Tag: papal

Pope Francis Stands for Family and Education

The New York Times recently had an Op-Ed piece asking “Has Pope Francis Failed?”  There was enough response to the contrary of the Op-Ed that there was a follow-up piece asking “Has Pope Francis Helped Reform The Church?” Listing several reader’s responses  including this one:

“Re “Has Pope Francis Failed?” (Op-Ed, Sept. 28):

Matthew Schmitz feels that Pope Francis is a failure because he has failed to “speak of the way hard disciplines can lead to freedom.” He longs for another, different, better pope who would hew to the Catholic Church’s fundamental doctrines.

But Mr. Schmitz fails to see that mercy, the great theme of Francis’ papacy, is not only hard, but that it is also the most fundamental of Jesus’ teachings. Pope Francis’ greatest failure would be not to recognize that.


New York

The writer, a Jesuit priest, is editor at large for America magazine.”

While there are many ways to feel about Pope Francis and the stance that he has taken, there is nothing left to the imagination when it comes to the strength of His Holiness’ words on family and Catholic education, topics clearly close to my heart.

One of the greatest things about Pope Francis is that he addresses the issues of the world which the elite try to hide through their power. He turns to the world and tells how the few people, with the power of money, have been able to turn education into a business. It has become limited to a few “supermen” who gain access to it with the power of money.

The most beautiful thing which has been pointed out by him involves the lack of spirituality which is being promoted by the current curriculum. People are deviating from the path of empathy and compassion which forms the core of the religion. The dimension of transcendence is being eliminated with people driving their focus away from faith.

He said, “We must prepare hearts so the Lord can manifest himself.” This is the thing which the modern education misses: making people realize the power of faith, incorporating in them the love for humanity, and strengthening the bonds of love and friendship.

He points out the confusion which people have between teaching religion and teaching values which will help in restoring the lost affection between people. The basic purpose of education is to bring people more towards humanity and teach them how to live tolerantly in the society. Unfortunately, the modern educational standards are working in exactly the opposite direction.

Supposedly, education was supposed to eliminate hierarchy from the general public but in reality, it is dividing the society into classes. Pope has said that this education is creating distances between the rich and the poor and even between different cultures. This is alarming because it is leading the world towards extreme divisions.

Pope Francis talks about humanity more than he talks about religion which makes him stand out and likable by people belonging to a different race, cultures, and parts of the world. He attributes this inclination towards modern education a fault of parents as well who are reluctant to send their children to catholic schools. Actually, the catholic schools focus on not only imparting education but also on the character building of its students. The parents fail to miss this part and find that the contemporary education is better for their children because supposedly, a child from a catholic school will not be able to have a successful career.

All these notions are false. 99 percent of students of a catholic school graduate high school and 85 percent of them attend college and come out with degrees in their hands. The added quality in them is that they pray daily and hold love for the humanity and the people surrounding them.

With the world facing so much threat just because of the hatred of a few, it has become essential that the rest must work on loving each other a lot more than they did before. This will help in standing together against all the odds. The foremost thing to do in this regard is to promote the uniformity of education and incorporate spiritual, humane values in it as well.

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!

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.

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman

This month would have been the 215th birthday Of Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman. One of the first teachers to tackle the modern and utilitarian problems facing Catholic Education, Cardinal Newman was originally an evangelical Oxford University academic and priest in the Church of England. He became later drawn to the high-church of Anglicanism. “Newman provides a much-needed educational vision today as an attractive alternative to the shapeless, relativistic and uninspiring alternatives of so many contemporary universities,” said Paul Shrimpton, who teaches at Magdalen College School, Oxford, and specializes in the history of education. “His practice and example will appeal to those who value the idea of a liberal [arts] education, those interested in the education of the whole person and those with an interest in the idea of a faith-based college or university.”


While it may be hyperbole to say that he foresaw most of the problems that are facing Catholic colleges and universities today, there is a reason and insight in Newman’s writing that is still applicable to this day. While there are many who are aware of his writings, not as many know about the true devotion he had to the vision of an authentic Catholic education.  He was instrumental in the founding of the Catholic University of Ireland, which has evolved into the University College of Dublin, the largest university in Ireland.


Anti-Catholicism was central to British culture at the time, ever since the Protestant Reformation. In order to educated the public, Newman took the initiative and booked the Birmingham Corn Exchange for a series of public lectures. He decided to make their tone popular and provide cheap off-prints to those who attended. These lectures were his Lectures on the Present Position of Catholics in England and they were delivered weekly, beginning on 30 June and finishing on 1 September 1851.


In total there were nine lectures:


  • Protestant view of the Catholic Church
  • Tradition the sustaining power of the Protestant view
  • Fable the basis of the Protestant view
  • True testimony insufficient for the Protestant view
  • Logical inconsistency of the Protestant view
  • Prejudice the life of the Protestant view
  • Assumed principles of the intellectual ground of the Protestant view
  • Ignorance concerning Catholics the protection of the Protestant view
  • Duties of Catholics towards the Protestant view


-which form the nine chapters of the published book.


Andrew Nash describes the Lectures as: “an analysis of this [anti-Catholic] ideology, satirising it, demonstrating the false traditions on which it was based and advising Catholics how they should respond to it. They were the first of their kind in English literature.”


John Wolffe assesses the Lectures as: “an interesting treatment of the problem of anti-Catholicism from an observer whose partisan commitment did not cause him to slide into mere polemic and who had the advantage of viewing the religious battlefield from both sides of the tortured no man’s land of Littlemore.”


The poet Aubrey de Vere was, at the time, another lecturer appointed by Newman. De Vere stated, “I was pained by the very humble labours to which Newman seemed so willingly to subject himself. It appeared strange that he should carve for thirty hungry youths, or sit listening to the eloquent visitors. Such work should have fallen on subordinates, but their salaries it was impossible to provide.”


Much of his work focused on the importance of Catholic education and the importance it plays on the health of the Church itself. Many Catholic institutions today owe their practices to Newman, as do the Popes, and how they guide education throughout the years.


Catholic Education Available to All

From Vatican City, the Pope spoke on the current state of education. According to His Holiness, there is a current failure of the system in the way that schools interact with families and states that leads to a selective education of the wealthy or intelligent. He used the word “supermen” to describe the children that are lucky enough to come from the privileged background that allows for a non-secular education.


“Behind this, there is always the ghost of money. Always.” Pope Francis said of education. “It has become too selective and elitist. It seems that only those people or persons who are at a certain level or have a certain capacity have the right to an education.” (According to this article from US News, a year at the average Catholic primary school typically runs about $5,330. That number goes up to $9,790 for middle and high school. The average cost for one year of tuition at a Catholic college averages $26,300. The average Christian school, on average, cost $7,960 a year for an elementary student and $16,520 for a secondary student)


This statement took place in a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Christian Education and the 25th anniversary of “Ex Corde Ecclesiae,” St. John Paul II’s apostolic constitution on Catholic universities and was followed up with an off-the-cuff question and answer session taking questions from administrators and faculty


When asked what makes a school “truly Christian”, the pope responded saying that Christian education is not  just about providing catechesis, but also requires education in “human values”, especially the value of transcendence. Education that favors the tangible like test scores and profitability and ignores the spiritual dimension of existence is “the biggest crisis” in education. “We must prepare hearts so the Lord can manifest himself,” which requires an education that strives to reflect “the fullness of humanity that has this dimension of transcendence,” he said. Educators must work to restore the broken “educational alliance” that has a tendency to put profits before people. “This is a shameful global reality,” the Pope said. “It is a reality that leads us toward a human selectivity that, instead of bringing people together, it distances them; it distances the rich from the poor; it distances one culture from another.”

Educators, he continued, “are among the worst-paid workers: what does this mean? It means that the state simply has no interest. If it did, things wouldn’t go that way. The educational alliance is broken. And this is our job, to find new paths.”


The Pope called for people to educated the poor and the marginalized, even if that meant cutting staff or other expenses at some of their schools in wealthier neighborhoods. “They have something that youth from rich neighborhoods do not through no fault of their own, but it is a sociological reality: they have the experience of survival, of cruelty, of hunger, of injustice. They have a wounded humanity. And I think about the fact that our salvation comes from the wounds of a man injured on the cross.”


And the Pope isn’t wrong. Many college-prep Catholic high schools boast records of 99% of their students go on to college, which is an astounding fact that could change the future for a kid from an under-served community. The wealth of U.S. Catholics is documented by sociologists as rising all the time, and a lot of that affluence has been attributed to -at least in part- to Catholic education.


And this is not a new refrain that we are hearing, either. During an April 2008 visit to Washington, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged people to make schools accessible to all by opening our wallets and getting creative in how we finance schools: “It provides a highly commendable opportunity for the entire Catholic community to contribute generously to the financial needs of our institutions. Their long-term sustainability must be assured. Indeed, everything possible must be done in cooperation with the wider community to ensure that Catholic schools are accessible to people of all social and economic strata. No child should be denied his or her right to an education in faith, which in turn nurtures the soul of a nation.”


Pope Francis at World Congress on Catholic Education

Steven Virgadamo shares some of Pope Francis words from an address to the delegates  at the World Congress on Catholic Education held in Rome on November 18-22, 2015.

At the World Congress on Catholic Education, Pope Francis suggested that education cannot be reduced to just the transmission of ideas and that we must find new ways to help young people develop their capacity to think, to make, and to love.

He went on to say……

“A good educator risks teaching his students how to walk on their own.” And…

“You cannot speak of Catholic education without speaking about humanity, because the Catholic identity is precisely that God became man. Educating people in the faith isn’t just about giving catechesis but instead about helping young people to understand reality and discover transcendence. For me, the biggest crisis in education from the Christian perspective is this closing off transcendence. We have closed ourselves to transcendence.

With regard to whom Catholic schools must serve, he said….


“The most needy have to experience a rigorous value based education as these children have experienced something better off kids haven’t: suffering. They have something that youths in more rich neighborhoods don’t have. It isn’t their fault. It’s a sociological reality. They have the experience of survival, and also of cruelty, and also of hunger, and also of injustice. Their humanity is wounded. The reality is you understand better from the peripheries than from the center, because in the center you are always covered, you’re always defended.”

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Catholic Schools and the Value Proposition

steve-virgadamo-catholic-schoolsEveryone loves a great value – a penny saved is a penny earned after all. Value looks like many things to a lot of people, but what each has in common with the next is that they over deliver where it counts.

As the new school year approaches, it is important for Catholic school leaders to examine and articulate the value proposition for the parents served, the Catholic community and the faculty/staff who partner in ministry.

In its simplest terms, a value proposition is a positioning statement that explains what benefit you provide for who and how you do it uniquely well. It describes the problem you solve, and why you’re distinctly better than the alternatives.

Catholic schools provide a reasonably priced educational alternative with exemplary results in student’s academic performance and focus not just on preparing students for college, but also heaven.

As some say, “the proof is in the pudding.”

Catholic school graduates:

  • Lead the nation in post secondary achievement;
  • Pursue a rich variety of college majors;
  • Enroll in some of the most prestigious colleges and universities in the world;
  • Pursue healthy adult lives;
  • Place a higher priority on family values, worship and community service.

So when a parent asks you why should I send my child to a Catholic school – What will you say? How will you describe the value proposition? Can you do so in an elevator speech – 30 seconds or less?

And, as you begin the new academic year are you, your faculty and staff committed to over delivering in the classroom for students and prepared to exceed each parent’s expectations. For these are the things that will make every parent consider the Catholic education received by their child at your school as PRICELESS.

Thank you for reading,

Steve Virgadamo

Vatican Taps New York Native

steve-virgadamoSteven J. Virgadamo, Associate Superintendent for Leadership for the Archdiocese of New York has been invited by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education to participate in its World Congress on Catholic Education. The invitation only Congress will be held in Rome November 18-21, and aims to formulate and refresh core education principles, guidelines for Catholic Schools and Universities.

Virgadamo said: “The aim of the Congress echoes my lifetime of service focused on enriching the effectiveness of Catholic education. The future of Catholic schools is dependent on identifying, recruiting and forming Leaders for each of our schools. During my 30+ year career I have counseled Church and school leaders on the strategies needed to ensure that Catholic schools not just survived but flourished and I am excited to contribute to the success of the World Congress on Catholic Education.”

Virgadamo will bring  insight to the World Congress as he  has worked directly with thousands of Catholic schools in more than 100 dioceses in the United States. In 2012, the Alliance for Catholic Education Program at the University of Notre Dame tapped him to consult with Bishops and Catholic School Superintendents throughout the United States to initiate overall school improvement plans. In 2014, he was invited to return to his New York City roots and contribute to the architecture re-engineering of the Catholic School System in the Archdiocese of New York.
When asked about his participation at the Congress, Virgadamo said:

“People – church leaders, educators and Catholic parents are looking for a new paradigm and a means to revitalize our Catholic schools. I’m hopeful that the congress will contribute to helping to redefine the new paradigm”


About the  World Congress on Catholic Education

Themed – “Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion,” the Vatican Congress aims to re-energize the Church’s commitment to education by focusing on”

1. Understanding and analyzing the challenges of today’s rapidly changing and fractured society.

2. Bringing the light of Christ and the Catholic intellectual tradition to bear on these challenges, educating students in the principles that underlie a daily lived appreciation for the eternal dignity and inestimable worth of each human person, mercy, mutual respect and the unhampered pursuit to know and embrace the fullness of truth.