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

Big picture

Case Studies Ripped from the Headlines

In this section, I present a Catholic school controversy in the headlines. I don't mean to single out one school or criticize its leaders. I want to present the story and offer you a few questions to consider in case this controversy lands on your desk this year. I encourage you to look at the particulars of the situation to understand the intricacies of the controversy.

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

Leadership Links

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.

Here is the link to the podcast. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on Apple podcasts and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

  • 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:

    1. The Way of Fuzzy Faith (2019) by Michael Quillin
    2. Immortal Diamond: Searching for Our True Self (2013) by Richard Rohr

    3. How Great Leaders Think: The Art of Reframing (2014) by Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal

    4. The Leadership Paradox: Balancing Logic and Artistry (1994) by Terrence E. Deal & Kent D. Peterson

    5. 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"

            The Nashville Exchange

            Join this first annual conference for Diocesan high school presidents. Presented by the Greeley Center, the conference promises to provide great professional development to presidents/heads of schools for diocesan Catholic schools. However, all are welcome! Special thanks to the Diocese of Nashville for hosting. Here is a link to the Nashville Exchange flyer and go to this link . Please go to for more information and to register.

            Orchestrating Conflict

            Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon. The book explores issues in Catholic school leadership and the tensions between building community and following Church policies and introduces deliberate practice as a method for leadership formation. This is my first book and has been an ongoing project for the past couple of years.