Catholic School Matters
April 5, 2022
The Identity of a Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue
Last week, the English translation of the latest Congregation for Catholic Education’s document, “The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue” was published. This week, I’m offering a primer on the document below and an introduction through a podcast panel of distinguished professors in order to help you learn from this document. This is an easily accessible document and I encourage all Catholic school stakeholders to find some time for learning.
On this week’s podcast, I discuss the document with Dr. Melodie Wyttenbach, the Executive Director of the Roche Center at Boston College; her colleague, Fr./Dr. John Piderit, SJ, who has written extensively on Catholic identity; and Dr. Lauren Casella from Loyola Marymount, who is currently guiding our principals through a Catholic Identity PLN. All three have spent time in K12 buildings and now are supporting current and future principals & teachers. Building better Catholic schools are primary concerns of all three.
Below, I’ll outline four quick takeaways with quotes which reference the specific paragraph. This is not meant to be a comprehensive analysis of the language, only a primer to get you started.
1. Formation of Teachers. Presented as “fundamental” (14) the initial and permanent formation of teachers is emphasized. Catholic schools depend on its teachers and their vocations (24) is critical. The school as “faith community not institution” (16) is the guiding metaphor.
2. Mission & Vision. Even when hiring, people need to be told what the Catholic school is all about. As “instruments for institutional and professional quality assurance” Catholic schools must have either a mission statement or code of conduct. (77) The mission must be explicit and clearly articulated to all. (49) We can no longer assume that everyone knows what we stand for and why Catholic schools exist. However, the document cautions against a “narrow view” of Catholicity that would require adherence of all to Catholic teaching. (72, 28). Rather the Catholic school is called for dialogue and since that is in the title, this emphasis cannot be stressed enough.
3. Values. The document calls for a revisiting of our basic values, notably that Catholic schools have a preferential option for the poor and “school for all, especially the weakest.” (22). Catholic schools need to have a “culture of care,” recognize the dignity of each person, and be attentive to the fabric of relationships. (36). These Gospel values should undergird the mission statements and should be the identifying feature of our schools.
4. Process. Bloggers and journalists are already lining up to interpret this document in light of the Indianapolis controversy. Does it mean that a bishop can fire a teacher for failing to follow Church teachings? Be attentive to the process of visiting schools and granting Catholic identity given by the bishop to every Catholic school in the diocese. Chapter II focuses on the “actors” in Catholic schools and articulate the roles of each. The bishop’s role is spelled out in paragraph 59. While termination is seen as a “last resort” (80) it can be used by a bishop in diocesan schools (59i). However, subsidiarity would not grant the bishop the same power in an independent, private, or religious order Catholic schools. Although the call to be in dialogue might lead to that decision. If you think this sounds too abstract, look no further than this article detailing a controversy unfolding right now involving an independent Catholic school and its local bishop.
5. The Way Forward. In paragraph 78, prescriptions for the future are offered which will capture and promote Catholic identity. “individual and collective self-assessment procedures within the institution, guidelines on desired quality standards, permanent formation courses and the promotion and strengthening of professional skills, incentives and rewards, and the collection, documentation and study of good practices.” Thus it would seem that a deliberate program of assessing and building Catholic identity should result.
I hope you take some time to read and study this latest document which should have significant impact on Catholic schools in the next decade.
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Dr. Tim Uhl
Kari Buchinger on Academics
As Lent began, I shared a quote with you all. Let me draw you back to the words of St. Francis de Sales, “Lent is the Autumn of the spiritual life during which we gather fruit to keep us going for the rest of the year.” As the days wind down and we look to Holy Week, I pray that you have found ways to gather fruit and find joy in your personal and professional lives.
Soon we will be presented with a range of emotions as we recall the days leading up to Jesus’ death and the joy of his resurrection.
For me, one of the most impactful events during Holy Week is the reenactment of the washing of the feet. In this moment, we remember this simple act by Jesus before his crucifixion. Since sandals were the most popular footwear during this time, some viewed this act as humiliating and beneath the respect and admiration Jesus had acquired from his apostles. Yet, Jesus, the ultimate teacher, chose to lead by example once more. Think about that for a minute.
Jesus knew his death was near, and he chose to spend his final hours providing an act of service for the apostles. After washing their feet, he said, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly, I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (John 13: 14-17)
This yearly reminder is a piece of “fruit” that keeps me going. It reminds me of Jesus’ call for us to use our gifts to serve others. It reminds me why I continue to say “yes” to working in Catholic education. It reminds me why our work is so vital to the students we serve and the greater impact these students will have on this world. Finally, it reminds me how grateful our schools are to have teachers and leaders that follow this example and find ways to “wash the feet” of their students every day. Thank you! A million times, thank you!
Previous "Academic Corner" posts from Kari
Inclusive Teachers of the Year
Front Row - Pam Griffasi, SS Peter and Paul Williamsville; Rachel Ouimet, St. Amelia's; Sharon Schultz, Bishop Timon - St. Jude
Back Row - Bridget O'Brien Wood, President FICE; Kelly Hillery, St Gregory the Great; Donald Oliver, Mount St. Mary Academy; Dr. Timothy Uhl, Superintendent; Dana Catanese, Nativity of Mary; Emily Kaufman, Mount Mercy Academy; Lawrence Rizzuto, Notre Dame Academy; Jill Gradwell, Nativity of Our Lord
Chris Riso on Government Services
NYSED MST/STEM Grant Submission Deadline 8/1/2022:The 2021-2022 school year Program Guidance and Reimbursement Form Instructions and Reimbursement Form for the New York State Grants for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Teachers in Religious and Independent Schools (MST) – year 4 has been released and can be found at http://www.nysed.gov/nonpublic-schools/grant-opportunities#mst. In Year 3, our WNY Catholic Schools received just over $2.2 million in reimbursement, with the 14 participating elementary schools averaging $51,000 in reimbursement while the six participating high schools averaged $261,000 in reimbursement. With another increase in funding to the MST Grant program in last year’s NYS Budget, I highly recommend that you apply for this grant if you have any qualified teachers. The application will now be available to be submitted on the SED Business Portal (SED Monitoring). Directions on how to access the online application are in Appendix B of the MST Guidance document; there is also a Frequently Asked Question document available. Although they are encouraging schools to submit via the Business Portal, the paper applications will also be accepted (please only send the applications once either via the portal or by mail). All applications must be RECEIVED by NYSED by Monday, August 1, 2022.
Important: Mandated Services – Forward any NYSED “Post Review” or “Hold” emails: As your Mandated Services claims are submitted, some schools labelled as “HOLD” or “Post Review Pending” will get an email from NYSED at some point. Please forward to me any emails you get from the state that request follow-up on your end to resolve a claim. I highly recommend you allow me to assist you during this review process. Be especially careful with anything you say to NYSED representatives on the phone – I recommend you get their requests in writing and make your responses in writing.
6/1/22 Last day for Parents to Request Special Education Services from Districts
6/30/22 AIS Reimbursement Form Due to NYSED – Elementary Schools Only
8/1/22 NYSED 2021-2022 MST/STEM Grant Submission Deadline
Previous posts from Mr. Riso
Save the Date!
- ELA Scoring Dates
- Schools North of Buffalo April 4 (3,5,7) &April 6 (4,6,8)
- Schools South of Buffalo April 7 (3,5,7) & April 8 (4,6,8)
- Math Scoring Dates
- Schools North of Buffalo May 5 (3,5,7) & May 6 (4,6,8)
- Schools South of Buffalo May 9 (3,5,7) & May 10 (4,6,8)
- Science Scoring for all Schools: June 10 (4,8)
- Weekly principal Zooms at 9:30 am on Wednesdays.
- 175th Anniversary date for the Diocese of Buffalo May 1, 2022
- X-Stream Games, May 15, 2022.
- 175th Anniversary Mass for 8th graders, Sep 20, 2022, 10 am at the Cathedral
- Diocesan Professional Development Day October 7, 2022 at St. Amelia's.
- The "Shoot for the Stars" one-hour TV special.
- School Pastor's Administrative Guide
- The Executive Summary. of this year's school data.
- Video recording of All-schools Mass at OLV with Bishop Fisher. Here is the link to Dr. Uhl's talk.
- "Principal Task List." This is organized as a living Google Doc by month.
- Here's a link to the forms on our website.
- New Policy Manual
- New Operations Manual
- Administrator Goal Sheet and the new Administrator evaluation form
Catholic School Matters Podcast
This week, the podcast features a great panel to provide a primer on the latest Congregation for Catholic Education's document, "The Identity of a Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue": Dr. Melodie Wyttenbach, the Executive Director of the Roche Center; Dr. John Piderit, SJ of the Roche Center; and Dr. Lauren Casella of Loyola Marymount. Previous episodes:
- Dan Horn, the President/Principal of St. Genevieve Parish Schools, joins the podcast to discuss his successful turnarounds at two separate Catholic school sin the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Dan is a transformational leader whose story is inspiring
- John Reyes of the Roche Center joins the podcast to discuss his contribution to the "Cultivating Talent" report and his journey of leadership
- Dr. Elena Sada of the Roche Center joins me to discuss their ground-breaking report, Cultivating Talent, which investigates how to recruit and retain Hispanic educators in our Catholic schools. She also discusses bilingual Catholic education and the role of the TWIN-CS.
- Fr. Dennis Holtschneider, the President of the Association of Catholic Colleges & Universities (ACCU) joins me to discuss the disruptions of the pandemic, the challenges to Catholic higher education, and leading with mission.
- Gloria Purvis joined me on the podcast to discuss Black Catholicism and racism in the Church
Here is a link to the podcast on Apple Podcasts.
Articles for Your Reflection
Instruction "The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue (25 January 2022)
CONGREGATION FOR CATHOLIC EDUCATION (for Educational Institutions) _________________________________ THE IDENTITY OF THE CATHOLIC SCHOOL FOR A CULTURE OF DIALOGUE Instruction Introduction 1. At the World Congress Educating today and tomorrow.
Teachers at Catholic schools should conform to church teaching, Vatican congregation says
VATICAN CITY (CNS) - Holding together the obligation to protect and promote the Catholic identity of Catholic schools while reaching out to a broader community of students and teachers requires a commitment to dialogue, said a new document from the Congregation for Catholic Education.
Vatican releases instruction on the 'project' of Catholic education
A new instruction from the Congregation for Catholic Education, released on Tuesday, aims to foster a "renewal" of the essential characteristics of Catholic schools. Outlining the roles and rights of pupils, parents, teachers and school administrators, and Church authorities, the instruction outlines both the "project" of education and the "community" in which it has to exist.
Mission Statements for Catholic Schools-Five suggestions
Mission statements for schools are usually written by a committee. To make sure everyone's perspective is included in the final result, they tend to say too much, and often become wordy, ineffective and unmemorable. My career in Catholic education began in 1985, and as a young teacher, I was placed on the "mission committee" in preparation for an accreditation visit.
Alabama experiment captures promise, peril of 'independent' Catholic schools
NEW YORK - Faced with a perilous financial situation and plummeting enrollment, the historic Heart of Mary Catholic School in the Archdiocese of Mobile, Alabama, seemed likely to close at the end of the school year until alumni convinced the archbishop otherwise.
How to Have More Successful Conversations - Knowledge at Wharton
Negotiating a salary increase or a job promotion ranks high on the list of hard conversations to have at work, and it doesn't get any easier without a plan. "People think, 'I'm just going to knock on their door, sit down with them and noodle around and see where this goes.'
First Nations delegate calls Pope apology for residential schools 'healing'
Pope Francis apologized for his Church's role in running Canadian boarding schools where Native kids were abused. NPR's Miles Parks speaks with Taylor Behn-Tsakoza, whose delegation met with the Pope. MILES PARKS, HOST: On Friday, Pope Francis issued a historic apology.
My Last 5 Books
- Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World (2020) by Vivek Murthy
Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood (2022) by Danny Trejo
The Mystical Way in Everyday Life (2010) by Karl Rahner, SJ
Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience (2022) by Brené Brown
Click this link for a full list of my professional reading
A couple of years ago I set out to write a book which would explore the challenges of Catholic school leadership. My premise that there are no easy answers and that we have to learn from our (and other's) mistakes in order to form a mindset appropriate for orchestrating conflict proved prescient as we all faced completely new and unexpected challenges in 2020. The book,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.