Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

March 7, 2016

School on the Margins

When people think of Catholic schools, I think many mistakenly believe that Catholic schools are franchises of the Church. Parishes sign up for a franchise from the Vatican, the thinking goes, and then must act in accordance. Our education is our Big Macs and fries and we must follow corporate guidelines lock step. Others consider Catholic schools like Starbucks franchises, which are wholly owned and controlled by the central office.


I wish you could take a trip to St. Francis of Assisi School in Lumberton, New Mexico to dispel this franchise notion. In a community of a couple of hundred people located just off the Jicarilla Apache reservation, this school struggles to survive. With only 6 full-fledged employees (principal, secretary, cook, custodian, and a married couple of teachers) and 6 volunteers who are paid only a small monthly stipend and given room in the run-down convent and rectory, the school serves a mostly poor school population of 100 students.


The school is 100 years old and was founded in this former mining community by Franciscan priests and sisters. The historic adobe church is now without a priest and after the coal mines dried up the community which once had 3000 residents now is a ghost of its former self. The students come from disadvantaged backgrounds of poverty and are often grades behind when they come to school.


Last year Pope Francis laid out what has become his rallying cry, “We will not find the Lord unless we truly accept the marginalized!” Francis said. “Truly the Gospel of the marginalized is where our credibility is found and revealed!”


St. Francis School in Lumberton is on the margins. This is where Pope Francis is calling us to meet the people. It looks nothing like our well-run schools in big cities with resources, high tuition, large staffs, and gleaming buildings. In other words, it challenges our ideas of Catholic school franchises.


This is our future in places where the past of mission outposts is where our Catholic faith began. The place inspires us to reimagine our future. On the margins.


Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

The Week Ahead

Sunday: drive from Phoenix to San Diego, CA

Monday: Our Lady's School WCEA visit (San Diego)

Tuesday: Our Lady's visit (cont)

Wednesday: Our Lady's visit (cont)

Thursday: fly to Helena

Friday: Our Lady of Lourdes WCEA visit (Great Falls)


This week: 625 driving miles; 1,237 air miles

Last week: 1,085 driving miles; 1,070 air miles

2015-16: 18,887 driving miles; 8.914 air miles

What I'm Reading in 2016


  1. Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen (underway)
  2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (underway)
  3. Motion Leadership by Michael Fullan (finished)
  4. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda (finished)
  5. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (finished)
  6. Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeon (finished)
  7. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (finished)
  8. Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip & Greg Heath (finished)
  9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (finished)
  10. It's Your Ship: Management Techniques from the Best Damn Ship in the Navy by Captain D. Michael Abrashoff (finished)

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3800+ students in 24 Catholic schools across the Treasure State

For Principals

  1. March regional meetings--March 15th at Miles City; March 17th at Hays; March 22nd at Butte. All meetings will start at 10 am and lunch will be provided by the hosts. Please RSVP to the hosts.
  2. Here's the link to important dates for 2016-17.

American Catholic News

American Catholic Schools Opening & Closing

Leadership Links

Believing in Miracles and the Value of Cohesiveness
By Marvin Fairman and Tim Jackson/School Administrator, February 2016

Teaching & Learning

Miscellaneous