Tag: catholicism (page 2 of 2)

Spring and Catholic Schools

It’s Spring!

It’s no coincidence that Lent and Spring are at the same time. Both are times of change. There is evidence from nature that Spring is here. New life is sprouting all around us. As Spring brings about changes so does the season of Lent. Lent has the potential to bring about changes and new life in our inner selves. We are called to fast, give alms and pray so that God can create us anew. The same transformation that we see taking place in nature can take place within ourselves. As the bareness of the trees, the flowerless fields and the cold air will burst forth into the beauty of Spring, so will our sometimes barren spirits, cold hearts and failed attempts be transformed into the New Life of Christ. It is for this that He died and rose again.

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.

 

Will Next Generation of Catholic Teachers Last?

Will the next generation of Catholic education staff member last? Ian Hughes is concerned that they won’t, under the current workload and wages that exist in the Catholic education sector. Ian Hughes is a full time audiovisual technician for Lourdes Hill College in Queensland, and is one of thousands of teachers who took a day of protest against work conditions in Catholic schools last week.

 

We know that there has been concern about enrollment in Catholic schools causing cutbacks which add to the workload for the remaining teachers. And while there is data to say that trend may be turning back in favor of higher enrollment, which would loosen some tension in the budgets of Catholic institutions, the low wages and extra workload in some Catholic schools is taking a toll on teachers and other faculty.

 

Hughes represented hundreds of Catholic teachers and support staff at meetings between the Queensland Catholic Education Commission and the state’s union for teachers for a year. But the problem isn’t specific to Australia or Queensland, this debate may be relevant and reach worldwide. They are scared about what the future will look like for religious education faculty worldwide. The workload is large, and with pay increases fewer and further between, the fear is that this work environment discourages young educators from seeking a lifetime career before they are even five years into their teaching pursuits. “If we stop now and don’t do what I’m doing, it will be worse for teachers in the future. Most support officers are not full-time, and work in school term times at 40 weeks a year,” Mr Hughes said. “They are on a lower-tier pay scale, with reduced holiday pay. Why are they penalised for not having a full-time job?” He said teachers and support staff were working weekends, stayed back late in schools, and during lunches “abandoning staff rooms”. “Time expectancy hasn’t changed but teachers are doing their jobs outside of time,” he said.

 

While this day off in protest happened In Australia, and Queensland, this is a concern for many local institutions as well. For those who are called to teaching, and to educating children and young adults in a holy, reverent way of living, we have to also nurture our faculty, and care for them as we do the children. While there is no debate that the faculty is providing a great service and are valued, Catholic educators and service staff all over the country are also feeling the pinch. Careful thought must be given to how much we are reducing wages/preventing increase, and when cutbacks are adding more workload onto those who already have a difficult job to do.

 

Those who care for and teach children in Catholic education are just as precious as the children and young adults they shape. Let’s make sure that we are doing everything in our power to develop and care for them, as well.

 

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.”

 

Secular Criteria for Colleges Can’t Tell the Whole Story

With a recent article published by Newsmax on the top 40 Traditional Catholic and Jesuit Colleges in America, some debate has been raised on the topic of secular college standards versus faith being the defining factor in choosing a school. Managing editor of the Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, Adam Wilson, argues that a college’s Catholic identity should be of paramount concern.

 

“Students must weigh all options, including a school’s selection of majors, its location, post-graduation job success rate, class size, and student-to-faculty ratio.” Says Newmax, but then it also goes on to say that legacy and influence are subjective criteria compared to statistics like student retention rates. While these factors are great to take into consideration, do they accurately portray the Catholic structure of the college and the ideals that it espouses?

 

A Newsmax rep spoke with The Cardinal Newman Society to explain “that special consideration was given to “institutions that allow students to give back or care for others while growing spiritually,” but that they ultimately “wanted the list to feature exceptional institutions that ‘strike the perfect balance between integrating faith and reason with a rigorous academic education.’” Only one of the universities in the Newsmax ratings is recommended by the Newman Society for its commitment to a faithful Catholic education. Georgetown University, on the Newsmax list as the number two top Catholic college has actually had a canon law petition filed against it due to the numerous Catholic identity abuses, demanding that the university either remove it’s Catholic affiliation or take significant steps to restore the Catholic identity it once held.

 

So where should you look to for a college that is based in spirituality but also hits the academic criteria desired for success of the students? Keeping in mind that it is not just a college of faith that is important, and if they adhere to what the Church envisions for Catholic universities, but also that the students will enroll in institutions that aim to strike the perfect balance between integrating faith and reason with a rigorous academic education. The legwork here mainly falls to you. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has compiled a list of Catholic Colleges and Universities in the United States that gives you a base to jump of from, and everyone looking into a Catholic institution should read the apostolic constitution on Catholic universities, Ex corde Ecclesiae. It is important that the institutions and bishops in the United States are understanding and using the application of that document to bring their identity in line with the Church’s vision. The only way you can know if the needs of the college are aligned with the needs of your family and your faith is to ask the important questions yourself. Class size and student retention, while important factors to consider, simply are not representative of the ideals of a college or it’s ability to nourish a student’s faith. Campus ministry and residence life, as well as the faculty and percentage of Catholic students in attendance are all integral to the process.

 

As Pope Benedict XVI addressed to Catholic educators in 2008 where the Holy Father stated that “Catholic identity is not dependent upon statistics.” Instead, Catholic identity “demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith. In this way, our institutions make a vital contribution to the mission of the Church and truly serve society,” he continued. “They become places in which God’s active presence in human affairs is recognized and in which every young person discovers the joy of entering into Christ’s ‘being for others.’”

 

Catholic Schools Can Be Marketed for Image, Enrollment & Dollars

“Steven Virgadamo” suggests that marketing simply stated is the right message, delivered to the right person at the right place and the right time.
 
catholic-instituitionFor more than 25 years, I have been involved in leading, managing, and governing Catholic Institutions. (Consider joining “Steven Virgadamo” hosts Leading, Managing and Governing Catholic Education Group at LinkedIn)  I have worked for schools, dioceses, religious congregations and various other Catholic apostolates.   I have helped to prepare pastors, principals and diocesan leaders for their respective leadership roles. Last week I was invited to work with a school in the Deep South. During the time assisting the School Board members and the school administrators, I discovered that they had already solicited the parents who would be new to the school with the 2012-2013 school year.  This fundraising strategy seemed so uncivilized and certainly did not correlate with what I have learned about southern hospitality from years of working in many of the (Arch) dioceses located in the southern portion of our country. I became even more concerned when I met one of the parents who had just enrolled their first child a preschooler in the school and she had already been solicited for a six figure gift. The mother of (definitely a Generation X Mom) told me she agreed to make a “token gift” but was now concerned about the financial situation at the school that the administrator would feel compelled to ask a new family – one which had not yet experienced the promises of the administrator regarding the curricular and co-curricular programs for such a large gift. That experience gave birth to today’s posting.


Please don’t ever just assume that all of the students registered in the spring will be in their respective seat with the new fall semester. The point here is that the recruitment cycle does not end when a child is registered in the spring. To be successful, efforts need to focus between May and August to help each new family “justify the purchase decisions.”


For years, I have said that marketing simply stated is the right message, delivered to the right person at the right place and the right time.


Right Message


To help parents justify the purchase decision we must understand why a young mother chooses Catholic School. The research on why a parent chooses a Catholic School suggests that the decision is based on a perception of a rigorous academic program, an environment of safety, structure and discipline, religious values infused in the curriculum and added value benefit such as a before school, after school program, location of school, and multiple co curricular offerings. So then the right message to help them justify their purchase decision would focus on these aspects of your school. Certainly, you will want to avoid the pitfall of one school in the Midwest which the first communication with new parents after spring registration process was a tuition bill distributed by the business manager in June. I often recommend that all parents, but certainly those new to the school receive several communications between May and August that address how the school is expecting to best serve each student in the areas presented above. An example of such a strategy would be to hold a parent teacher conference the week before school begins to provide the parent the opportunity to educate the teacher about their child and his/her related needs.


Right Person


The research is clear that the mother is the primary decision maker with regard to where a child attends elementary school. So clearly, the key to effective marketing is communicating with mothers and between now and the fall the focus must be on helping the mothers of all students, but particularly those of new students to rationalize their purchase decision. Keep in mind that most of the mothers of preschool age children today are products of what sociologists have  labeled ”Generation X.”  In general Generation X Moms are between the ages of 25 and 40. Generation X’ers are characterized by a propensity for technology, skepticism to advertising claims and attraction to personal style rather than designer labels. Many Generation X mothers grew up as a latchkey child and in a divorced family. Therefore we find that time for their family and family values are very important to them and their approach to parenting is one of hovering, pragmatism, and traditionalism.Generation X mothers are better educated than any other women of previous generations. You can expect them to have an understanding of school achievement data and to utilize that data to evaluate the effectiveness of schools. Generation X mothers surpass their predecessors when it comes to technological advances; they are also embracing traditional values that might have been rejected by their parents. You can expect them to have a deeper commitment to spirituality and heightened concerns about the impact of the media on their children’s formation. Generation X mothers are more fiscally savvy than their predecessors. You can expect them to more closely analyze the “price-value” of any educational investment for their children.

Right Time


While the marketing efforts must be ongoing, particularly if one recognizes the research that the child is under the age of 2.5 when mom makes the elementary school choice. This article is attempting to call your attention to continuing to market the school to the parents who have already enrolled their child for the upcoming fall semester – help each mother “justify their purchase decision” with specific marketing/communication strategies and or events between May and August. Typically, I recommend at least three touches with the parents and one touch to the student by the respective teacher before the traditional “Back to School information is distributed.
Lastly, please keep in mind that the justification of the purchase decision must not end when the new school year commences. Our Catholic elementary schools are experiencing a student retention problem. It is interesting to note that many of the Generation X mothers are choosing to enroll their child but then withdrawing that student within two years. In many cases, this is not exclusively for financial reasons. In many cases they do not believe the school administration and or teachers understand them, their needs and expectations for the education of their children and perceive the value of the educational or religious experience does not justify their financial investment.


Who is “Steven Virgadamo”?

He is a gifted speaker and workshop leader with more than twenty five years of experience as a consultant, providing workshops, seminars and direct consulting services to Catholic Educational Institutions, parishes, religious communities, dioceses and boards of education. He has provided direct consultative guidance to hundreds of Catholic schools in almost half of the Dioceses of the United States in the areas of ownership/governance, administration, strategic planning, marketing, finances, and institutional advancement. Follow him on Twitter @svirgadamo.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Bishop Encourages Men to Stay Connected to Church

bishop-hyingIn many areas the Catholic faith is well practiced and there’s a strong sense of religious involvement among the entire community. There are also many area where the Catholic faith has fallen short and is not practiced as regularly unfortunately. The Catholic Church does spend a considerable amount of time trying to reach out to as many people as they can in order to bestow the gifts of the Catholic faith upon those willing to receive it. The Church as a whole tries its very hardest to encourage communities and individuals to stay connected with the Church but recently Bishop Donald Hying is targeting men specifically.

Bishop Hying preaches to his Catholic community that it’s a wonderful time to be Catholic and follow the faith as well as challenge spiritual leaders to develop specialized spiritual plans to really know and understand Jesus Christ. Bishop Hying reminded the spiritual leaders about the importance of becoming role models and suggesting men increase their efforts and get children more excited about the Church community. He was recently interviewed about his lessons and said, “We have to go back to the beginning and preach about Jesus Christ as if nobody has ever heard of him. We have to re-energize the world. We have to do it through engagement.”

Bishop Hying went on in the interview to point out the disconnect college age students and other young adults have with the Church. He wants the spiritual direction of today’s youth to be corrected and brought back to a place of faith. Bishop Hying wants the Catholic Church to “intentionally live our faith” and stresses the need to be “dynamically engaged” so that the communities of faith don’t lose integral members.

I find it very interesting what Bishop Hying is doing. I agree with his view on keeping men interested and engaged with the Catholic faith and the communities that practice Catholicism. His encouragement and commitment to serving others and the faith as a whole stand testament to his love for Jesus Christ.

 

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Faith Identity & Catholic School

catholic-schoolOne of the main staples of a thriving and constantly growing Catholic school is a strong and undying sense of mission and purpose. A Catholic school above all others must stay steady in their faith and know where they stand at the present moment and where they intend to stand in the future. Unfortunately Catholic education has come under much scrutiny in the past decade due to religious views from those outside the institution and varying ideas to how the organization is allowed to operate.

On the other side of the fence, there are countless families across the country and across the word that believe in a faith based education system. Generations have passed through the doors of some of the most famous institutions and continue to support them by making generous donations or being available to assist in many ways. For those that are well informed about the educational workings of a religious school they understand the strong drive for personal betterment, social responsibility, and community involvement. These same institutions also have high standards in respect to personal faith and morals.

Every so often organizations question the meaning of a religious school and who the school really caters to. The question of whether a religious institution caters to students of a particular faith and are willing to only teach according to that faith, or are they just a private school that welcomes in students of all religions. Dr. Jamie Arthur of The Cardinal Newman Society addressed these concerns in an insightful quote stating, “Catholic schools cannot compromise on Catholicity for it is the integrity and reputation of this ‘brand’ that parents are desperately seeking to assist them in the intellectual and spiritual development of their children.” It is this kind of teaching that keeps the Catholic education systems strong and able to share its ideals and knowledge. It is these same schools that are the most successful in the United States because they know what they want and who they are at their very core. They are not afraid or ashamed to be Catholic and support their religion and know their mission and purpose.

The Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone was recently quoted on the subject of faith identity and its relation to Catholic school and he relayed the message you see below.

 

“Keeping the focus on Christ keeps the focus on what the heart and mission of a Catholic school is,” the archbishop stated. “The heart and the mission of Catholic education is evangelization—to help our young people know and love Christ. The reference has to be constantly on the person of Jesus Christ. Without the person of Jesus Christ, there’s no point in having Catholic schools.”

 

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

More Information on Catholic Education

steve-virgadamo-catholic-educationA Catholic school education provides young men and women with a strong religious presence of mind. With correct teachings, young men and women start to see a bigger picture in their life and focus their sites on where they want to be and how they can get there. A Catholic school education really does aid in the productive ability of today’s youth to make the correct choices by employing detailed information and looking to God.

Below you find more reasons that a Catholic school education is beneficial for students whether they are enrolled at a young age or look to a Catholic institution for their collegiate career. Enjoy and be sure to share!

1. Discipline:

At a Catholic school students learn to push themselves to what they believe their limit is and then over-achieve what they previously thought was possible. Catholic education provides students with all the necessary tools to allow them to explore their likes, dislikes, strengths, and weaknesses. Above all else though, students learn to not give up and find a solution to anything that stands in their way.

2. Learning About the Arts:

A proper Catholic education will expose young students to the wonders of the finer arts. Students will have the best opportunity to explore their interests in music, drama, theatre, and even more. Students will learn and be able to become involved in live features and expand their personal skills sets, further diversifying themselves for the next phases in their lives. A well-rounded student always makes a larger impact.

3. Achieving Personal Excellence:

Catholic schools promote a certain level of healthy personal competition. They allow students to push themselves and learn even more. Students are given all the opportunities possible to try new interests and become leaders. It is the duty of the student to share their knowledge with others and walk the correct path while promoting a healthy and religious lifestyle.

4. A Deeper Look at One’s Self:

While studying at a Catholic institution students are surrounded by a loving, accepting, and embracing atmosphere. There is never a shortage of people to talk to and bounce ideas off. The ability to discuss your feelings and invest in your future will allow you to further your learning and increase your self-worth. Both the administration and God are always there to listen.

5. Carrying the Weight of Catholic Identity:

A Catholic school education provides young men and women with all the tools to set them up for success. But how does the Catholic education system grow? The men and women who graduate and become valued alumni are the crux of expanding the Catholic faith and education ideals. These special men and women carry with them a level of responsibility to share their experiences with others and walk in the light of the lord.

 

I hope you enjoyed the article and please feel free to share!

-Steve Virgadamo

Top 5 Benefits of Catholic School Learning

steve-virgadamo-church-educationA Catholic school education can provide young men and women with significant learning and growth opportunities. A proper Catholic education is beneficial for countless reasons and leaves a mark of distinguishment entering into collegiate learning or into the real world. Below you will find some of the top benefits resulting from a Catholic school education.

1. A Holy View of the World Around Them:

Students learning under a Catholic school administration learn that God is always present in the world and is involved in their lives every day. Students learn to see God’s presence in everyday life whether they are hiking or driving on the highway. This sense of noticing God’s presence is known as “Sacramental Awareness.” By seeing signs of God’s presence, students become more instruments of God and therefore grace their surroundings from their local communities to the world as a whole.

2. The Value of Relationships:

Catholic school students learn that strong bonds between one another are a gift from God and are necessary to living a fruitful life. Through developing relationships with family, friends, teachers, coaches, and more, students have the ability to learn countless values and lessons from one another to carry through the rest of their lives. A strong and nurturing relationship with others reflects the love God has for everyone and the dynamic abilities of the Trinity. We are there for others to learn, to grow, to share in joyous occasions, and to unite under challenges.

3. An Interesting View of Scripture:

Students are given the ability to view sacred and holy scripture through a different lens as they learn more and more about their faith. They can explore questions and events that have happened many many centuries ago. Students will learn useful information dating back to the genesis of Adam and Eve all the way up to recent teachings of Pope Francis. They will also learn to apply Scripture to their daily lives as to live better and more fulfilled lifestyles.

4. Civic Engagement:

Catholic education bestows a certain level of civic engagement and responsibility. Students and faculty of Catholic Schools regularly take part in local foundations, community services, and host fundraisers to help the sick, needy, homeless, and less fortunate. Through volunteer efforts and charitable activities students learn more and build even more bonds with one another and the world around them.

5. Serving the Common Good:

Similar to civic engagement, students under a Catholic administration are strongly encouraged to be involved in public service all the way from the very beginnings of their education to their graduation and beyond. Catholic students learn that they have a responsibility to those around them and it is their duty to help where needed and provide support to everyone.

Please be sure to check back soon for more updates on Catholic school education. Thank you!

Thank You,

Steve Virgadamo