Catholic School Matters

May 3, 2021

We Need Each Other

What a month it’s been since I’ve last published a newsletter! I’m two weeks in to my new position as Superintendent in the Diocese of Buffalo. I’m here for a couple of months while the family finishes out the school year, crashing in an old convent working long hours and exploring a new city that I had never visited until I arrived April 18th.


One thing has become very clear during this past COVID year--we all need each other. We’ve seen Catholic school enrollments increasing due to the community feel and individualized attention in our Catholic schools. Our schools were/are nimble enough to respond to the ever-changing challenges.


Our parishes need Catholic schools. Here in Buffalo that’s a thing because we’re in the middle of Chapter 11 and resources have dried up. Some view Catholic schools as a drain on parish resources and there’s been a painful history of school closures over the past 50 years. In the published “Road to Renewal” program, the Diocese argues that the status quo must change and fears it is on the path to irrelevancy. Strong words, of course, but it makes us in the school world worry that OUR status quo might worsen! From my cell in the old convent, I can look across the parking lot to a closed Catholic school converted into apartments. I drive by at least four closed Catholic schools and a few towering old churches, too, on my way into work.


But Catholic schools are not simply private schools which need parish/Diocesan subsidies. They are central to the mission of the diocese and parish and thus deserve attention and resources. We need to make that argument out of sincere participation in the life of our parishes. Where else can you find young people alive and encountering God’s love?


Are we committing to supporting and participating in our Catholic parishes? I’ve yet to hear a Catholic school principal or teacher complaining about lack of support from parishes who is deeply involved with their own parish. Stop waiting for help and get involved! They need you.

We need to recognize the problem is not the schools cost so much money, it’s that Mass attendance and sacramental participation has plummeted. To paraphrase Going, Going, Gone, we have a church problem! Certainly my hope is that a vibrant Catholic school will help support Catholic parishes.


Before it seems that I’m implicating parish leaders in our church problem, we need to look at ourselves. Catholic schools need other Catholic schools. Our high schools need grammar schools. Our grammar schools need high schools. Our principals need each other; our teachers—especially those in single-classroom grades—need to participate in collaborative networks.


How many times have you seen teachers who want to close their doors and left alone? Principals who want to be left alone to run their buildings? It’s subsidiarity run amok. Before we complain about lack of support and common vision, take a look at how you’re connecting and supporting fellow educators. Are you building a vision of collaboration and community?

Certainly we can understand how poor leadership and broken trust has led those teachers and principals to become insulated and absurdly independent. We need to break down these walls in our professional practice, reach out to fellow educators, and build up our common work.


These are large and systemic problems. However, we should start by recognizing how much we need each other. Then take a step or two to connect with your parish, your fellow educators, or anyone in your Catholic school to build community. We need each other.


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Dr. Tim Uhl

Schedule & Notes

  • Mon: Office in morning; St. Stephen's Teacher Appreciation picnic afternoon (Grand Island)
  • Tues: Visits to St. Andrew Country Day, St. John (Kenmore), Region 2 Principal meeting
  • Wed: Staff Meeting, Road to Renewal meeting, visit to SS. Peter & Paul (Williamsville)
  • Thurs: Visits to St. Christopher & St. Amelia (Tonawanda); depart for Montana in afternoon


Future Dates:

  • May 12th: High School Meeting
  • May 14th: All principal meeting
  • Oct 8th: Catholic School Mass w/ Bishop Fisher & keynote @ Our Lady of Victory for all teachers & staff

Catholic School Matters

Highlighting innovation and best practices in and for Catholic schools

Catholic School Links

Catholic Schools Closing & Opening

  1. LA Archdiocese to close 6 elementary schools;

  2. Orlando Catholic school to close;

  3. Sacred Heart MS & HS in Waterbury to close;

  4. St. Joe’s HS in suburban Chicago to close;
  5. 2 NH Catholic schools to merge;
  6. new Ogdensburg classical Catholic school to open
  7. Dual language elementary school opening on Long Island;


Here is the curated list of Catholic schools closing at the end of the 2021 school year and new schools opening for the 2021-22 year.

Leadership Links

Teaching & Learning

Miscellany

Catholic School Matters podcast

Check out the past episodes from this season:

What I'm Reading

    The Last 5 Books:

    1. I Came as a Shadow: An Autobiography (2020) by John Thompson
    2. One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America (2015) by Kevin M. Kruse

    3. The Surprising Gift of Doubt: Use Uncertainty to Become the Exceptional Leader You Are Meant to Be (2021) by Marc A. Pitman

    4. Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know (2021) by Adam Grant

    5. Against the Grain: The History of Buffalo's First Ward (2012) by Timothy Bohen

            Click this link for a full list of my professional reading

            Past Issues of Catholic School Matters

            Orchestrating Conflict

            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.