Tag: religion (page 2 of 5)

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman

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

 

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

 

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

 

In total there were nine lectures:

 

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

 

-which form the nine chapters of the published book.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Catholic Education Available to All

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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.’”

 

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

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

Forming Saints and Scholars

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Steve Virgadamo

A School Leader in the 21st century is one of the most exciting and significant roles undertaken by any person in society. Principals are responsible and accountable for the development of children.

Catholic school principals answer to a higher authority in that they are executive level managers in “Our Father’s Business.”  Each Catholic School executive is accountable for the formation of the child and are called to focus on the following in considering the formation of each saintly scholar:

Intellectual Formation

  • Acquire critical thinking skills
  • Learn to communicate clearly, logically and creatively

 Human Character Formation

  • Grow in core values that enable positive leadership
  • Develop essential character strengths including discipline, responsibility, and a sense of personal dignity

Spiritual Formation

  • Strengthen a personal relationship with Christ
  • Learn the fundamentals of Catholic traditions and teachings
  • Discover a meaning in life that inspires the pursuit of excellence

Apostolic Formation

  • Develop a generosity through acts of self giving and sacrifice
  • Form a sense of social responsibility and learn to share talents as a member of a global team
  • Exercise leadership by serving as mentors and role models

By focusing on these important student outcomes, a successful Catholic School leader will provide a school with a culture of academic rigor and an environment in which each student can encounter and grow in a relationship with the Risen Christ!

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

So We Have a Catholic School Board – Who Does What Around Here Anyway?

catholic-school-boardFor 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 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 including establishing just compensation and tuition pricing.

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

 

The Board members should NOT be involved in the day-to-day operations of the school. Such daily practical matters should be handled directly by the Chief Administrator of the school. The primary responsibility of the chief administrator is to:

 

· Implement the policies established by the board.

· Oversee the implementation of the curriculum and classroom management.

· Evaluate, hire and fire staff within the financial constraints determined by the Board.

 

 The critical distinction between the roles of the Board and the Chief Administrator is that the Board controls the big picture and gives direction to the Chief Administrator, who implements policy with considerable discretion. The Board is responsible for approving the annual budget, for developing a long-term strategic plan, and for the evaluation and the hiring and firing the Head of the school. The school Head handles the day-to-day operations of the school, typically without any Board intervention or input. 

 

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

School Choice Remains Both a Civil Rights Issue and an Economic One

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Expanded educational alternatives are needed to provide our next generation with access to a quality education and create the skilled workers that are essential to American competitiveness in the global economy. We cannot continue to ask children and families stuck in chronically failing public schools to wait any longer. Quite simply, parents and children deserve a choice. We must be able to fulfill our obligation to provide parents and their children with educational alternatives. By giving parents the power of choice, we are ensuring that students will have the opportunities they deserve for a bright and successful future.

 The need for improved school choice has never been more evident. Today, thousands of students are trapped in chronically failing schools in our most economically depressed communities and dense urban areas.   Educational Savings Accounts, Charter Schools, and Voucher programs are just some of the potential avenues to reform our failing government run school system. We must focus on urban education reform and work to provide a solid foundation for our children to achieve their dreams. School choice is a no-brainer because we know that kids win when parents choose and every student counts.

With strong leadership and a commitment that never strays from putting the best interest of our children first, change can come.

Thank you for reading!

Steve Virgadamo

Catholic Schools are both good for America and the Catholic Church

catholic-usAfter 30 plus years of working with Catholic schools throughout the United States I have an understanding and appreciation of the long history of support by the Catholic faithful for the  Catholic education for young people.

On average, American Catholics have had about eight years of education in Catholic schools. Half have attended a Catholic elementary school, about three in 10 have attended a Catholic high school, and just over one in 10 have attended a Catholic college or university.  The evidence suggests that the total number of years of education in Catholic schools is positively correlated with achieving a higher level of education and thus also achieving a higher household income.

In general, the strongest effects of Catholic education among those who attended Catholic schools, particularly as they affect measures of attachment to the church. According to the research available, those who attended a Catholic school are more likely than those who did not to attend mass and engage in parish life.

Catholic schooling pays off in a number of ways for the Church and our country in that attending a Catholic school  leads to a higher level educational attainment and  subsequently a higher household income. In addition, Catholics who attended a Catholic high school appear to have a stronger attachment to the church on some measures. They are somewhat more satisfied with the church as it exists today and more accepting of some of the measures many dioceses are adopting to address the shortage of priests.

Thank you for viewing!

Steve Virgadamo