Catholic School Matters
November 16, 2021
Leaves & snowflakes
As I write this, I’m watching the seasons intersect as the colorful autumn leaves fall alongside the large snowflakes of western New York. The conflict between the seasons is playing out in my backyard as I’m preparing to travel to Baltimore for tomorrow’s USCCB Committee on Education. It’s my final meeting after four years as a consultant and am preparing for our important work to be overshadowed by the communion controversy. This week you can expect to hear about the communion document and people will be quick to denounce or celebrate the document.
Like many, I’ve grown tired as church conflicts seem to following the same beats of our political discourse—name-calling, echo chambers, and fastidious proclamations of righteousness and condemnation. There doesn’t appear to be anything spiritual about these religious arguments and there doesn’t appear to be any common ground left. People seem satisfied to align themselves with one of two camps and reduce every question to either/or.
However, I want to lean in a bit because we seem to be missing the problem. Fewer than 25 percent of self-identified Catholics are attending Mass regularly and more baptized Catholics have renounced their affiliation. More than an attendance crisis, we’re seeing a sacramental crisis. It used be a discussion of marriages happening outside of Church. But we can look at declining rates of baptism, reconciliation, and confirmation. Even Catholic funerals are becoming rarer. Read a great discussion here of the context.
As Catholics de-prioritize sacraments and religious affiliation, we can expect that Catholic schools will also suffer. So how do we spark a renewal of faith? I don’t think it’s an either-or. I don’t think the question is “Should we narrow the criteria for participation, increase the requirements, and hope rigor becomes attractive?” and I also don’t think the answer is “open the doors and make sacraments accessible to anyone, anytime.” I’m not sure how to make participation in our faith more attractive, but I know it’s not choosing one side of every debate and condemning everyone who doesn’t believe in you.
It also seems important to listen to our pope when he warns against politicizing the Eucharist and calls it “nourishment for sinners.” This is the same pope who condemns abortion, after all, so we must allow that there are more than one way to solve this problem. And then we might find there are spaces in our church for those who oppose abortion as well as environmental destruction or for those who fight clericalism and human trafficking with the same fervor. And we need to allow that there are people who might advocate for abortion services or cutting social services to the poor but still deserve a seat at the table. There are more than two ways to think about the communion controversy and there are more than two ways of being a Catholic.
Want to keep up with the conversations surrounding Catholic education? Set up your own Google Alert, subscribe to this newsletter by clicking "follow," subscribe to the Catholic Schools Daily, or subscribe to the Catholic School Matters podcast.
Dr. Tim Uhl
If you'd like your school's open house listed on our website, please send to Cathryn.
The BPO shares in the disappointment that we will be unable to host our Catholic students at Kleinhans Music Hall this school year. In the meantime, we will be offering a video production of our Orchestra at Work and Melody and Meaning youth programs to be viewed on demand in schools! These programs will be available in January 2022 through the end of the school year. We will be posting this video content in our Music for Youth Education Hub, which already has lots of great musical content for use right now! Registration for the Hub is free for all Catholic schools, so please join us there for some educational and inspirational music! we look forward to hosting you again in the 2022-23 school year!
CSAANYS has partnered with St. John's University to organize an Emerging Leaders Institute for those teachers interested in becoming principals. Here's a flyer with more information.
Kari Buchinger on Academics
As discussed last week, independent reading is an excellent opportunity for students to practice essential literacy skills taught during the standard ELA block. This time can also serve as a critical moment for teachers to collect data about student mastery of these key skills. That can all happen during an independent reading conference.
When conferencing with students, it is crucial to have a clear objective. If students are asked to practice a certain skill, that is the skill you will want to focus on during the conference. For example, if your goal is to identify characteristics of the protagonist, your discussion with each student should center around this question. You may ask for specific traits and prompt students to justify their answers with textual evidence. One-on-one conversations like this allow teachers to determine individual mastery and, in turn, discover which students may require more instructional support.
You may be thinking, how can I make this happen when I have 15,20, 25 students in my class? You do not need to conference with every student every day. You may consider a mini lesson on Monday and 3-5 student conferences per day each day that week to get started. Before you know it, you have had a touchpoint with every student. Furthermore, you have collected a plethora of data that will impact mini lessons during independent reading and future daily lessons.
Take a moment to rewatch this video from last week, beginning at 3:20. This is an excellent example of an independent reading conference. Time to give conferencing a try!
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
Chris Riso on Government Services
It looks like most schools have sent your completed BEDS Excel forms to Cathryn Harrower; would the remaining few schools please share your spreadsheet with her? Although we are very thankful that you are sharing this spreadsheet with us, it is far more important that you submit your BEDS report online to NYSED using the “IRS Data Exchange” application on the Business Portal (http://portal.nysed.gov/) by this Friday’s deadline (11/19/21).
Advocacy Alert from the USCCB: Please help us circulate this important Action Alert to Tell Congress not to Exclude Catholic Schools from Federal Child Care and Pre-K Programs using your email, social media, websites, newsletter, etc. The House is expected to vote on this proposal this week, and then negotiations will continue in the Senate. This language must be fixed or faith-based communities will effectively be excluded from both programs. We must make our voices heard! Click here to contact your member of Congress today: https://www.votervoice.net/USCCB/campaigns/89541/respond.
11/19/21 BEDS Report Due to NYSED via Business Portal IRS-Data Exchange
12/1/21 Fire Safety Inspection Must be Completed; Report Due 12/15/2021
Previous posts from Mr. Riso
Articles for Your Reflection
My Last 5 Books
- Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World (2003) by Chris Lowney
Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community (2009) by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
The Church of Mercy: A Vision for the Church (2014) by Pope Francis
The Divine Comedy: The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso (2003 edition) by Dante Alighieri
The Future of Catholic Higher Education: The Open Circle (2021) by James L. Heft, S.M.
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading