Catholic School Matters
February 9, 2020
R.I.P. Archbishop Brunett
Last month, retired Seattle Archbishop Alexander Brunett passed away at the age of 86. You can read a Seattle Times article about him here. When I read Thanks for the Feedback last year, I took to heart the author’s idea that we need to listen for the message behind feedback—even if it seems untrue, unfair, and/or poorly delivered. The authors brought me back to an unfortunate day in 2004 when I found myself in Archbishop Brunett’s office.
I had applied to be a principal and thought I was meeting with the Archbishop so he could confirm the search committee’s choice. But I soon found myself being interrogated about Catholic identity. Archbishop Brunett made his vision for Catholic identity very clear—more priestly vocations, crosses and other religious symbols widely visible, uniforms, and devotions. At that time, I saw those symbols as window dressing and not nearly important as every student having a personal encounter with Jesus, every student finding his/her own place in the world, religion classes being relevant, and all feeling called to holiness. I found myself defending Vatican II and questioned whether his vision was still relevant.
We were two ships passing in the night, each holding to our own version--either/or, black/white, and each of us maintaining that the other was wrong. We argued. He was offended that I refused to back down. It was my first face-to-face meeting with an archbishop who was MY archbishop at the time. He was condescending and insulting. I was shaken that my shepherd was accusing me of not being Catholic enough. However, he was partly right.
I didn’t listen for the feedback, didn’t appreciate his perspective, didn’t see that it wasn’t an “either/or” but a “both/and.” I didn’t need to be a martyr for the cause of Vatican II. I needed to listen to his concerns and respond accordingly. Reading Stone & Heen’s book forced me to reexamine that disappointing episode and mine it for lessons. I came to realize that my vision for Catholic identity wasn’t wrong, it just wasn’t the only vision.
Needless to say, I didn’t get the job. It was a bitterly disappointing day and caused me to question whether I really belonged as a Catholic school principal and a lay leader in the church. I wish I had learned the lessons of Thanks for the Feedback two decades ago so that I could have handled the disappointment better. Eventually, my resentment toward Archbishop Brunett dissipated as I grew to appreciate that his forceful personality led to many positive changes in the archdiocese.
Some lessons take a few years to really learn. I’m grateful for the lesson Archbishop Brunett taught me back in 2004 and I pray for his eternal rest.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines
The viral video of a Michigan public school forum on racism where a parent point blank asked a parent why they didn't remain in Mexico serves as a reminder that anti-immigration sentiment is picking up momentum. I was reminded of the Catholic high school in Orange was the site of an ugly incident involving a racist comment made about an Islamic family and the school received praise for expelling a student. Would you have done the same?
American Catholic School News
Catholic Schools Opening & Closing
- Diocese of Cleveland to close a Catholic school in Akron; St. Thomas Aquinas saved from closure due to donors
- Massachusetts Catholic high school to privatize
- 3 Connecticut Catholic schools to consolidate
- From earlier this school year:
- Catholic high school for Pensacola special needs teens opening this fall; 2 Pittsburgh Catholic schools will close and another 4 Catholic schools will merge into one school; Parents are rallying to save a Bethesda (MD) Catholic school; Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School on Long Island will close at the end of the year; The Archdiocese of Chicago announced 5 more Catholic schools will close; Small Erie Catholic school open since 1885 to close & two more to merge in regionalization plan; Small Maine Catholic school to close at end of year; Christ the King in Terrytown (LA) will close at end of year; Louisville (KY) Catholic school to close; Elgin (IL) Catholic School Consolidation plan announced; Marist HS (Bayonne, NY) to close at end of year; Plans are underway for new Stillwater (MN) Catholic high school; Diocese of Worchester to merge two Catholic high schools; Houma (LA) Catholic school to close; Canton (NY) Catholic school to close; Rolling Meadows (IL) Catholic school evaluated for closing; Two Diocese of Trenton schools scheduled to close; Rochester (NY) Catholic school to close at end of year; Diocese of Richmond HS scheduled to close at the end of the year; Archdiocese of Chicago announces consolidation of 3 Catholic schools on northwest side; Youngsville (LA) new school on hold
Teaching & Learning
What I'm Up To
This week I'll be in the office for the first couple of days, then I'll be traveling to Missoula and Great Falls for school meetings. Along the way, I'll be recording one podcast, try to hire a principal, join one Board meeting, continue researching our Discerning Catholic Worldviews project, and join a few video calls.
This week on the Catholic School Matters podcast I welcome two interesting guests to the podcast. Tim Bopp, the president of Holy Trinity HS in Chicago, explains his schools' unique mission and history as well as his leadership pathway. Then Dr. Quentin Wodon of the World Bank joins me to discuss his work supporting Catholic schools.
In case you missed it, the last episode of the podcast featured the Nashville Exchange. Jim McIntyre and I discuss how the conference began and what it will look like. Then Dr. Melodie Wyttenbach of the Roche Center at Boston College, one of the presenters at the Nashville Exchange, joins me to discuss her vision for the Roche Center and her pathway to leadership.
- Monday: Office (Helena)
- Tuesday: Office (Helena)
- Wednesday: Visit to Butte Catholic Schools
- Thursday: Great Falls meetings & St. Paul Board meeting (virtual)
- Friday: Office (Helena)
Miles this week: 426 road miles
Miles travelled in 2019-20: 21,209 road miles; 28,265 air miles
What I'm Reading
The Last 5 Books:
- The Way of Fuzzy Faith (2019) by Michael Quillin
Immortal Diamond: Searching for Our True Self (2013) by Richard Rohr
How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing (2014) by Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal
The Leadership Paradox: Balancing Logic and Artistry (1994) by Terrence E. Deal & Kent D. Peterson
Models of the Church (2002) by Avery Cardinal Dulles
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
For Montana Administrators & Teachers
- Here is a link from the Feb 4th Virtual Admin meeting.
- For the March 3rd meeting, school leaders are challenged to come up with a 1-minute story about a parent who went from oppositional to supportive
Past Issues of Catholic School Matters
Feb 2, 2020 "The Nashville Exchange"
Jan 26, 2020 "Learning from our Elders"
Jan 12, 2020 "Shaping School Culture"
Jan 5, 2020 "Timelessness"
Nov 24, 2019 "Best of the Fall"
Nov 17, 2019 "Synodality"
Nov 3, 2019 "Finance Best Practices"
Oct 27, 2019 "Blaine Amendments"
Oct 20, 2019 "Community & Belongingness"
Oct 13, 2019 Sr. Angie's Lawlapalooza
Oct 6, 2019 "River of Fire"
Sep 29, 2019 "Male and Female He Created Them"
Sep 22, 2019 "Surveying Catholic Culture"
Sep 15, 2019 "New Catholic Schools"
Sep 8, 2019 "The Mustard Seed Project"