An Interview with Steve Virgadamo, published by CatholicProfiles.org
by Gordon Nary
Gordon: When were you appointed to Associate Superintendent for Leadership at the Archdiocese of New York and what are your primary responsibilities?
Steve: In 2014, I was working at the University of Notre Dame as a Director in the Alliance for Catholic Education Program and I accepted an invitation to come to the Archdiocese of New York to take responsibility for the Leadership Formation of Catholic School leaders. The Archdiocese of New York was already engaged in reimaging Catholic education via new governance and finance structures. Much of the focus had been on restructuring and regionalization of schools. Structure is important, but the real key to success is transforming the culture – changing the way we do things. So the key ingredient to re-imagining Catholic schools is re-culturing. Re-culturing involves constant attention and focus of the key executive leaders as it takes time and energy. This is perhaps why those who staff the Catholic education offices across the country and those who serve as school leaders in a Catholic school building need to lead with purpose, an intensity, enthusiasm, hope, a missionary zeal and always be growth minded. I readily accepted the invitation as Catholic school improvement efforts rely heavily on Leadership. In my 30 plus years of partnering with Catholic schools I can say with certainty that the difference between a good Catholic school and a great one is the school leader.Great Catholic school leaders – serve first – build trust and always, always bear witness to their values. Successful Catholic school leaders must be great communicators and focused on building a culture which will have a positive impact on student learning, achievement and Faith formation. The best Catholic school leaders manage by walking around as they get to know the students by name and by observation identify areas where teachers can improve. Most importantly, Catholic school leaders are filled with a missionary zeal and are unwilling to give up on a young scholar. The very best Catholic school leaders are the epitome of pastoral and instructional leadership.
And of all of the things I have done in my career in serving the Church, I know this will be one of the most rewarding as my work in the Archdiocese of New York is the formation of the next generation of Catholic School Leaders.
To paraphrase John Kennedy’s inaugural address : Let it be known to all friends 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 serving Christ and His Church.
Gordon: When did you receive the National Catholic Education Association President’s award and named one of the most influential people in Catholic Education, and what was the response by the Archdiocese of New York and your family?
Steve: I was blessed to receive the award in April 2018. I was honored, but also humbled. My colleagues at the Archdiocese of New York, as well as Pastors, school leaders with whom I worked in over 6,000 Catholic schools were so supportive and filed my inbox with congratulatory notes and stories of how our encounters had impacted their lives and ministries. My parents probably wanted to take credit for the award, as in an effort to nurture me in my Faith; they enrolled me in a Catholic school. That decision was a precursor to my future, as I spent so much time in the principal’s office that by the time I graduated and they handed me the diploma, I had the equivalent of a Masters degree in Catholic School Administration. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur taught me how to run a successful Catholic school.
My favorite Gospel message is the Transfiguration. Jesus reveals himself to the Apostles and each wants to just stay on that mountain with him, but he says …oh no boys back down that hill there is more work to be done. So while the President’s award was for a lifetime of achievement…I know there is still much more work to do to renew the face of Catholic education.
Click here to read the full interview and learn more about Steven Virgadamo’s impact on Catholic Education!