Tag: pope (page 1 of 2)

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!

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.

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.”


Catholic Leaders Appeal on Climate Change

osvald-graciasCatholic leaders from around the world met yesterday to discuss climate change and come to a conclusion on what to do. As we all know climate change is a very sensitive issue and a very real problem. The Catholic Church is very much invested in becoming a part of the solution and aiding where they can. Catholic leaders also aren’t afraid to speak their mind on the recent proceedings. The Church aims to approve a “fair, legally binding and truly transformational climate agreement” when they all meet at a United Nations conference in Paris, France sometime next month.

The representatives of the Church met in Vatican City to sign the appeal. They represented 5 contingents and where all on the same mission that they said Pope Francis inspired them to push for. The demands of the Catholic Church are designed to put the common good ahead of national interests and curtail environmental destruction and climate change. The main points of the Catholic Church’s vested interest in this issue comes at the foundation of social injustice from around the world as they have compiled solid evidence that people everywhere are affected by these changes.

The Church’s proposal includes putting “an end to the fossil fuel era” by cutting out the harmful emissions that loom over cities in towns and darken the skies. The Church urges the world to allocate their efforts to research and provide “affordable, reliable and safe renewable energy access for all.”

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, the Archbishop of Mumbai, India was quoted at the conference yesterday in saying, “It’s not a wish or a recommendation but something that is going to tie the hands of governments, we hope.” Cardinal Gracias went on to say that the Church has a strong duty and there are “ethical considerations” to confront with a united group. Cardinal Gracias was extremely pleased that for the first time in history the Catholic leaders from all regional and national bishops conferences presented a joint appeal.

Catholic leaders from around the world added to the appeal that their very way of life is being threatened. Rising oceans, air pollution, and unsanitary conditions have plagued different regions for far too long and now is the time for change.

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium, a former vice president of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was also quoted at the conference with his own thoughts on the urgent matter. He exclaimed, “It’s very important to have a variety of actors like the church who take a stance, because the changes that are required involve much more than decisions at the political and economic level. They involve a cultural change everywhere around the planet. The church can be a very important player in that context.” Professor van Ypersele went on to address the people most affected in the world with this touching sentiment, “a common rule is that the poor are the most vulnerable, while they are also the least responsible for the greenhouse-gas emissions.” He would describe this as a “double injustice”.

This is our world, our one world, and things need to change or we are destined for the same fate.


Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

The Pope Visited a Catholic School

Perhaps you should as well. You’ll find that that the school is still Our Father’s school, but not your father’s Catholic School anymore.


While many Catholic schools have closed, more than 150 schools opened during the past 10 years. Hardly a diocese in the country exists that does not have plans on the drawing boards for new schools and additions to others. Catholic parents in suburban parishes are now the prime movers behind the opening of new schools. From California to Virginia, from Florida to Indiana, examples exist of new schools opening with capacity enrollments and waiting lists.

The best way to understand what is happening in Catholic schools is to take a good look at the following four traits:






1) Have a proven record of academic excellence;

2) Recognize you as the primary educator of your child(ren) and partner with you for the good of your children;

3) Continue the religious formation of your children begun in your home;

4) Offer a rigorous curriculum

5) Provide a challenging environment;

6) Maintain a secure environment;

7) Deal with the issues of today and show students the application of Christian principles to them;

8) Have educators who believe that all children can succeed;

9) Provide a Christian value-centered education; and most importantly

10) Prepare students for not just college, but heaven too!

If you are not a parent but a Catholic parishioner, I ask you to examine with me the following reasons for helping the renaissance of Catholic schools throughout the United States: 1. At Baptism we joined the family of God and were charged to become evangelizers. We do this chiefly by acting in a Christ like manner. Because we are charged to be evangelizers, we need to assist those who do this on a full-time basis. We need to support our Catholic schools.

2. Catholic schools are good for America. Large numbers of Catholic schools provide a top-quality education to very poor children thereby treating the disease of poverty and social injustice as opposed to just the symptoms.

Catholic schools have done more for evangelization than any other American Church institution. For more than 200 years, they have been the most effective means of helping youth grow in their faith. Catholic schools have been a great gift to the nation. They have educated millions and millions of students who became productive citizens intensely loyal to their country.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

11 Things for Every Catholic School Leader to Consider During October


In this article Steven Virgadamo, a renowned expert in Catholic School Leadership shares some October wisdom with Catholic School Leaders.

Looks like you made it!

October 1 – first month of your Apostolic work as a Catholic School Leader is in the history books. Congratulations!



To help you prepare for your next month in your leadership ministry Steven Virgadamo shares a few insights for new and experienced Catholic school leaders:

1. Continue to listen carefully to the staff- the faculty, lunch staff and custodians. We are larger than the sum of our parts! More often than not the faculty, staff and custodians have a pulse and perspective on what is working and of course what is not,”

2. Continue to honor the history of the school, and avoid using words like at another school I worked…”

3. By now, you have good read on your faculty and have identified teachers who have a passion for knowledge and “upping their game”. Encourage them to take measured risks and support them as they will help those more fearful of change to adjust to new pedagogies.

4. Relationships matter. Focus on building community and never ever forget to admit when you are wrong or hold your ground when it is right for the children to do so.

5. Research indicates a direct link between classroom management and academic success. Never stop practicing MBWA (Management by Walking Around), be visible in the hallways, dining facilities, playground and of course a mentor to new teachers.

6. Keep your eye on the goal – the  SMART Goals and be prepared to measure the effectiveness of your year in relationship to the goals.

7. Test scores, test scores, test scores…be creative and innovative, work with teachers to conduct formal and informal student assessments in all academic disciplines but particularly focused on increasing students performance in Math and ELA.

8. Model behaviors and be sure your staff perceives you as a lifelong learner. Staff meetings should be professional development opportunities not just informational monologues

9. As you gather with the students and parents for first Friday liturgy, remind them that this is a school and Church built by God, it is HIS House and the more time that they spend in it and get to know Him and love Him the happier they will be.”

10. Remember to manage up – as well as down –  Keep your Pastor, Board, and  Superintendent in the loop. Each is a great resource. Consult with them regularly and be sure to share both triumphs and tribulations.

11. Keep a professional journal. It will be a great resource for you and will empower your growth as a school leader in service to the Church.

And lastly, but perhaps most importantly, make memories and be joyful as you are a important partner in Our Father’s business.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Top 10 Relics of Jesus Christ PT: 2

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Steve Virgadamo

Top 10 Relics of Jesus Christ PT: 1

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Steve Virgadamo