Conference focuses on strengthening, promoting region’s Catholic schools

Sister Kathleen Fitz Simons, CND, Boston interim superintendent of schools, speaks at the “Conference for the Future of Catholic School Education in New England” that took place in Springfield March 28 (Courtesy photo/The Vermont Catholic Tribune)

SPRINGFIELD – Nearly every bishop in New England, including Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley gathered at Springfield’s Marriott Hotel March 28 to talk about the future of Catholic education.

Diocesan school superintendents in the region also attended the daylong “Conference for the Future of Catholic School Education in New England.” Some diocesan priests were also invited as a total of nearly 100 attendees considered ways to promote and strengthen Catholic education for the future.

“All of us see this as one of the most important missions of the Catholic Church,” said Cardinal O’Malley at a press conference held during the lunch break. “We’re happy to see the response today and hear what other dioceses are doing,” he said.

The conference was a response to the July 2005 U.S. bishops’ pastoral letter, “Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium.”

Following the release of that letter, the New England superintendents asked their bishops to come together with some of their priests and discuss ways to put some of the recommendations of the letter into practice.

A pamphlet promoting the conference said the purpose of the gathering would be to “come together... to investigate how we in the Church of New England can make this a living document.”

Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell greeted attendees of the conference, which began at 10 a.m.

“We are here to make sure Catholic schools are accessible, affordable and available,” said Dan Curtin, executive director of the Chief Administrators of Catholic Education, a department of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). The NCEA sponsored the conference.

Oblate Father William Davis then introduced participants to the document. Father Davis has been doing educational pubic policy work for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) since 1990 and is currently the interim secretary for education at the USCCB.

Steve Perla, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Worcester, said the most pressing needs faced by Catholic schools are the financial ones. “The biggest challenge that we have is to look at ways in which we can make sure that we can sustain our schools and make them very viable,” he said.

“We all feel, as superintendents of the New England dioceses, that the response by the bishops and by the priests has been very collaborative,” said Franciscan Sister of St. Joseph M. Andrea Ciszewski, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Springfield. “Just to have all of these people together in one room is almost like a Pentecost event for the Church.”

Sister Ciszewski said one goal of the conference was to see how dioceses in New England could implement the bishops’ document. “Very often a document is written and then time is not given to implement it. So we see it [this conference] as crucial. It’s a great time in history to do this.”

Perla said the conference was very important because it gave the superintendents the opportunity to engage in dialogue with their bishops. “Today gives us a chance to bring that document [the 2005 pastoral letter] alive and to give us an opportunity to think about how, in fact, do we implement some of the ideas in that document.”

Bishop John McCormack, of the Diocese of Manchester, N.H., said the development of a Catholic identity is important in Catholic schools today. He believes schools need to be “strong both in their Catholic values and in their academic excellence.”

“There are many ideas being thrown out there,” said Bishop McCormack. “So, our goal now, having heard a lot of this, is to meet within the diocese when we leave here and to begin to involve lay leadership about how we can make the schools accessible, affordable and available.”

Referring to some of the dialogue at the conference regarding having all parishes in a diocese contribute to the financial well-being of the Catholic schools, Bishop McDonnell said, “As Catholics, our job is to help each other and by helping each other, [we] help the community.”

He said the diocesan-wide Future of Hope capital campaign that began in 1999 established endowments for diocesan schools. He said that was one way that the entire diocese has come together in support of Catholic education.

“Catholic schools are beneficial for everyone in the diocese and for every person, whether Catholic or not,” he added.

Bishop McDonnell said the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Springfield “do a fantastic job. We have wonderful programs, wonderful teachers, and the students there are getting a fine education.”

In 1990 the U.S. Catholic bishops issued the statement “In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools.” In their 2005 letter, the bishops referred to the 1990 statement, saying: “In it we affirmed our strong conviction that Catholic elementary and secondary schools are of great value to our Church and our nation; and that, in our role as chief teachers, we are each responsible for the total educational ministry of the local Church.”

The pastoral letter also reads, “The burden of supporting our Catholic schools can no longer be placed on the individual parishes that have schools and on parents who pay tuition.”

When asked what he sees as the outcome of the conference in terms of increasing enrollment at Catholic schools, Cardinal O’Malley said, “Hopefully the strategies that are developed here will do just that.” He said they hope to come up with plans that “will be able to address the challenges that we have.”

Challenges presented to attendees included dealing with a changing Church, paying school personnel a just wage and marketing the mission of Catholic schools.

Strategies discussed at the conference addressed the possibilities of schools creating or enlarging existing endowments, seeking grants, enlisting the support of all pastors, promoting their Catholic identity and marketing themselves.

“We all believe that we have to allow the public to know more about our mission,” said Sister Ciszewski.

“We really have to look at, do people appreciate the value of Catholic education?” said Bishop McCormack. “And, by people I mean the bishops, the priests, the people in the parishes. I think we’ve had the assumption that they do, and I’m not so sure that everybody does.”

“We really need to help people appreciate the value of their faith because Catholic education is the best way of forming Catholics,” he said.

Bishop McCormack said that attendees need to go forward and make Catholic education valid in the life of others. “We’re going to do it by lifting up the vibrancy of what Catholic education is all about – it really fulfills the whole person.”

In the afternoon session of the conference, representatives of each diocese discussed ways to develop strategies that would allow them to implement what they learned at the conference. Each group then reported their ideas to the crowd.

“Some of the areas that we’re talking about today (are) new governance models, the quality of our academic program, making sure that we strengthen our Catholic identity and the role of advocacy,” said Perla. “All of those areas are very critical in terms of our long-term sustainability.”

In closing remarks, Karen Ristau, president of the NCEA, said, “We cannot fail. We are saving lives. The problems exist, but so do solutions. The solutions are in this room.”

Sister of Notre Dame Rosemary Donohue then assured participants that the “conversations will continue.”

In fact, all of the New England superintendents were invited to a follow-up meeting to be held in Worcester on May 3.

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Vatican publishes list of synod participants, including papal nominees

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- To the list of members of the Synod of Bishops elected by national bishops' conferences, Pope Francis added cardinals from 14 countries, ...

Addicts and their loved ones talk about life with opioid addiction

ARLINGTON, Va. (CNS) -- It was a Saturday night, and Billy was eating pizza and watching a sporting event in the basement bedroom of his residence, a ...

Signers of letter hope Vatican meeting will bring needed steps on crisis

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Signers of an open letter from Catholic women to Pope Francis urging "truth" and "transparency" on the growing sex abuse crisis expressed ...

Community 'overwhelmed and shell-shocked' after gas explosions, says pastor

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Down to earth: Vatican brings together world's meteorite curators

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (CNS) -- Rocks, mineral debris and even dust from space are kept in special collections, museums and laboratories all over the ...

Algerian martyrs to be beatified in Algeria Dec. 8

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The beatification of 19 martyrs of Algeria, including the seven Trappist monks of Tibhirine, will be celebrated Dec. 8 in Oran, ...

'Anything but a picnic' - Cardinal Dolan on the Church's summer of scandal

New York City, N.Y., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Cardinal Timothy Dolan has spoken about how the extended sexual abuse scandals facing the Church have taken a ...

Restoring and reimagining: Transformation at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross

BOSTON -- Considered by many to be the heart of the Archdiocese of Boston, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest Catholic church in New England, ...

Archdiocese says Cardinal O'Malley will personally review all abuse letters

BRAINTREE (CAN) -- The Archdiocese of Boston has announced changes to the way it will process and respond to letters addressed to Cardinal Séan P. ...

CM receives $2.5M grant from Yawkey Foundations

West Roxbury -- Catholic Memorial, a college-preparatory school for boys in grades 7 to 12, announced Sept. 5 that they have received a $2.5 million grant ...

Father Christian Ohazulume removed from ministry

BRAINTREE -- The Archdiocese announced on Sept. 11 that it had removed a priest from ministry after receiving an allegation that he sexually abused a ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

This week I am in transit to Rome in anticipation of the next meeting of the C9 Council of Cardinals. So, I have asked Vivian Soper to share some reflections ...

Kavanaugh's birth control comments spur controversy -- What did he say?

Washington D.C. (CNA) -- Opponents of Judge Brett Kavanaugh have suggested that a reference to birth control pills as "abortion-inducing drugs" during ...

Missouri to enforce abortion regulations in wake of appeals court ruling

Jefferson City, Mo. (CNA) -- Missouri's health department announced Monday that it will immediately being enforcing state laws regulating abortion clinics ...

Book tells about behind-the-scenes search for St. Peter's bones

HOUSTON (CNS) -- Two Houston men shared a journey through centuries of history and a decades-long archaeological dig under the Vatican to unveil a story ...

Update way priests are chosen, accompanied, pope tells new bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The best way to help the Catholic Church, Pope Francis told new bishops, is not by pointing fingers and creating scapegoats, but ...

Vatican confirms ongoing Sistine Chapel Choir finance inquiry

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican confirmed an ongoing investigation into financial irregularities involving the directors of the Sistine Chapel Choir. ...

After meeting pope, cardinal says he's hopeful about addressing crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston struck a determinedly hopeful tone after his long-awaited meeting with Pope Francis ...

DA clears Indiana bishop of misconduct, says claim has harmed prelate

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (CNS) -- The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend welcomed findings by a Pennsylvania district attorney that cleared Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades ...

Cardinal DiNardo calls meeting with pope lengthy, fruitful

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Cardinal Daniel DiNardo has called a Sept. 13 meeting between Pope Francis and leaders from the Church in United ...

What do Church abuse policies mean by 'vulnerable adult?'

Denver, Colo., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- A Vatican summit this February will gather the presidents of bishops’ conferences from around the world. While ...

'Elitist, clericalist' church allows abuse to thrive, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Sexual and physical abuse by priests and religious and the scandal of its cover-up by church authorities thrive in countries where ...

Cardinal Wuerl to ask pope to accept his resignation

Washington D.C., Sep 12, 2018 CNA.- An archdiocesan spokesman has confirmed that Cardinal Donald Wuerl will soon ask Pope Francis to accept his resignation ...

Pope accepts resignation of West Virginia bishop as inquiry into abuse claims launched

Vatican City, Sep 13, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Pope Francis Thursday accepted the resignation of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield from the pastoral government ...

Leaked German report shows 3,700 cases of abuse of minors in 68 years

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A 350-page document leaked to German media and published Sept. 12 documents nearly 3,700 cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by ...

Pope accepts resignation of Brazilian bishop arrested for embezzlement

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignation of a Brazilian bishop who was arrested and charged with embezzling thousands of dollars in ...

Love breaks chains of slavery to sin, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Only true love for God and neighbor can destroy the chains of greed, lust, anger and envy that enslave humankind, Pope Francis said. ...

Washington cardinal to meet with pope to discuss resignation

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington has told the priests of the archdiocese that he will meet soon with Pope Francis to request ...

Pope to convene world meeting on abuse prevention with bishops' leaders

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis is calling the presidents of every Catholic bishops' conference in the world to Rome Feb. 21-24 to discuss the prevention ...

Supreme Court petition next step in effort to stop natural gas pipeline

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A Pennsylvania religious congregation planned to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether their religious freedom rights ...