Catholic School Matters

March 25, 2018

The Passion of St. Francis School

Today we celebrate Passion (Palm) Sunday as we turn our attention to the crucifixion and resurrection. It is often said that Catholics have a sacramental (or as David Tracy coins The Analogical Imagination) imagination. In other words, they can see deeper meaning in life’s events. Last month, St. Francis Catholic School in Billings was challenged to see a deeper meaning in a tragedy.

After celebrating a sleepover with a friend, a 4th grader from St. Francis reported that she was not feeling well. The parents administered over-the-counter medication but she declined rapidly. The parents took her to the emergency room Sunday evening and she passed away Tuesday afternoon. Influenza was the cause. While she was in the hospital, school officials were contacted and a prayer chain was set up immediately.

Although the family was not Catholic, the hospital’s chaplain was contacted and visited her Monday evening. She had earlier expressed a desire to become Catholic when her friends were confirmed but her parents asked her to wait until she was older. The parents were now willing and she was baptized that evening.

Tuesday afternoon, the school’s president, Shaun Harrington, contacted the Crisis Response Team from the local public school to be on alert. As a former public school principal who had led schools through this type of tragedy before, he had access to the templates of letters to send out to staff and parents as well as experience developing scripts for communication with students and board members. These resources were handy because this tragedy unfolded very quickly. By late in the school day on Tuesday, the parents called principals Deb Hayes and Jim Stanton to tell them of their daughter’s passing. The administrators decided to travel around to each class and inform students in person. However, they called the parents of the sleepover friend so they could tell her themselves.

The three administrators (Shaun, Deb, and Jim) showed tremendous leadership and care for the teachers and staff during this difficult time. The teachers—especially homeroom teacher Julia Lynch—showed care for the students. Throughout, the school community rallied around these parents who lost their only child by providing a Memorial Service. The school was open in its communication with all stakeholders and showed its foundation as a faith community.

Harrington, the former public school principal turned Catholic school president, remarked how being able to share his faith through this tragedy made this difficulty a bit easier. It was the Passion Sunday come to life for the St. Francis Catholic School community as they hoped for the resurrection of their sister in the midst of this tragedy.

Want to reach out and support your colleagues at St. Francis? Julia Lynch, the homeroom teacher can be reached at

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Dr. Tim Uhl

Big picture

American Catholic News

Easter Resources for Schools

Easter arrives early this year on Sunday, April 1, 2018, offering all of us the wonderful opportunity to celebrate the entire Easter season with our students before the school/catechetical year comes to a close. There are a myriad of resources and opportunities parishes and schools can use during the Easter season. As you prepare to guide your faith community through all 50 days of the Easter season, take a peek at some of the amazing tools available at the 'click' of your mouse!

  1. Church Life Journal posted an outstanding blog about celebrating the Easter Season in the classroom. Here is the link to the article.
  2. Busted Halo is a great website especially for those who work with teens and young adults. Take a look at Holy Week in Two Minutes.
  3. Joe Paprocki's Catechist Journey arrives in my inbox every afternoon with helpful and insightful suggestions for Catholic school teachers and parish catechists alike. His Easter Folder contains an amazing list of helpful ideas, articles and learning activities.
  4. The Liturgical Catechist has become one of my favorite sites for video clips, articles, links and ideas. I highly recommend looking through their list of Easter resources. Click here.
  5. Loyola Press has also assembled a series of resources and lesson plans. Click here.
  6. The Diocese of Albany, NY has assembled an excellent Digital Library for anyone to use. Take a peek at their Easter Folder and then explore the entire collection.
  7. Catholic Family Faith has curated excellent suggestions that you can look through and share with the families you serve. Click here.
  8. The Religion Teacher website has great Easter activities click here as does Building Faith click here.
  9. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) website is always a good place to start. Their overview of Easter is worth a look, click here.

Submitted by Lisa Orchen, M.Div., the Archdiocese of Hartford's Director of Catechetical Initiatives

Catholic School News

  1. Fall River Catholic school (Taunton Catholic) to close; Rhode Island Catholic school to close; Maine Catholic school to close
  2. St. Louis University High School band surprised by Pope Francis
  3. Chaotic Milwaukee Public Schools provide opportunities for Seton Catholic Schools

Leadership Links

Teaching & Instruction


What I'm Up To

The snow is melting which means I'm hitting the road! I'll be driving all around the Treasure State next week and then flying to Cincinnati on Easter Sunday to join my colleagues for the NCEA Convention. Thus, no newsletter for the next two weeks!

Tomorrow, my podcast conversation is with Dr. Merylann "Mimi" Schuttloffel of Catholic University, an upcoming President's Awared recipient from NCEA in recognition of all of her great work supporting Catholic education. Next week as we begin the NCEA Convention, my conversation with Dr. Melanie Verges from Baton Rouge will drop. Here is the link to the podcast on iTunes. Here are videos showing you how to download and subscribe to a podcast on iTunes and how to download and subscribe a podcast on Android.

This week, I'm conducting my last school revisit in Helena and then uploading all of my WCEA documents. I'll be heading to Great Falls for a board meeting, Butte for a principal search committee meeting, as well as Ashland for principal and Director of Schools interviews this week. I'll also be interviewing 4 retiring Catholic school superintendents for a special podcast episode coming out in May.

  • Monday: St. Andrew Revisit, final meeting with Bishop Thomas, & Board meeting in Great Falls; Podcast #122: Dr. Mimi Schuttloffel
  • Tuesday: Office (Helena), Butte meeting, drive to Billings
  • Wednesday: St. Labre interviews (Ashland); Wed book blog: Building a Bridge (2017) by James Martin, SJ
  • Thursday: St. Labre interviews (cont)
  • Friday: Return to Helena

Miles this week: 1,213 driving miles

Miles travelled in 2017-18: 19,724 road miles; 35,850 air miles


  • NCEA Convention, April 3-5 Cincinnati
  • Webinars:
  • Mar 26: Dealing with a Parent in Crisis

What I'm Reading

  1. Archbishop: Inside the Power Structure of the American Catholic Church (1989) by Thomas Reese, SJ
  2. Principles (2017) by Ray Dalio
  3. Breaking Bad Habits: Defy Industry Norms and Reinvigorate Your Business (2017) by Freek Vermeulen
  4. Lost Classroom, Lost Community (2014) by Margaret F. Brinig & Nicole Stelle Garnett
  5. Teamwork: What Must Go Right/What Can Go Wrong (1989) BY Carl E. Larson & Frank M. J. LaFasto

Click this link for a full list of my professional reading along with links to Wed Book Blogs

For Montana Administrators & Teachers

Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

March 18, 2018 "March Madness"

March 11, 2018 "Special Issue on School Violence"

March 4, 2018 "Bishop McNamara Leads the Way"

February 25, 2018 "New Catholic Schools, Week 3"

February 18, 2018 "New Catholic Schools, Week 2"

February 11, 2018 "New Catholic Schools"

February 4, 2018 "Turnaround Schools, Part 2"

January 28, 2018 "Turnaround Schools"

January 21, 2018 "Synthesizing Church Documents"

January 14, 2018 "What's Brewing in Milwaukee"

January 7, 2018 The 411 on 529's

December 17, 2017 Best of the Fall Issue

December 10, 2017 Serving Hispanic Catholics

December 3, 2017 Building Culture the ND Way

November 12, 2017 "How Are We Building Relationships?"

November 5, 2017 "Journal of Catholic Education"

October 29, 2017 Church Documents

October 22, 2017 Momentum Special Issue

October 15, 2017 "Anthem Protests"

October 8, 2017 Classroom Managment Special Issue

October 1, 2017 "The Un-Themed Issue"

September 24, 2017 "Joy of the Gospel"

September 17, 2017 "ESSA"

September 10, 2017 "On Leadership"

August 27, 2017 "American Catholic News"

August 20, 2017 Back to School Issue