom, it is a good idea to strike a clean balance between these two contrasting themes.

 

The colorful pastels and baby animals of Easter are playful and friendly for young students, but teachers should not neglect to tell the story of Jesus and his amazing gift to humanity.

 

In the days leading up to Easter, it is common to read from the Bible the appropriate events pertaining to Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his subsequent betrayal, and his crucifixion on the Cross.

 

Reading directly from the Bible is appropriate for older students, but younger ones may have a difficult time responding to the formal language of the Scriptures. Find a careful translation of the relevant Bible accounts in a language easy for young students to understand.

 

Another thing you can do is engage your students in a discussion. Ask them questions about what Jesus death and resurrection mean to them. In the days leading up to Easter (possibly on the Friday before), arrange a slideshow of the Stations of the Cross and ask them to explain what is happening, if they can.

 

Of course, Easter should be a fun and exciting day as well. Perhaps you could stage an Easter egg hunt in the classroom, or simply bring in some candy to share. If you have kids, especially younger ones, you could print off a collection of images and allow them to pick their favorite ones to color.

 

Many of these examples primarily pertain to younger students. What can you do to engage high schoolers in a holiday that is often geared towards children? Encourage your students to write. Perhaps they could write about what Jesus’ sacrifice means to them personally. Another idea would be to have them reflect on how they have changed and grown from children to young adults. Perhaps incorporate some reflective music and some meditation.

 

These are just a few ideas. The links below will refer you to all the resources cited above and a few more.

 

Resources:

Pinterest for Catholic Teachers

Not too long ago I did a summary of some resources found around the web for Catholic educators. One of the resources linked to was Pinterest, but I felt as though the brief summary didn’t get it’s due for how useful Pinterest can be to teachers and faculty in classrooms of all ages.

 

What is Pinterest? Think of your home corkboard, a place where you pin up recipes found in magazines, pictures, to-do lists, and inspiration. Pinterest is a digital, collaborative version of that board. It is an incredible wealth of creative and inspiring projects, insights, and wisdom. Pinterest consists of visual bookmarks, called “pins”, as links to websites, blogs, and articles, attached with a picture. You can sort “pins” into “boards” that you create and label. You can have boards for different grades, different holidays, different lesson plans, and more. Visual, easy, and intuitive to use, it is an excellent resource that you are sure to pick up quickly.

 

Technology in the classroom is a constant discussion in all schools, and Pinterest is a great example of ways to utilize it. This blog from Kelly Kraus on the National Catholic Educators Association webpage even talks of creating an account on Pinterest that the entire class has access to, in order for students to share ideas and resources for projects together in one place.

 

With the success of C3 (Catholic Communication Collaboration – a conference for Catholic teachers, parish staff, and educators about technology and it’s uses in a Catholic education) growing every year in attendance and in offerings, this conversation is becoming ever more relevant.

 

Pinterest has become an important venue for professional development for thousands of teachers. Teaching tips, lesson plans, craft projects, source material research, and even classroom decoration can be found on Pinterest. There are tips for teaching math to dyslexic or visual learners, to middle school science lessons, to ways to teach math concepts through dance moves.

 

When professional development training varies drastically based on school, and may be too rigorous on classical teaching while leaving creative ideas behind, or focus too much on inclusivity of the children’s learning styles while not focusing on concrete lesson plans, Pinterest is a great “There when you need it” well to draw from for just about any kind of teaching issue. It is by no means a replacement for lack of teacher education and development, but as an educator, Pinterest might just be the most inspiration available in one place.
Back to Kelly Kraus, who says: “Another thing I love about Pinterest is the material provided when searching for specific lesson ideas. A quick search for a lesson subject, such as “Good Samaritan,” showcases lessons for Catholic classrooms, as well as lessons from other faith traditions. These activities and lesson plans can serve as guides for catechists to create lessons that are specific to their classrooms and their lesson plan objectives.”

LEADERSHIP and VISION CRITICAL TO SCHOOL SUCCESS

Proverbs 29:18 clearly states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  All memorable achievements are brought about by leaders with a vision.

Each year as Catholic school leaders prepare for the new year, the successful ones recognizes that flying is not enough.  These leaders know that it is God’s work they do and to just fly is not enough, as they need to soar. To soar requires school leaders to establish and articulate an inspirational vision for their school. God uses visions to excite school leaders because excited leaders motivate teachers and staff to exceed their comfort zones. I’ve seen it with my own eyes – with vision, teachers feel empowered and vibrant. And when teachers are empowered and vibrant, student achievement increases exponentially.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak with newly hired  teachers in the Archdiocese of New York – many of them are first time teachers. I spoke to them about the Trinitarian aspects of a Catholic School and how successful Catholic schools are about relationships – relationships – relationships.  By the time the day was done, some the cohort of new teachers adopted a mantra of “Not Under my Watch.” Imagine nearly several dozen new Catholic school teachers being asked:

  • Will it be said that in your classroom children were denied an opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ?

 

  • Will it be said that the test scores of your children declined during the 2016-2017 school year?

 

  • Will students in your classroom withdraw from school because parents are dissatisfied with your willingness to partner with them on behalf of their child’s education?

 

And all responding with an unequivocal – “Not Under My Watch.”

 

Teaching is a noble profession! Nobility includes in its meaning the very notion of beautiful. Therefore, noble work is beautiful work. But what is beautiful can be sullied. While working at the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Program I was often presented with opportunities to speak with new Catholic school teachers. Below are some of the thoughts I would share with them in an attempt to help each new teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his/her own vocation as a Catholic school teacher. I provide you with them today so that Catholic school leaders everywhere can use as appropriate in sharing with new teachers.  Some of the thoughts might be good for veteran teachers to hear again as well.

 

14 TIPS FOR CATHOLIC SCHOOL TEACHERS

  1. Put your own oxygen mask on first and stay close to the Lord. Throughout your career, you will experience crises of confidence, exasperation, frustration, unreasonable parents, troubled students, bad classes, poor liturgies. You will be misquoted, misrepresented and for some periods of time, mistrusted. But you will also get the unparalleled gift to see the world with wonder again, through the eyes of young people. You will be made a confidante by a young person seeking advice, feel the joy of a weak student who does well on an assignment, cheer for your students in athletic contests, beam with a near parents’ pride as your students graduate. To keep yourself rooted, to keep your ideas fresh, to be the kind of faithful person our young people need to see firsthand, stay close to the Lord, both in your daily prayer and in the reception of the sacraments. If you do, the Lord will bless you in your work and you will go to bed each night exhausted, but with a smile on your face.

 

  1. Be yourself.  If you’re young, you’ve probably never been called Mr. Jones or Ms. Smith, and that will take some getting used to.  But you can be yourself within this role. I have never agreed with the maxim “Don’t let them see you smile until Thanksgiving.”  The fact is, students respond better to authenticity. It’s OK to laugh at something the students say which is amusing—in fact, it’s quite disarming to them. It’s OK to let the students see you having fun. 

 

  1. Admit your mistakes and learn from them. Zero in on your strengths, not your weaknesses. (Remember — nobody’s perfect!) Principals also suffer from human frailty and need time to learn. School leaders need to be supported not weakened by behavior which is destructive to the Catholic School community.
  2. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the students. So learn how to spell the word “concupiscence”. Concupiscence is a tendency to put yourself first. Only divine grace enables us to rise above it. But unless you declare war on it, you are bound to succumb to the illusion that teaching is all about you.
  3. Be professional. Model desired attitudes and behavior. Make sure you dress in professional attire. Remember that you teach students first, and then you teach whatever academic discipline you learned. You are a role model for the children and partner with the parents in the formation of each child.  
  4. Empower your students and engage them in the teaching/learning process.  Listen — both to what the kids are saying and to what they’re not saying. Make sure  that assessments are frequent and fair, that work is graded in a timely fashion, and that classes are well prepared and taught from beginning to end  – every minute matters!
  5. Don’t “go it alone.” Get to know all the teachers in your school and make friends with the cooks, custodians, aides, and secretaries. We are all formators of children, just each with a different role to play. Volunteer to share projects and ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask others to share their ideas with you. Understand that the learning process involves everyone — teachers, students, colleagues, and parents — and get everyone involved. Seek the advice of your colleagues, share your frustrations with them, and ask questions. Remember we are promised that whenever two or more are gathered in His name that he will be with us to enlighten and guide us.
  6. Dive in! Don’t be a person who clocks in at 7:30 and clocks out at 4 each day. Come to afterschool activities. Nothing connects you with your students faster than to be able to say “Nice hit,” or “great singing,” or “I was impressed with your artwork at the show.” You can’t be at everything; but make a point some days to just stop in at after school care to say hello.  You’ll see kids in a whole new light, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
  1. Pray for your students and their families. Your most important work is to bring a piece of heaven into the classroom with you. Think of your roll book as your prayer group. Never open it without praying for your young scholars and their families.
  2. Think before you speak; if you do, you won’t speak very often, for there is a great deal to think about in education. Have the courage to try something else if what you’re doing isn’t working.
  1. Thirty plus years from now, your students will not remember all that you taught them, but they will remember who you were and how you treated them You have a choice to become a minister of justice or an angel of peace. Be an angel of peace.
  2. All the knowledge we give our students is in vain if they receive it without knowing they are good and loved by God. Each day is an opportunity to channel the divine love. Don’t waste an opportunity to do so. Every minute counts!
  3. Keep a journal and take pictures. Some highly regarded Catholic school teachers share excerpts from their journal and images from the week with parents in a weekly email blast.
  4. Remember that a good day is not necessarily smooth, painless and hassle free.

May God bless you during these last days of summer especially as you formulate a vision for your school and work with teachers to prepare for the return of our young scholars and saints in formation.

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.”

Bullying in Catholic Schools

Bullying in schools is as much a problem today as it has ever been. Perhaps even moreso than it used to be. But how do Catholic schools handle the problem? How do you teach and reprimand in the Catholic way? In the last few years, there has been an increase in a technique called Virtue-Based Restorative Discipline. “This faith-filled approach to addressing bullying and other disruptive behaviors stands as an exemplary model for our parishes, homes and schools.” says Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis

 

Designed to minimize the anti-social behaviors that can so often cause problems in schools, while simultaneously increase faith practices. Developed in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, it focuses on the root cause of bullying and other harmful behaviors, rather than punitive repercussions after the fact. It focuses on inspiring children to perform acts of kindness, lay a foundation of spirituality in children and parents alike, helping teachers to recognize and understand warning signs, and create accountability and responsibility for preventing and solving conflicts with the children themselves.

 

And rather than just focusing on addressing the issues of bullying, it focuses instead on leading a life in the way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, a better, kinder way of living. By asking children “How do you see the God in others?” you take them out of their own mindset and immediate circumstances and lead them towards a more forgiving and generous way of thinking.

 

The Catholic Education Office offers training in this program now, and over 200 educators from the Archdiocese of St. Louis and seven other surrounding states can attend comprehensive training in VBRD, School teams will be trained to prevent and reduce antisocial behaviors through virtue education and restorative practices, resulting in a consistent message that upholds the dignity of the human person. “This is our fourth year for this unique training,” said Lynne Lang, director of School Climate at the Catholic Education Office. “Our returning schools are a testimony to the success of this work and reflective of the archdiocesan beONE initiative goals.”

 

For a full list of resources on this program, visit VirtueBase.org for books and press that can help you bring this into your own classrooms and schools. You can also look there for information on keynote presentations for diocesan retreats, workshops, training services, or presentations for faculty, parents, or students at that same website.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0DdUTXFU4sg