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The Role of the Priest in Today's Catholic School Summer 2021 Conference

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See the recordings of the summer 2020 conference below! Scroll down to begin viewing the archived videos.

The Mission of the Catholic Education Foundation

Strengthening Catholic identity in our schools;
Teacher formation programs;
Recruitment and retention of quality educators through competitive compensation.

Lecture of Fr Stravinskas on the importance of Catholic schools delivered at the Evangelium Conference 2018 in Oxfordshire, England. Listen to "Fr. Peter Stravinskas, the President of the Catholic Education Foundation, talks about the Importance of Catholic Schools (Oxfordshire 2018)" on Spreaker.

Detroit Archbishop Allen Vigneron's Catechetical Day for Teachers. Address of Father Stravinskas to the Catholic school teachers of the Archdiocese of Detroit (August 14, 2018)

Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas - Catholic Identity - The CCMA Leadership Podcast

The latest installment in an ongoing interview series with contributing editor Mark Bauerlein. Peter Stravinskas joins Mark to discuss school choice and the Supreme Court’s decision in Espinoza v. Montana. The conversation is embedded below courtesy of First Things.

The Priest in Today’s Catholic School
2020 Seminar Videos
The Catholic Education Foundation invited bishops, priests and seminarians to participate in its sixth annual intensive and comprehensive three-day seminar.
July 14-16, 2020.

Welcome from Fr. Peter Stravinskas and Dean Maureen Gillette with Parental Reflections from Richard/Vera Hough & Lt. Christopher York
Session I: Catholic Schools in the Magisterium (Fr. Stravinskas; respondent, Sr. Elizabeth Anne Allen)
Session II: History & Identity of Catholic Schools in U.S. (Fr. Stravinskas; respondent: Br. Owen Sadlier)
Session III: Panel Discussion by Seminarians in the Catholic School Apostolate (respondent, Fr. Dennis McManus)
Session IVa: Administrators and Religious Talk about Priests in Our Schools (Dean Gillette, Kevin Kijewski, Bishop Arthur Kennedy, Mary Pat Donoghue, Sr. Mary Elizabeth Merriam, Michael Buell)
Session IVb: Administrators and Religious Talk about Priests in Our Schools (Sr. Elizabeth Anne, Thomas Carroll, Charles Taylor, Msgr. Joseph Schaedel)
Lunch (Presentation: School Safety, Lt. Christopher York)
Session V: Religion & Science in the Catholic Curriculum (Sr. Mary Elizabeth; respondent: Bishop Kennedy)
Session VI: The Priestly Presence (Fr. Christopher Peschel, Msgr. Sal Pilato, Bishop Kennedy, Msgr. Robert Batule)
Session VII: Priest as PR Agent (Fr. Stravinskas & Priest Faculty)
Session VIII: Guiding Your Teachers toward a Catholic Philosophy of Education (Br. Owen; respondent, Charles Taylor)
Session IX: School Choice Initiatives (Fr. Stravinskas, Shawn Peterson, Thomas Carroll)
Session X: Going Classical (Kevin Kijewski, Mary Pat Donoghue; respondents: Vera Hough, Fr. McManus)
Session XI: Financial Guidance for Pastors (Msgr. Pilato, Bishop Kennedy, Fr. Stravinskas, Msgr. Batule, Dr. Mario Enzler, Carlos de Quesada (Vera Cruz Advisory)))

The Role of the Priest in Today's Catholic School 2019
Seminar Videos
The Catholic Education Foundation invited bishops, priests and seminarians to participate in its fourth annual intensive and comprehensive three-day seminar.
July 16-19, 2019.

Session I: Catholic Schools in the Magisterium

(Due to a difficulty with the 2019 file, this segment was filmed in 2018.)

Session II: History and Identity of Catholic Schools in the U.S.
Session III: Administrators and Religious Talk about Priests in Our Catholic Schools
Session IV: Religion & Science in the Catholic Curriculum
Session V: The Priestly Presence
Session VI: Priest as a PR Agent
Session VII: Going Classical
Session VIII: School Choice Initiatives

Session IX: The Dumbest Generation

Session X: Guiding Your Teachers toward a Catholic Philosophy of Education

Session XI: Financial Guidance for Pastors

Session XII: Resources and Video Presentation on Virtue Education

Session XIII: Going to College in High School

Catholic Educator Magazine

The mission of  The Catholic Educator is to serve as a forum through which teachers, administrators and all others interested in Catholic education can share ideas and practices, as well as to highlight successful programs and initiatives to bring about a recovery of Catholic education in our times.

Interdependence Project

Catholic Elementary, Secondary Schools and Catholic Colleges: An Interdependent System
Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas
601 Buhler Court
Pine Beach, NJ 08741
Phone: (215) 327-5754

Catholic Education Foundation Launches Program to Promote Cooperation

Download press release

The Catholic Education Foundation announced today a new venture called “Catholic Elementary, Secondary Schools and Catholic Colleges: An Interdependent System,” in collaboration with The Cardinal Newman Society. The goal of this venture is to expand and strengthen the cooperation and relationship that Catholic elementary and secondary schools have with Catholic colleges.

Each element of the Catholic education system fulfills an indispensable aspect of the Church’s mandate to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. This new venture aims to make this mission more effective by developing concrete ways for each level to cooperate with the others.

One of the issues that will be addressed is how Catholic colleges can support the work of Catholic elementary and secondary schools. For many decades, Catholic grade schools and high schools have been effective and reliable feeders for Catholic colleges. A recent study from the University of Notre Dame suggests, however, that this support may not always be reciprocated. The study, Faith, Finances and the Future: The Notre Dame Study of U.S. Pastors found “that 66% of pastors did not perceive the mission of their school to be supported by Catholic institutions of higher education” (Quantitative Findings, 23). As a means of facilitating closer collaboration between Catholic high schools and colleges, the Catholic Education Foundation will be launching a new program called the “Interdependence Project.” The Cardinal Newman Society, a national organization to promote Catholic higher education, will assist efforts to pair solid Catholic high schools and colleges as a means of fostering their cooperation with each other.

Another aspect of this venture involves a focus on evaluating Catholic identity within the primary and secondary levels of the Catholic education system. The Catholic Education Foundation is initiating a program to help Catholic grade schools and high schools assess their commitment to sustaining a strong Catholic identity in every aspect of the life, work and witness of their schools.

To this end, the Catholic Education Foundation will be promoting a new instrument called the Catholic School Identity Assessment. This tool will be made available to any Catholic grade school or high school that is interested in assessing the level of Catholic identity in their school. This program will soon be piloted by schools in San Antonio, Boston, Colorado Springs and Youngstown. This tool will help the schools assess areas of strength and weakness regarding their Catholic identity both at a particular moment in time and over a period of time. Hence, it is a useful diagnostic instrument both for short-term assessment and longitudinally.

A final aspect of this venture involves an awareness campaign to educate the public on how many tax dollars Catholic schools save the government-supported education system. This campaign developed by the Catholic Education Foundation includes a plan to print bumper stickers that read: “My Catholic school saves taxpayers $$$.” Catholic schools can also order a yard sign that reads: “This Catholic school saves you $X per year in taxes.” The sign will bear the school’s name and logo; the number will be specific to the amount of money that particular Catholic school saves taxpayers based on its enrollment and the cost per student to educate students in that district’s public school system.

The ultimate goal is to pass legislation that would offer vouchers, tax credits or some other instrument to reduce the financial burden on those parents who wish to send their children to religiously-oriented schools. The Notre Dame study noted above urges: “State legislatures have to be moved to action, the Catholic community mobilized, public leaders made to take notice, and all stakeholders persuaded to see the civic value of supporting religious schools with tax dollars” (Recommendations, 49). The awareness campaign strongly supports these recommendations.

“The Catholic Education Foundation has done outstanding work toward renewing and strengthening Catholic elementary and secondary education,” said Mr. Patrick J. Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society. “We are thrilled to support this good work and the important cooperation of faithful Catholic colleges with our Catholic schools.”

Fr. Peter Stravinskas of the Catholic Education Foundation, noted the following: “The support of the Cardinal Newman Society is deeply appreciated and most encouraging, especially since what the Catholic Education Foundation is promoting at the present moment for our elementary and secondary schools is what the Cardinal Newman Society has been promoting for Catholic higher education for well over a decade.”

A blue-ribbon panel has been formed comprised of educational leaders in Catholic colleges and in elementary and secondary schools. Panelists include:

  • Sean Cardinal O’Malley, OFM Cap., Archbishop of Boston
  • The Reverend Michael Scanlan, TOR, Chancellor of Franciscan University of Steubenville
  • Noted author Mr. Kenneth Whitehead served in the Reagan administration as the Department of Education’s director of international education programs and later as deputy assistant secretary for higher-education programs, and then as assistant secretary for postsecondary education.
  • Sister Elizabeth Anne Allen, OP, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Aquinas College, Nashville, TN
  • Sr. Marie Pappas, C.R., Associate Superintendent for Mission Effectiveness, Archdiocese of New York
  • Dr. William Thierfelder, President of Belmont Abbey College, Belmont, NC

Catholic School Identity Assessment

“Evangelization is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14).

These words from Pope Paul VI perfectly summarize the core of the Church’s identity. She has been given the supreme privilege of proclaiming God’s message of love, mercy and salvation for His people. She is called to be the mediator of salvific grace to the world. Such gifts cannot be hidden. By its very nature they must be shared.

Throughout the centuries, the Church has developed many ways, many methods for evangelizing, for sharing God’s saving message and grace. One of the most effective is the Catholic School.

By nature and design, the Catholic School is equipped with the necessary tools for proclaiming the Gospel and ensuring that its students have every opportunity to accept this ineffable gift.

In contemporary society, the Church finds its mission and importance as salient as ever. People throughout the world hunger for God’s word and His grace through the Sacraments of the Church. Therefore, the Church expends significant resources to build schools to help people learn about God’s love so they might respond better to that love and ultimately share it with a world that needs it so desperately.

In our country, we have been blessed with a vast network of Catholic Schools that serve students at every conceivable level from preschool through postgraduate studies. Catholics expend great effort to ensure that these schools are well staffed and funded, are academically excellent and provide students with activities that help them become well-rounded persons. In fact, these aspects are so important to the well being of a Catholic School, ways have been developed to measure empirically a school’s progress and success in each of these critical areas.

However, none of the areas listed above (funding, academic excellence, and success in extracurricular activities) is the defining aspect of a Catholic school. Most schools strive to achieve success in these areas. The defining aspect of a Catholic School, that which separates it from every other kind of educational institution or enterprise, is its Catholic identity.

With the pervasiveness of religious indifferentism and incessant turmoil about the role of religion in our society, there is a greater need than ever today to ensure that our schools’ defining quality is assessed. Are Catholic Schools fulfilling their primary mission to proclaim faithfully the Gospel of Jesus Christ as taught by the Catholic Church?

Running a Catholic school today is challenging for many reasons. On the spiritual level, young Catholics are constantly confronted by values antithetical to those of the Church. This causes tension within young people, who are already struggling with issues of self-identity and looking for meaning in their lives.

That is why a Catholic School is perfectly positioned to provide the spiritual guidance that young people so greatly need and which they desperately seek. When a Catholic School fails in its mission to help students grow in love of God and others, the consequences can be disastrous.

The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education recognizes this reality by way of admonition and encouragement in its document Education in a Catholic School:

For some of today’s youth, the years spent in a Catholic school seem to have scarcely any effect. They seem to have negative attitudes toward all the various ways in which a Christian life is expressed—prayer, participation in the Mass, or frequenting of the Sacraments. Some even reject these expressions outright especially those associated with an institutional Church. If a school is excellent as an academic institution, but does not witness to authentic values, then both good pedagogy and a concern for pastoral care make it obvious that renewal is called for—not only in the content and methodology of religious instruction, but in the overall school planning which governs the whole process of formation of the students (19).

The Catholic Education Initiative endeavors to provide Catholic Schools with a means for evaluating and assessing the success of its primary mission. The tool it uses to accomplish this is the Catholic School Identity Assessment (CSIA).

The CSIA is an innovative program designed to provide a Catholic School with several options for assessing its Catholic identity. A school can choose from three levels of evaluation, depending on the depth of analysis it desires.

The goal is to provide the Catholic School a means for 1) self-reflection by its administration, faculty and staff on how each of them works to support the Catholic identity of the school, and 2) provide the school with feedback from an independent third-party using a standard, objective set of criteria. (Check out this helpful set of tools.)

Because these standards are uniform and objective, this allows the opportunity for a school to measure its progress longitudinally, to chart over the course of years how well it is adhering to its primary mission. As part of each assessment, CEI will offer the school a set of conceptual and concrete recommendations that can be reassessed periodically.

In essence, CEI wants to help Catholic Schools create an environment in which Catholic culture not only thrives but permeates every aspect of the school’s life. The CSIA can help Catholic Schools form a concrete plan of action for creating this environment, to give glory to God and help its students love God above all things and their neighbors as themselves.

The Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education sums it up perfectly this way:

From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics. The Council summed this up by speaking of an environment permeated with the gospel spirit of love and freedom (Education in a Catholic School, 25).

©2009 Catholic Education Initiative

Promoting Schools’ Catholic Identity Key to Their Survival, Leaders Say

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Promoting Catholic identity in Catholic high schools and elementary schools is not just a good thing to do but a necessary action for survival, according to speakers at a conference in Washington for Catholic school leaders.

The speakers noted candidly that the participants in the Oct. 2-4 conference at The Catholic University of America knew full well the challenges currently facing Catholic schools such as dwindling enrollments, rising expenses, and closures or threats to close.

But speakers at the “Catholic Identity of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools” conference also noted that these diocesan superintendents, college professors, high school principals and education researchers also are fully aware that Catholic schools have something unique to offer students that extends far beyond quality academics or even a faith-based education.

Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, N.J., and former president of Catholic University, stressed that the mission of Catholic schools is to “proclaim the good news” and provide a “place to encounter God.”

This has not changed, he said, “since Jesus told his disciples to go and teach all nations.”

The bishop stressed that the mission or Catholic identity aspect of Catholic schools is “not a mere add on” but something that is fundamental to their very existence and sets them apart from other schools.

If Catholic schools aren’t inspiring, engaging and changing lives, he said, they are “simply schools, that’s all.” Instead, they need to be places of learning that are “willing to educate and transmit faith in ways that are unambiguous.”

Bishop O’Connell noted that this kind of dedication isn’t just for religion classes either, but something that needs to take place throughout the curriculum, on the playground, and in faculty and parent meetings. He said teachers and administrators set this tone and thus advised school administrators to hire teachers who believe in the school’s mission and to follow up with faith formation training programs and support to these teachers during the year.

He also said bishops should be visiting the schools in their dioceses to make sure the “faith-oriented needs are met” and should make the decision to close a school only as a last resort.

During a question-and-answer session, the bishop was asked what schools could do when the Catholic identity that they highlight doesn’t seem to be something parents necessarily want.

The bishop responded by saying priests and other Catholic leaders need to “be shameless about promoting Catholic education.”

College leaders who spoke at the conference sponsored by Catholic University and St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., said they saw the link between the work of Catholic higher education and Catholic elementary and secondary schools.

There is a “kinship between our enterprises,” said John Garvey, president of Catholic University, who noted that all Catholic schools not only share the same mission but face the same challenges including the decline in the number of religious and the rising influence of secular trends.

Vincentian Father Donald Harrington, president of St. John’s University, noted that “for too long there has been a great divide between Catholic higher education and elementary and secondary schools.” He said “great things will happen” when these groups cooperate especially since they “share the sacred trust of educating young people.”

To this end, Catholic colleges are conducting studies on Catholic education, providing student mentors at Catholic schools and offering teacher training and leadership programs for Catholic school teachers. He said St. John’s also gives tuition discounts for applicants who are Catholic high school graduates.

Father Harrington noted that Catholic college leaders have thought long and hard about Catholic identity through their work in implementing “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” an apostolic constitution issued by Pope John Paul II that identifies the mission of Catholic higher education.

He said Catholic colleges should share their resources with their younger counterparts, “not out of charity but from the belief that this is important” and to “do all we can to support and continue Catholic education.”

Carol Zimmermann

October 5, 2011

Catholic News Service

The Catholic Education Foundation, Inc. is a 501(c)3 national non-profit organization formed to ensure a brighter future for Catholic education in the United States.

Catholic Education Foundation
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Pine Beach, New Jersey 08741
(732) 903-5213