Page 2 of 7

Don’t Give Up on Our Catholic Schools

Superintendents and the National Catholic Educational Association respond to “Reinventing Catholic Schools”

Note: This post is originally from America Magazine.

“Reinventing Catholic Schools,” by Charles Zech (8/29), is accompanied by a photo of the entrance to a large, run down building with broken windows. The picture reflects the bleak message of the entire piece, which fails to mention the incredible work being done in Catholic schools across the country today. As the superintendents of Catholic schools and members of the National Catholic Educational Association, we work each and every day in schools that look nothing like what the author describes.

Are there challenges in Catholic schools today? Of course. But there were also challenges 50 years ago. The religious who built and served Catholic schools for generations were heroes and saints, and we are honored to stand on their shoulders working with these hallowed institutions. And as people of faith, we believe that God has chosen us and those who work hard every day in Catholic schools across the country to serve at this time.

Professor Zech writes, “It is no longer good stewardship on the part of Catholic dioceses and parishes to continue supporting the old model of Catholic parochial schools.” This implies that those dedicated servants who sacrifice and work daily in these institutions, along with students and families, are wasting church resources. We see funds spent on Catholic schools as an investment in children and the future of the church. The idea of stewardship is to return with increase to the Lord, and research consistently demonstrates that graduates of Catholic schools are among the most academically prepared, generous and civically engaged.

Professor Zech writes that “over time the Catholic population has migrated to the suburbs and increasingly to the South and West…. But the parishes and parochial school buildings still tend to be located in urban areas in the Northeast and Midwest.” In fact, there are already many thriving Catholic schools and parishes in the South and West. Their growth is driven by young, mostly immigrant families who desire a Catholic school education. To give up on these vital institutions would be akin to eliminating Catholic schools in the Northeast 100 years ago when they provided the foundation that allowed Irish, Italian, Polish and other immigrant populations to work their way up in U.S. society. The same work, with the same goal, continues today.

We encourage Professor Zech to visit Catholic schools across the country to see the incredible innovations taking place. These include dual-language immersion, an increase in services to students with special needs, work-study schools like the Cristo Rey Network and ever-increasing support from the community—not only the Catholic community but local communities that understand the value of Catholic schools.

The true story of Catholic schools in the United States is their continued success despite difficulties and their ability to overcome challenges. Catholic schools continue to outperform public and private schools and do a particularly effective job with low-income, minority students. Professor Zech writes that “many urban parochial schools find themselves serving a population that struggles to afford parochial school tuition. Many of these students are not Catholic.” This again indicates a lack of understanding of Catholic schools, especially in the West, where the urban population is largely Catholic. Shuttering schools that serve low-income populations, preserving only those that serve the suburban well-off, contradicts our vital mission to provide a “preferential option for the poor.” Affordability of our schools is a substantial challenge, even while our schools attempt to maintain a relatively low cost of tuition. The momentum of the school choice movement has greatly assisted our families; to date, 27 states and the District of Columbia have some form of parental choice program, and the trend is toward greater levels of public funding support.

To further provide assistance to those low-income families, there is tremendous philanthropic support and great partnerships, from the Catholic Education Foundation in Los Angeles to the Catholic Schools Foundation in Boston and so many more. The value of our schools is perhaps most evident in weekly giving from our Catholic parishioners, many of whom do not have school-age children of their own, who give selflessly to their local parishes knowing that they are supporting Catholic school education, which brings life and vitality to our parishes.

If, as Professor Zech states, the issue of a lack of Catholic giving is such a significant limitation, we should focus on that cause rather than the effect of reduced funds for ministries. Catholic schools are a ministry and continue to be one of the church’s most effective instruments for passing on the faith from one generation to the next.

Please support our journalism. Subscribe now!
That might be the best argument against what Professor Zech proposes. Converting Catholic schools, which infuse the faith throughout the curriculum and the school day, to charter schools would change the essential character of the institutions. There is no such thing as a Catholic charter school. Surely, public charter schools try to mimic Catholic schools with character education and uniforms, but there is not a character education program or a values-based curriculum that compares to teaching the faith. If Catholic schools disappear in great numbers, parishes will not be far behind.

Catholic schools should be seen by all the faithful as a vital component to passing on the faith. Yes, there is a need to investigate alternative structures and models, but it is certainly not the time to give up or propose simplistic one-size-fits-all solutions. While there are problems, there are also real solutions—solutions that are being implemented across the country and that reflect a focus on growth, not resignation to decline. We are moving away from the hospice mentality to a growth mindset that is optimistic in its approach to growth. We are entering a genuine renaissance period in Catholic education, as evidenced by innovative programming, a surge of enrollment in certain regions and renewed confidence for the future.

Every day the 150,000 Catholic school educators in the country, supported by pastors, superintendents, bishops and the National Catholic Educational Association, teach and form students because they believe in Catholic education. We welcome Professor Zech and his colleagues from the Villanova Church Leadership Roundtable to visit with us and any of our Catholic schools to see the great work being done.

Kevin Baxter, Ed.D.
Senior Director and Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Debra Brillante
Superintendent for Elementary Schools
Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Thomas W. Burnford, D.Min.
National Catholic Educational Association

Susan M. Gibbons
Director of Educational Services, Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Christopher Knight
Secretary for Catechetical Formation and Education/Superintendent of Schools
Diocese of Cleveland

Dr. Jan Daniel Lancaster
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of New Orleans

Dr. Timothy J. McNiff
Superintendent of Schools
Archdiocese of New York

Christopher Mominey
Chief Operating Officer and Secretary for Education
Archdiocese of Philadelphia

Kurt Nelson, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Education
Archdiocese of St. Louis

Jim Rigg, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Archdiocese of Chicago

Keeping Kids Healthy in the New School Year

It’s that time again, with summer’s days dwindling and back-to-school items stocked on the shelves. As an educator, keep in mind the health of you and your students as you plan for the upcoming school year. As a parent, you prepare for fall clothes and school supplies to send your child into the new school year prepared, it’s vital to remember your child’s health as part of the complete package, along with faith and education.


Not only should parents schedule the child for their annual physical before the start of the new school year, it is important to remember that health education is equally taught and implemented at home, and should start before sending your kids out to classrooms full of germs. And for teachers and faculty, you know how often you can get sick or have children out with illness during the fall and winter months. So for both parents and educators, here are some health tips to start out the new school year:


Parents and Teachers: Stay positive. When cold and flu season is upon us, so are shorter days, cooler weather, and the potential onset of the winter blues and cabin fever. A good attitude is important for mental and physical health. A gratitude journal can be a great idea, and keep godliness in mind as well as thankfulness for the blessings around you. This is a practice that teachers, parents, and children can benefit from. From “To stay positive, try keeping a gratitude journal. It’s a place where you and your family can write down five things each day that you’re grateful for that day. This is great to keep students of Christian schools humble and thankful during the holidays as well!”


Parents and Teachers: Hand-washing is vital. Talk about it whenever you can. Teach younger children to sing “The Happy Birthday Song” while they wash their hands to ensure they wash for an adequate amount of time. Teach good technique. This is important to encourage at home as often as it is encouraged at school. Education on germs and the spread of disease should happen in both places as well.


Parents: When conducting an annual physical for your child, make sure that questions about vaccines and immunizations are answered, and scheduled to take place if needed. Ask about emotional or physical warning signs that you should be monitoring for in your children. Make sure that you understand your child’s BMI in conjunction with weight and age, and if your kids fall into a healthy spectrum there. If you child is an athlete, make sure the pediatrician knows, and that you have all appropriate care/questions/protective gear covered in the checkup.


Teachers: Keep a baseline healthfulness in your curriculum. Can you incorporate activity into your classroom activities, even if it’s just kids standing up from their desks while answering questions? Perhaps a 2 minute yoga break to keep minds and bodies active? One quick relay race to perk up student energy? The more you can keep them active, the healthier their minds and bodies can be. If your budget does not include room for items like tissues, sanitary wipes or hand sanitizer, you may want to consider petitioning parents at the start of the school year for small objects to help keep the entire class healthy.


Parents: Make sure your kids eat nutritionally. A healthy immune system comes from a consistent diet of the right nutrients and vitamins. If you are concerned your child is lacking adequate vitamin intake, consider chewable (or even gummy) vitamins that kids may view as a treat.


Teachers: Ensure your classroom stays clean. Desks, door handles, and other heavily-touched surfaces need extra care from you or janitorial staff. Eat nutritionally and consume plenty of vitamins yourself, so as to not take cold and flu germs home with you. Educators are a role model for our children not just in moral and intellectual ways, so make sure that your habits match those you wish to see in the children in your classroom.


Parents and Teachers: Children should not be in the classroom while ill. Communicable diseases spread fast in closed environments, and a compromised immune system from a common cold might not seem like a big deal, but could mean a child contracts something even more serious if exposed. Parents need to manage care and stay-at-home options for children and not send them to school ill. Teachers need to send children home, or to the nurse’s office, at the first signs of illness, and make sure that parents know the rules of your classroom are firm.


Parents: Children need plenty of sleep. Ensure all throughout the school year that your children get enough rest. They need this for brain development and physical growth as well as a healthy immune system. The lists child needs as:


Age Recommended May be appropriate
Toddlers 1-2 years 11 to 14 hours 9 to 10 hours/15 to 16 hours
Preschoolers 3-5 years 10 to 13 hours 8 to 9 hours/14 hours
School-aged Children 6-13 years 9 to 11 hours 7 to 8 hours/12 hours
Teenagers 14-17 years 8 to 10 hours 7 hours/11 hours


Teachers: You need plenty of rest as well. Stress and sleeplessness can wear you down emotionally and spiritually and make you more vulnerable to illness yourself. Take care of your physical needs of sleep and rest.

Three New Principals Glad to Be Coming ‘Home’

This post is from Catholic New York, make sure to check them out for more excellent work like this!

Anna Ramirez-Adam is returning home, Kate McHugh is staying home and Lawrence Cooke feels at home after a 30-year detour.

Ms. Ramirez-Adam, Ms. McHugh and Cooke met with CNY as three of the 25 new principals at schools in the archdiocese for the 2016-17 school year.

Ms. Ramirez-Adam and Ms. McHugh will be principals in Manhattan at St. Elizabeth’s School and The Epiphany School, respectively. Cooke will be in the Bronx at Immaculate Conception.

“They all have the academic credentials to do well,’’ said Steven Virgadamo, associate superintendent for leadership. “We looked for highly credentialed individuals who not only have educational experiences but life experiences and have demonstrated leadership potential. They not only see themselves as educational leaders but as ministers of the Church.”

Ms. Ramirez-Adam is returning to the school and parish where she took religious education classes and made her first Holy Communion as well as began her teaching career. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from the City College of New York and holds a doctorate in education from Nova Southeastern University in Florida.

Ms. Ramirez-Adam taught at St. Elizabeth’s for seven years and at SS. Philip and James School in the Bronx for seven years before serving as a teacher, assistant principal and principal in Florida for 27 years. She was principal at St. Joseph’s School in Palm Bay for 10 years and St. Catherine’s School in Sebring for five years.

“It’s very exciting for me to go back and continue to strengthen the education at St. Elizabeth, help these children grow into life-long learners and realize religion is not just a subject but is our faith,’’ Ms. Ramirez-Adam said.

Ms. McHugh, who has a bachelor’s in chemistry from the College of the Holy Cross, earned a master’s in chemistry and general science education from New York University and a master’s in education with a major in administration and supervision, Catholic leadership program, from Fordham University.

She started as a science teacher at The Epiphany School in 2001 before serving as dean of students, 2004-2007; guidance teacher, 2005-2008; and vice principal, 2007-2016.

“I went to Epiphany, and my husband went to Epiphany. We were in the same class,’’ Ms. McHugh said. “Our siblings all went there. Starting in September, both of our children will be attending Epiphany. It’s always been a part of our lives, and it’s really exciting to start another chapter of that relationship with the school.

Ms. McHugh is a founder of Epiphany’s Stars for Service community service program and alumni committee.

“One of the biggest pieces of school’s success is the family feeling,’’ she said. “I think everyone comes together to worship, to study and to socialize. It’s really a second home for so many people. For that, the children stay and the teachers stay.”

Cooke was in sales management, marketing, consulting and business management before becoming a teacher in 2007 at St. Joseph’s High School, a girls’ school in Brooklyn. He volunteered at St. Joan of Arc parish in Queens as a catechist, men’s prayer group facilitator and lector.

“I always wanted to be in education. I just took a 30-year detour in business,” Cooke said. “I’ve done volunteer work with my church and youth organization related to the Catholic church over the last 20 years.’’

Cooke believes his background in business, teaching and volunteering at his parish has prepared him for his new position.

“Now I’m a lead teacher and a lead spiritual adviser,” he said. “I’m very excited about it. This is not a job. This is a vocation and one I had worked very hard in my life to do. This is where I want to be and my placement at Immaculate Conception is a privilege and a calling. It’s where God has placed me.’’

14 Tips To Help Teachers Maintain The Beauty And Luster of  a Vocation as a Catholic School Teacher.

For the next month teachers and school leaders will be preparing to welcome young scholars and saints in formation at Catholic Schools throughout the country. Forming Saints and Scholars is hard work, I hope and pray that our Catholic school leaders and teachers will be rewarded greatly for the days and nights they spend toiling in the ministry I like to call Our Father’s Business.


Last week I had the opportunity to welcome new teachers to the to their ministry in a Catholic school  – many of them will be first time teachers. I spoke to them about the Trinitarian aspects of a Catholic School and how successful Catholic schools are about relationships – relationships – relationships.  By the time the day was done, the cohort of new teachers adopted a  mantra of “Not Under my Watch.” Imagine several hundred new Catholic school teachers being asked:


  • Will it be said that in your classroom children were denied an opportunity to encounter the Risen Christ?


  • Will it be said that the test scores of your children declined during the 2015-2016 school year?


  • Will students in your classroom withdraw from school because parents are dissatisfied with your willingness to partner with them on behalf of their child’s education?


And all responding with an unequivocal – “Not Under My Watch.”


Teaching is a noble profession! Nobility includes in its meaning the very notion of beautiful. Therefore, noble work is beautiful work. But what is beautiful can be sullied. While working at the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education Program I was often presented with opportunities to talk to new Catholic school teachers. Below are some of the thoughts I would share with them in an attempt to help each new teacher maintain the beauty and luster of his/her own vocation as a Catholic school teacher. I share them here today so that Catholic school leaders across the country can use as appropriate and share with new teachers.  Some of the thoughts might be good for veteran teachers to hear again as well.


  1. Stay close to the Lord. Throughout your career, you will experience crises of confidence, exasperation, frustration, unreasonable parents, troubled students, bad classes, poor liturgies. You will be misquoted, misrepresented and for some periods of time, mistrusted. But you will also get the unparalleled gift to see the world with wonder again, through the eyes of young people. You will be made a confidante by a young person seeking advice, feel the joy of a weak student who does well on an assignment, cheer for your students in athletic contests, beam with a near parents’ pride as your students graduate. To keep yourself rooted, to keep your ideas fresh, to be the kind of faithful person our young people need to see firsthand, stay close to the Lord, both in your daily prayer and in the reception of the sacraments. If you do, the Lord will bless you in your work and you will go to bed each night exhausted, but with a smile on your face. 
  2. Be yourself. If you’re young, you’ve probably never been called Mister Jones or Miss Smith, and that will take some getting used to.  But you can be yourself within this role. I have never agreed with the maxim “Don’t let them see you smile until Thanksgiving.”  The fact is, students respond better to authenticity. It’s OK to laugh at something the students say which is amusing—in fact, it’s quite disarming to them. It’s OK to let the students see you having fun. 
  3. Admit your mistakes and learn from them. Zero in on your strengths, not your weaknesses. (Remember — nobody’s perfect!) Principals also suffer from human frailty and need time to learn. School leaders need to be supported not weakened by behavior which is destructive to the Catholic School community.
  4. Remember, it’s not about you; it’s about the students. So learn how to spell the word “concupiscence”. Concupiscence is a tendency to put yourself first. Only divine grace enables us to rise above it. But unless you declare war on it, you are bound to succumb to the illusion that teaching is all about you.
  5. Be professional. Model desired attitudes and behavior. Make sure you dress in professional attire. Remember that you teach students first, and then you teach whatever academic discipline you learned. You are a role model for the children and partner with the parents in the formation of each child.  
  6. Empower your students and engage them in the teaching/learning process.  Listen — both to what the kids are saying and to what they’re not saying. Make sure  that assessments are frequent and fair, that work is graded in a timely fashion, and that classes are well prepared and taught from beginning to end  – every minute matters!
  7. Don’t “go it alone.” Get to know all the teachers in your school and make friends with the cooks, custodians, aides, and secretaries. We are all formators of children, just each with a different role to play. Volunteer to share projects and ideas, and don’t be afraid to ask others to share their ideas with you. Understand that the learning process involves everyone — teachers, students, colleagues, and parents — and get everyone involved. Seek the advice of your colleagues, share your frustrations with them, and ask questions. Remember we are promised that whenever two or more are gathered in His name that he will be with us to enlighten and guide us.
  8. Dive in! Don’t be a person who clocks in at 7:30 and clocks out at 4 each day. Come to afterschool activities. Nothing connects you with your students faster than to be able to say “Nice hit,” or “great singing,” or “I was impressed with your artwork at the show.” You can’t be at everything; but make a point some days to just stop in at after school care to say hello.  You’ll see kids in a whole new light, and I think you’ll enjoy it, too.
  9. Consider your roll book a prayer book – Pray for your students and their families. Your most important work is to bring a piece of heaven into the classroom with you.
  10. Think before you speak; if you do, you won’t speak very often, for there is a great deal to think about in education. Have the courage to try something else if what you’re doing isn’t working.
  11. Thirty plus years from now, your students will not remember all that you taught them, but they will remember who you were and how you treated them You have a choice to become a minister of justice or an angel of peace. Be an angel of peace.
  12. All the knowledge we give our students is in vain if they receive it without knowing they are good and loved by God. Each day is an opportunity to channel the divine love. Don’t waste an opportunity to do so. Every minute counts!
  13. Keep a journal and take pictures. Some highly regarded Catholic school teachers share excerpts from their journal and images from the week with parents in a weekly email blast.
  14. Remember that a good day is not necessarily smooth, painless and hassle free.


University of Navarra Provides Catholic Education Abroad to American Students

I went into this school last month in an overview of Picking A Catholic College, but wanted to get you a more in-depth insight into the colleges mentioned:

Two universities overseas have made it into the latest edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. One is the University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain and the other is Holy Angel University in Angeles City, Philippines. Both of these institutions offer international experiences that are faithfully Catholic and are accessible to students who only speak English.

Within the past year, the Cardinal Newman Society visited both of these campuses to get an inside look at how they work. The society analyzed each university’s dedication to Catholic identity and conducted a number of interviews with university professors and staff. The society is happy to recommend these universities to any Catholic families who are looking for a university where their child can get a faithful higher education. Here’s the inside scoop of University of Navarra.  

The University of Navarra was founded in 1952 as a corporate work of Opus Dei. It started out as a law school with only 48 students and four professors. It has since expanded into a contemporary institution that has over 10,000 students and offers dozens of majors. Throughout these years of growth, the University of Navarra has remained dedicated to its founding principles.

The University has an impressive main administrative building with heavy and richly-carved double doors. A few years after the school was founded, Saint Josemaria Escriva constructed a formal meeting room, despite the university’s pressing financial needs. St. Josemaria stated that since this room would be the location for many contract-signing ceremonies of new faculty members, the point of the room was to show the crucial importance of giving new professors a share of the Christian mission. Currently, 85 percent of the university’s professors are practicing Catholics and 60 percent are Opus Dei members. These are impressive numbers for a university of this size.

In the Spring of 2016, University of Navarra had 25 American students enrolled. The University is hoping to draw many more in the upcoming years. The American students spoke highly of the University and its dedication to the Catholic faith. They stated that the University’s focus on quality career formation comes from Opus Dei’s mission for Christians to sanctify their work. While the University states that its high-quality academic programs are the main attraction of the university, there are other benefits too. Students who are entering the workforce can get a leg up on the competition if they are fluent in Spanish and have international experience.

The first two years of the educational experience include “Catholic Worldview” courses in anthropology and ethics. The students also get to choose two “Cultural Keys” courses from a series of options like recent Papal thought, Biblical literature, and Church history. Courses taught in English can be taken in the first two years in the University of Navarra’s schools of communications, economics, humanities and social sciences, engineering, and sciences.

Navarra is home to a number of academic options that not all Catholic universities offer. Pre-medicine students can acquire first-hand experience at the University’s research hospital and communications students can gain the most highly ranked journalism and audio-visual communications degrees in Spain. Philosophy and theology students can learn from an ecclesiastical faculty approved by the Vatican.

On-campus housing is only available for approximately 15 percent of students, so the majority of students live in the flats and apartments that surround campus. Outside of class, many students immerse themselves in Pamplona’s nightlife.

The Catholic faith is a large part of the way the school functions. There is a chapel in nearly every building on campus, and every meal taken in the colegios begins and ends with prayer. The University also offers a number of spiritual opportunities for English-speakers, including Theology on Tap and weekly Mass and confession.

There is a lot to love about University of Navarra. American students enjoy their experience there and develop a large skill set while practicing their faith. It would not be surprising if more American students started heading to University of Navarra for this one-of-a-kind experience.


Spotlight on Holy Angel University in the Philippines

I went into this school last month in an overview of Picking A Catholic College, but wanted to get you a more in-depth insight into the colleges mentioned:

Holy Angel University is an incredible Catholic University located in Angeles City in the Philippines. The history of Holy Angel University is one that is brimming with the dedication to the Catholic faith. It was the first Catholic university in the Philippines founded by laity. Located about two hours north of Manila in the historic district of Angeles City, the University is in a modern city that still has some of the Spanish colonial aspects of Catholicism.

Included in daily life at the University are public prayer, processions and presentations of the life of Christ. There are over 15,500 undergraduate students at this American-style institution. This is by far the largest Catholic University in this year’s edition of The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. Almost 70 percent of this university’s faculty and an even larger portion of its students are practicing Catholics.

The university’s main language of instruction is English, which is also the official tongue of the Philippines. Americans will likely want to pick up some of the native languages, including Tagalog and Kapampangan. International students have the option of enrolling as full degree-seeking students or on a temporary study-abroad basis.

This University differs from American universities in a few ways. Students are required to stay out of hallways during class time, wear uniforms, behave in class, and take physical education classes. While the campus is modern, there is not much air conditioning, and fans and open windows are typically used instead.

Holy Angel University has a large variety of majors from hospitality and tourism to engineering. Every student is required to take four courses that teach knowledge and practice of the Catholic faith. Students are also required to help the local communities through charitable activities, to attend Mass together, and to lead the class in prayer.

The majority of students live in homes located off campus, but classes go as late as 9 pm, and a lot of students stay on campus for evening activities. The campus has two small dorms that accommodate predominantly international students. The university is also constructing a new residence on its upcoming satellite campus. The satellite campus, located in Porac, will be very welcoming to international students.

Holy Angel has a close relationship with the local diocese. At the start of each academic year, the Oath of Fidelity is administered to the president and administrators by the Archbishop of San Fernando, Pampanga. The archbishop emeritus holds the position of vice-chairman on the board of trustees.

According to university president Luis Calingo, the primary attraction for American students is the ability to to attend a faithfully Catholic university while being immersed in an Asian context. Holy Angel is in the process of establishing articulation agreements with American colleges, but it is important that students make sure their credits from Holy Angel will transfer.

The combined tuition and room response are significantly lower than those of most American universities, totaling at an equivalent of $2,200 US dollars. With a convenient cost, a wide variety of academic opportunities, and a dedication to the Catholic faith, Holy Angel University is a great place to send any Catholic student is eager to learn.


Picking a Catholic College

The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College started in 2007. It is a guide published once a year by the Cardinal Newman Society to aid students and parents in choosing the right Catholic college or university based on several different categories. It seeks to include only schools which comport to the principles set forth in Ex Corde Ecclesiae.


They break down everything from on-campus housing rules to curriculum to tuition. In fact, they found in 2009 that the colleges and universities most faithful to the Catholic teaching were often the most affordable in tuition. The selected schools also provided more financial aid (39%) than the average private institution (29%).


This year shows two new universities recommended for the first time ever: The University of Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, and the Holy Angel University in Angeles City, Philippines. These two universities offer courses to students who only speak English, and are faithfully Catholic in their teachings and curriculum, as well a being a fantastic opportunity for students who want an international college experience.


The University of Navarra is founded by a Saint, Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer (also the founder of Opus Dei), and places huge emphasis on providing a personalised education. In 2008 is had a ratio of one teach for every five students. With 42 undergraduate programs and 25 master’s programs, it allows for non-native speakers to take classes entirely in English for the first two years of study. After the first two years you can continue but will need to have learned the language. That is actually one of the perks of the school. Not only can you graduate from the Higher Institute of Business Studies, one of the most respected programs, but you can come out with fluency in a second language as well. In Spring of 2016 they only had 25 American students, but are looking to expand that number in the coming years.


The Holy Angel University teaches entirely in English, and has been in operation since 1933 in the old convent of the Holy Rosary Parish Church. Aside from the major and professional subjects of study, all students are required to take 12 units of Catholic Theology classes, and are required to attend 8 units of PE, with a choice afterward between ROTC and civil service training.  Considered one of the most beautiful campuses in the country, HAU is “a universe within a university” where thousands of students, faculty, staff and visitors from diverse backgrounds converge every single day for intellectual, creative and social interaction.

If you are a student looking for a great Catholic education, or a parent looking to provide a larger world-view in addition to a quality faith-based education, these colleges make great options!

Summertime Children and Reading

The current school year is winding down quickly. It seems as if the first day of school was yesterday and here we are getting ready for summertime. I get most excited about summertime as it is a good time to establish an amazing connection….summertime, children and reading should be like peas and carrots….things that go well together. Reading for young scholars can always open up galaxies of possibilities, but, reading in those lazy days of summer invites play, the unexpected and encourages an unbridled imagination. Every book is a possibility.

Ensuring free time to read and imagine is perhaps the best of summertime opportunities: a wonderful companion to any program, camp or class.

But not all great summertime reading should be done by a child in isolation. Sometimes there is nothing better than reading together. Sharing a story with your child means sharing language, life, and perspective. Characters’ decisions, good ones and bad, morph into complex conversations outside the pages. Funny moments become inside jokes, and travels to exotic lands an inexpensive possibility.

I wish you all parents and young scholars a summer filled with opportunities to make family memories as well as lots and lots of books.

Catholicism’s Impact on the History of Education

In today’s day and age, when it is easy to both take a Catholic education for granted, and, at the same time, potentially harbor feelings of persecution of faith in education, it is important to remember and appreciate the tumultuous history of public education and Catholic education.

While learning and passing on knowledge is intrinsically wired into the brain of all humankind, and there have been teachers and students as long as man has walked on this Earth, the history of formal education in the Western world is much shorter than the history of man, and it is firmly grounded, from the beginning, in Christianity.

Even in Ancient Rome, long considered the intellectual empire of education the pre-Middle Ages world, there is little record of anything indicating free and available education. Only the elite of Roman wealth and society could expect a complete education, and education in this time was seen as more of a status symbol of wealth and leisure time than it was as a practical concern. For a large portion of the Ancient World, literacy was reserved for religious scholars and scribes, and classes or schooling were largely absent. For years, those without wealth and status in cultures from from Israel to China primarily educated themselves by apprenticing in a trade or devoting themselves to religion. Prior to the Middle Ages, India had the most developed and publicly-available education from around 1500 BC to 600 BC, but as the caste system developed it became far more discriminatory.

It wasn’t until during the early Middle Ages that the monasteries of the Roman Catholic Church  became the centres of education and literacy. Evidence of classes and schools in monasteries as the forerunners to the later idea university can be found dated as far back as the early 6th century, a full century before Islam created The University of al-Qarawiyyin which is the oldest existing continually operated university in the world in the latter part of the 7th century.

Free education for the poor was officially mandated by the Church in 1179 when it decreed that every cathedral must assign a master to teach boys too poor to pay the regular fee; parishes and monasteries also established free schools teaching at least basic literacy skills. This was the basis from which all of modern education has sprung, world-wide.

The first American schools founded by the colonists in the 17th century are not actually the first American schools, as the history of Catholic education in the United States is actually older than the United States itself. Religious education was brought to these shores by Spanish missionaries accompanying explorers and conquistadors, and were followed shortly thereafter by French compeers.

Even though English Catholics founded Maryland as a Catholic colony in 1634, and most colonies were founded by Christians and Catholics seeking religious freedoms from the Anglican church, it took some time for Catholic education to take root widely. The end of the Revolutionary War saw the real growth of Catholic schools in America, with Georgetown University being founded in 1789, just a few short years later.

The Catholic education established in the United States saw hard times hard times and a simultaneous boom in the 1840’s when Horace Mann worked to create a statewide system of professional teachers and “common schools” rather than the private schools that had existed before. Mann believed that education should be available to all, and the movement quickly gained strength. Many states began passing “compulsory attendance” laws. No one person did more for public education in the minds of the American people.

However, Horace Mann was also a Presbyterian minister, was also establishing curriculum and ideology for these public schools that drastically shifted education towards a Protestant one, and required that the King James Bible be used in schools. Catholic teachers who refused to participating in the reading of the King James Bible were often dismissed from their teaching positions, and Catholic children in public schools were often bullied and shunned, Tensions built so high in the 1840’s that they began causing riots and violence, with the most severe being the May 3, 1844 riot in Philadelphia that destroyed dozens of Irish Catholic immigrant homes, with Catholic schools and churches being burned to the ground.

This tension against Catholicism in public education created a demand for private Catholic schools, and in 1852 the First Plenary Council of Baltimore urged every Catholic parish in the country to establish it’s own Catholic school for that very reason.

Growth of the Catholic school system grew until 1920, and then the growth became explosive, with an all-time high in the mid 60’s. The mid 1960’s saw 4.5 million elementary school students enrolled in private Catholic schools, with a further million in high-schools, which began a blossoming need for Catholic universities.

Though we are seeing a decline recently from the years that were the peak of enrollment, it is no doubt that Catholicism, and the drive to educate the world in faith and higher learning for centuries, has made our culture what it is today.

His Holiness Pope Francis on Family, Education, and the Catholic Faith

His Holiness Pope Francis has finally finished his Apostolic Post-Synod Exhortation, after a year and a half of work. The document was requested by Synod fathers, is expected to be published on April 8th, and is greatly anticipated by many. It’s an educational address regarding the family’s role in the Catholic faith.

There is a lot of discussion about what the tone of the writings will be, as he has been recognized for some of his unconventional practices and been dubbed “the modern-day pontiff”, so some of what we may read in this forthcoming document may make some waves in the faith, although he has also been very outspoken on the role of the family in non-secular education, amongst other beliefs, so we may not read anything new, it may be an official word on things he has said and written before. There is a great expectancy surrounding this document, and a fair share of speculation as well.

According to quotes from Catholic Online: “This the most important test for this pope to show us how he deals with dissent in the Church, how he deals with divided issues,” said Massimo Faggioli, a Church historian who directs the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas, a Catholic school in St. Paul. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “That document notably recommended a significant softening of the church’s practice toward those who have divorced and remarried.”

At the end of the Synod on the Family in the fall of 2015, the attending bishops wrote a summary document with the intention of advising him, and this document will be based on the synod’s final report, as in past synods. “We humbly ask the Holy Father to evaluate the opportunity of offering a document on the family, so that in it, the domestic church may ever more shine Christ, the light of the world,” the Oct. 24 report stated.

This document may just be a restating of the ideas and thoughts of the Bishops in his own words, or it may turn out to be a completely new document of his own writing. “The document will identify the current stresses on family life from poverty, migration, and war, as well as the hostile legal and cultural framework of contemporary Western society, which Francis calls ‘ideological colonization,'” stated Francis’ biographer Austen Ivereigh to ‘Our Sunday Visitor.’ “The exhortation will be an uplifting tribute to the enduring power and beauty of family life, offering support and consolation to those struggling against fierce contemporary headwinds to hold families together.”

In Pope Francis’ three years since having been elected to the papacy, he has been very outspoken on the role of Catholic education in the world and in the Church, and has particularly emphasised parent’s proper role as the primary educators of their children. He has been outspoken in the fact that non-secular schooling alone is not enough for children, that parents need to educate the children in the ways of the Catholic faith at home, as well. “It is your right to request an appropriate education for your children, an integral education open to the most authentic human and Christian values. As parents, you are the depositories of the duty and the primary and inalienable right to educate your children, thus helping in a positive and constant way the task of the school.” Said Pope Francis.

“Taken as a whole, his statements centered on rebuilding a more ‘human’ education — relax the ‘rigidity’ of schools, reach out to the margins of society, decrease the emphasis on intellectual ‘selectivity’ that tends to exclude rather than invite participation, and open young hearts and minds to God,” wrote Cardinal Newman Society President Patrick Reilly. He added that the comments by Pope Francis to the Vatican Congress “should not be construed as pulling the reins on evangelization in schools. Instead, we should celebrate Catholic education as the Church’s key means of evangelization, in human formation that invites the student to know, love and serve God.”

“The message you bring will take root all the more firmly in people’s hearts if you are not only a teacher but also a witness,” the Holy Father said when speaking to catechists and teachers in Uganda last December. “You teach what Jesus taught, you instruct adults and help parents to raise their children in the faith.” He also does not limit this role to teachers, but also faculty and coaches who are in the lives of the children as well. “How important it is that a coach be an example of integrity, of coherence, of good judgment, of impartiality, but also of joy of living, of patience, of capacity to esteem and of benevolence to all, especially the most disadvantaged!” Said Pope Francis in May. “And how important it is that he be an example of faith! All of us, in life, are in need of educators; mature, wise and balanced persons that help us grow in the family, in study, in work, in the faith,” he added.

Questions about the leniency of divorced and remarried families receiving Holy Communion is expected to be addressed, as well as how the LGBT should be addressed, and during the Synods there had been a clear division of opinions in that regard. There was, however, a unified idea that families need to have an increased and renewed focus on the church from all involved at the Synods.

“I expect the papal document to be a typical Bergoglio combination of challenge and encouragement,” said Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, using Francis’ family name, according to National Catholic Reporter. “This pope has a strange ability to say things which can be quite searing but end up being heartening.”

“If the pope can get the mix of encouragement and challenge right, he’ll be the unifier that Peter is meant to be, leading us beyond ideological dogfights and confirming us in the faith.”

Pope Francis’ addressing of the topics of divorced and remarried Catholics has become “the most important moment in the Church in the last 50 years. This was the biggest sign of hope that in the Catholic Church there are ideas, and we can talk about it. No one before Francis ever had the courage to think about that,” according to Faggioli.