Catholic School Matters

April 19, 2020

Trauma & Faith

I came across an insightful definition of trauma from therapist Lisa Olivera: “too much, too fast.” From Shawn Peck, an assistant principal in Minnesota, “It’s not the hard work or long days that’s wearing on me. It’s the constant feeling that I’m not doing enough.” Though I’ve never thought of myself as traumatized, I’m feeling the effects of too much, too fast and I’m seeing it all around me. And I think that the younger your children at home, the more stress you are feeling. The loneliness, break in routines, and uncertainty has significant effects on young children. If you have young kids, be patient with yourself. And all of us can be a little more forgiving and more kind to those with young children at home. This great article from Mind/Shift helped me wrap my head around Trauma-Informed Instruction in a Remote Learning Environment. “It’s not a label but a lens” was my takeaway.

Don’t you find yourself, like Thomas the Apostle, full of unbelief. What does the future hold? Remember that doubt is not the opposite of faith. Certainty is. Faith means incorporating our doubt into our worldview. So let’s acknowledge our doubts about the future AND have faith that a resurrection awaits.

I came across a great HBR article entitled, “Is It Even Possible to Focus on Anything Right Now?” I initially laughed at the click-baitish headline but I read it and realized that it captures me right now—very disrupted in my routines and work flows, often jumping from one Zoom meeting to another, struggling to keep my attention focused on one thing for more than 10 minutes. Marc Pitman described it as the process of sowing seeds, not sure if they are going to land on fertile soil. My hope is that I’m not simply flailing in the dark.

I came across the extraordinary publication “An Open Letter to Independent School Leaders” from a couple of faculty members from Kennesaw State University who will be on the podcast soon. You really need to take time to read and digest this piece. The authors compare the current enrollment crisis to 2008 and give you food for thought for planning ahead. I’ve heard some dire warnings this week about levels of unemployment (30%), drops in parish income (25%), and projected drops in private school enrollment (33%). Look no further than the very real conversations going on in higher ed right now. Many colleges and universities are considering going totally on-line next year or at least the fall. This will disrupt many lives.

To that end, we’re seeing the first post-pandemic closures of Catholic schools. Nine schools announced closures this week. I’ve added them to the list of Catholic schools closing. We need to face the brutal facts and use it to be a call to action which is supported by Neal McCluskey’s “Private Schools Face an Existential Threat.” Dr. Susan Abelein is back with another great blog post challenging you to rethink budgeting and tuition. Last week, I offered this planning document and then John Galvan shared his pandemic planning document which is much more robust and comprehensive. Take, copy, share.

There is so much uncertainty now and we all are experiencing various levels of doubt, anxiety, and fear. What will school look like this fall? Will we have staggered classes, cohorts of students, requirements to wear masks and gloves, any athletics at all? No one knows. But we can plan for contingencies to try to reduce the trauma and take faith in the future.

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Dr. Tim Uhl

This edition of Catholic School Matters is sponsored by the Institute for School and Parish Development (ISPD), a national development consulting firm founded in 1989; ISPD works exclusively with Catholic schools, parishes, and dioceses. Through their consulting and teaching, the company helps strengthen Catholic institutions in the areas of strategic planning, revenue generation, enrollment management, people engagement, total stewardship, and educational courses and workshops. Contact information: Frank Donaldson, president; E-mail:; Phone: 504.491.2122; website:

For Your Reflection

Catholic Schools Closing

For the complete list of Catholic schools closing at the end of this school year, click here.

Educational Resources

Resource List

  1. ISPD has a great list of communication and advancement tips
  2. Meitler has put together a great list of resources
  3. NCEA Virtual resources

Here is a link to my curated list of Education, Technology, Religion, and Advancement free resources. I'll update daily!


What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. Leading With Soul: An Uncommon Journey of Spirit (2011) by Lee G. Bolman & Terrence E. Deal
    2. Stories that Stick: How Storytelling Can Captivate Customers, Influence Audiences, and Transform Your Business (2019) by Kindra Hall

    3. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (2012) by David Quammen.

    4. The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts (1992) by Gary Chapman

    5. Beyond Obedience and Abandonment: Toward a Theory of Dissent in Catholic Education (2012) by Graham P. McDonough

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Apr 13, 2020 "Road Map for the Next 6 Weeks"

            Apr 5, 2020 "What the Future Holds"

            Mar 29, 2020 "Managing Our New Reality"

            For previous newsletters, click this link

            Orchestrating Conflict

            Orchestrating Conflict: Case Studies in Catholic Leadership is now available on Amazon or on the Barnes & Noble site in print or e-book formats. 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.