Tag: pope francis

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.

JAMES MARTIN

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!

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

School Choice is a both Civil Rights and a Human Rights Issue

new-york-rightsFor decades, the Friedman Foundation and other advocates of school choice programs have made their case to city and state officials. They have rightly argued that allowing parents to use public funds to send their children to private schools helps minority students overcome the challenges to learning that exist in many urban public schools.

Steven Virgadamo has long advocated that School Choice in the United States is a fundamental civil rights issue and in some cases could be argued to be a fundamental human rights issue.

In the United States those who can afford to reside in a particular zip code or pay the private school tuition have a very real choice. But what about the urban poor or reside in a poor performing school district and cannot afford to relocate to a zip code with a high performing school district and cannot afford the cost of a private school. Education is an opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. Education reform is needed in the United States and throughout the poor countries in the world.

Later this month this argument may be taken to the United Nations as a United Nations expert committee meets to discuss the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, an international treaty adopted in 1965. This group — the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) — could use the occasion to consider how countries can protect education rights, combat prejudice and promote tolerance by providing public funds for school choice.

 

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Daily Catholic Mass – Fr. Miguel

father-miguelHello all, and welcome back to my website. I wanted to somewhat change the way I add to my blog posts section of this site by adding in some videos for extra information. I plan to start sharing new videos and old ones that highlight the Catholic faith and any news going on within the sector. Below you will find a video of a full Catholic daily Mass performed by Father Miguel. Please enjoy the video and be sure to check back regularly for more videos.

 

Thank you for viewing!

Steve Virgadamo

Catholic School Leaders and Boards – Who runs the school?

archdiocese-nycAs I work with Catholic Schools throughout the United States I am frequently presented with scenarios of conflict between school leaders and board members.  The dysfunction in such a relationship can be destructive to the Faith community we call the Catholic school. In the article below, I attempt to articulate the primary roles, responsibilities and focus of the Chief administrator of a Catholic School, or a Catholic School system and the Governing Board. It is my hope that it will be used widely to clarify roles and responsibilities before the scenarios of conflict emerge.

For most Catholic schools, the school Board exists primarily to formulate policy and give strategic direction to the school (i.e., plan). The Board is charged with furthering the school’s mission and ensuring the school’s success. The Board’s core activity is planning, and the Board’s primary constituency is not today’s students but the students of the future.

The 8 minimal functions of a Catholic school Board includes:

1. Developing a strategic plan

 2. Policy development

3. Hiring the chief administrator

 4. Approving an annual budget

5. Overseeing financial accountability

6. Establishing just compensation for employees

7. Set tuition

8. Ensuring that in broad terms the school is fulfilling its mission.

 

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Reimagining Catholic Schools to Strengthen Mission and Evangelization

pope-francis

Pope Francis

“We are living in an information-driven society which bombards us indiscriminately with data—all treated as being of equal importance—and which leads to remarkable superficiality in the area of moral discernment. In response, we need to provide an education which teaches critical thinking and encourages the development of mature moral values”

Pope Francis, excerpt from Evangelii Gaudium, November 24, 2013

It is the religious character, identity and culture that distinguishes Catholic schools and allows them to be successful. In order to strengthen our mission and continue to evangelize, we need all Catholic schools to be exemplary. The challenges of our society mandate the need for true Catholic schools, not simply schools operated by Catholics.

In the past, religious sisters, brothers and priests staffed Catholic schools, establishing and sustaining their Catholic culture. As we continue to face many challenges, I believe the blueprint has been laid out, the foundation is in place and with proper leadership; success will be inevitable.

In the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, defining characteristics of Catholic schools have been mapped out as a concrete guide for continued growth and improvement. Focusing on the standards of: Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, Academic Excellence and Operational Vitality, these standards truly define what we need in order to remain vital.

Vast changes have swept across the societal and educational landscape.  How we respond to these changes will affect the future of Catholic education. Using the standards and benchmarks as a template we can address our future with tools which will allow success to flourish. Attention to developing the whole child, fostering parish and school relationships, and supporting families are all integral components to accomplish a re-imagined mission and the job of evangelization.

As a leader, the need for a well-articulated execution of mission and evangelization will allow for enhanced confidence from our current constituents, allow opportunities to build community, welcome new families and complement to true mission of our Catholic schools.

The Bishops of the United States are deeply committed to Catholic schools and clearly understand our need to be more aggressive in supporting this important mission in the Church especially in our increasingly secular and materialistic society where the public education system has basically removed any mention of God or prayer from its schools and its classrooms. As President of the Bishop’s Conference, Cardinal Dolan asked that the Conference focus more attention on the situation of our Catholic schools and increase its efforts in articulating more clearly the importance of the work of education in the mission of the Church and make the agenda on Catholic schools as much a priority as the Bishops stance on pro-life and immigration.

One of the challenges that we face is the increasing financial burden of running a Catholic school. This is an issue that will require great resolve on the part of those involved in this ministry of Catholic education. The Catholic Community not only has the ability but also the means to ensure the existence of our Catholic schools far into the future. Today, the Archdiocese of New York today announced the launch of Inner-City Scholarship Fund’s $125 million “Kids Are Our Capital” endowment campaign led by a record-setting founding gift of $40 million from Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman.  The Schwarzmans’ gift is the single largest donation in the Archdiocese’s 207 year history.

However, if this level of philanthropy is to become more routine, it is incumbent that we as school leaders take a hard look at how our schools are run and operated. We need to re-educate the Catholic community as to the importance of these schools in the mission and work of the Church. We must do so without hesitation or timidity and without being nostalgic in terms of what was in the past, but rather address what is needed for their future success.

In its document entitled “The Catholic School” the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education in 1977 pointed out that the Church establishes schools because she considers them as a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole person, since the school is a center in which a specific concept of the world, of man, and of history is developed and conveyed. (The Catholic School-Scared Congregation for Catholic Education 1977) This definition of the role of Catholic schools as the place where formation of the whole person takes place is something that we need to understand more fully and to express more effectively in marketing and promoting our schools.

At the same time we must see the schools within the context of the mission of the Church – the Church has a mission and therefore, we have schools. It should be understood clearly that the reason we establish, support and maintain Catholic schools is because we believe the truth about life, the truth about the origin, identity and destiny of every human person is rooted in our understanding of the person of Jesus Christ.

It is important that Catholic schools not be portrayed simply as competitors to the government run school system, nor should our efforts be seen as a lack of support for the public education system. The reality is that we need to support every effort to help all children achieve their God-given potential and to become esteemed members of the human family based on their human dignity as children made in the image and likeness of God. The public schools are not our competition and the product we strive to produce is more than simply a literate person who can achieve economic success. Our goal must be to prepare students not just for college, but heaven as well.

If we are to seek and expect unprecedented philanthropic support so that Catholic schools prosper then we must re-evaluate many of the structures and resources that helped in the past, discard what is no longer relevant in the current milieu and put in place the foundation stones that will carry us through to the future.

A crucial element of this is leadership. This is perhaps the most important challenge to the survival of the Catholic Schools. We need to develop, form and train individuals who can guide our schools into the future. The leaders must be totally committed to the mission of Catholic education. They must be faith-filled people who daily practice their faith and will be true role models for the staff and students they will encounter on a daily basis. They must have a passion for the work that needs to be done and a willingness to work to achieve the goals that are put forth. These individuals must embody and live the Catholic identity that we proclaim and be examples of individuals who, with God’s grace, have become true disciples of the Lord.

As a result of an early retirement option, the New York Archdiocese has 42 new school leaders this year – 42 transformational leaders. More than 200 applications from across the United States were received. Many candidates expressed a desire to be a part of the Catholic school leadership team who rewrites the script of Catholic schools from a declining system to one which is growing, flourishing and philanthropically endowed.

From 1920 to 2015 the number of Catholics in the United States increased by 28%. One would think this an asset for Catholic schools. Yet under the watch of the Catholic school leaders of the baby boomer generation,  the number of children enrolled in Catholic schools declined year after year. To paraphrase JFK’s inaugural address – Let it be known from this day forth to friend and foe alike that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Catholic school leaders. Born in the latter half of the last century, educated in a post Vatican II church, hardened by scandal and committed to reestablishing a Catholic school culture which provides opportunities for students to encounter the risen Christ while challenged in a rigorous academic environment and empowered to develop the gifts given to them by God.

About the Author – Steven Virgadamo

Steve Virgadamo provides thought leadership to Church leaders, Trustees and Board members. His expert counsel over many years has led to many Bishops, Chief Finance Officers, Superintendents, Pastors and Principals to consider him to be the expert in both Church and school management and the most premier consultant for Catholic schools, colleges and universities. He travels throughout the United States and internationally to mentor and teach school leaders, teachers, pastors, and more. His domestic and international reputation has led to Steven’s selection as a delegate for the World Congress on Catholic Education sponsored by the Congregation of Catholic Education.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

LA Gets 3 Auxiliary Bishops

steve-virgadamo-father-barronPope Francis has officially appointed 3 auxiliary bishops or the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Father barron is among the 3 new auxiliary bishops being relocated to Los Angeles. Father Barron is well known for his strong and unbreakable commitment to evangelisation. Father Barron is also the founder of the Global Media Ministry known as World on Fire. World on Fire produces programmes for WGN America, EWTN, Relevant Radio/YouTube, and is currently the rector of University of St Mary and Mundelein Seminary located in Chicago.

Father Barron has humbly accepted his new position and said that it was an enormous surprise. He is so excited to become a member of the Los Angeles religious community  and was quoted in saying, “The Church of Los Angeles—the most populous in the United States—is energetic, diverse, and creative.” Father Barron went on to say, “The late Francis Cardinal George—the spiritual grandfather of Word on Fire—was a mentor and friend to me. The mission closest to his heart was the evangelisation of the culture, bringing Christ to the arenas of media, politics, law, education, the arts, etc. I can’t think of a more exciting field for this sort of work than Los Angeles, which is certainly one of the great cultural centers of our time.”

The other two auxiliary bishops will include Mgr Joseph Brennan and Mgr David O’Connell. Mgr Brennan is the vicar general and moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Mgr O’Connell is the pastor of Saint Michael Parish in Los Angeles

 

Thank you for reading!

-Steve Virgadamo