From Cardinal Seán’s blog

Catholic schools

Recently, the pastors in Dorchester and Mattapan have been meeting to finalize a plan to revitalize schools in that neighborhood. It is the second project of the 2010 Initiative. The pastors as well as principals and parents have had many meetings over the year. People from the Catholic School Office, from the 2010 Initiative and Father Thomas Foley, pastor of St. Ann Parish in Dorchester, have been very good at bringing people together to talk and plan.

When all is said and done, there will be fewer buildings used, and it will be considered one school with a number of different sites. It will be administered as one with a board of trustees who will have a special role in maintaining the Catholic identity of the institution, marketing Catholic education and working for development.

Dorchester and Mattapan are neighborhoods where there are many school children, and the presence of Catholic education is very, very important there. We have many immigrant children in our schools. We want to provide these school children with refurbished schools, perhaps some new school buildings, and we want to improve both the salaries of teachers there and the curriculum. We hope to have better schools and more students.

The 2010 Initiative began its work in Brockton where three schools were folded into one with two campuses. Both of those campuses were entirely refurbished, and an extension was put on one of them. The curriculums were updated, and much time and study went into how to make those schools better. As a result, instead of having three failing schools that would have closed in the very near future, we have one school with more students than we had in the three schools before. Trinity Catholic Academy will probably end up with a waiting list next year.

This is a very encouraging sign for us at a time when Catholic education has suffered recent setbacks, particularly the primary schools. In general, the high schools in the United States are doing better than the primary schools. I think the primary schools are very important and need to be strengthened.

It is very gratifying that so many people have come forward to help with the Catholic schools and have pledged financial aid because our school system needs a big investment if it is going to once again flourish and to give the quality education we all expect in Catholic schools. We are very, very grateful to those who have been working on the strategic committee -- Jack Connors, Kathleen Driscoll, John Fish, Kim Steimle and all of those who have supported the efforts of 2010 that has resulted in such a wonderful success in Brockton. We presume that we will have the same success now in Dorchester and Mattapan.

Our Catholic people, who themselves are beneficiaries of Catholic education, are coming forward to help us in this initiative. In the blog recently, we showed the fundraising dinner for Cathedral High School in the South End, which was basically organized by the alumni of the school. They raised $1.3 million at one dinner for one high school where many children who would not have the opportunity for this kind of education are going to graduate from high school, go on to college and find many opportunities in life. At the same time they will have an opportunity to hear about God, to learn the values of the Gospel and to learn how to pray.

Celebrating Thanksgiving

in Rome

During Thanksgiving week, I was in Rome for the consistory and had a Thanksgiving feast at the North American College. Each year the school invites Americans in Rome to participate. This year, there were several hundred guests at the dinner, and they sat us at tables by region. I was with the New England group that included some seminarians and priests from Massachusetts.

The dinner was a typical Thanksgiving meal -- with the addition of a pasta course. They served us turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. There was also some entertainment put on by the seminarians. In addition to the North Americans there, they had a number of Australian seminarians, and one of them did an Elvis impersonation as they brought the pumpkin pies into the room.

Everyone had a lovely evening. It is hard to be away from home at Thanksgiving, yet being with all these American expatriates in Rome made it easier.

Also in this week’s blog:

> Consistory meetings and celebrations in Rome

> Giving a talk at the Capuchin Theological School in Venice

> Celebrating the feast of St. Andrew with the Greek Orthodox community in Boston