Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


“Vibrant schools and vibrant parishes go hand in hand”

March 27th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

By 2018 Archbishop Robert Carlson of St. Louis wants every Catholic child in his archdiocese to be attending a Catholic school.

… Sixty-six percent of Catholic children of elementary school age and 35 percent of high schoolers in the 11-county area covered by the archdiocese attend Catholic schools. “This is unacceptable,” Carlson said. “We cannot permit half of our children and youth to ‘fall through the cracks’ and remain untouched by the teaching and practice of our church.”

While these enrollment numbers seem astronomically high by DOR standards, Catholic schools in the archdiocese have been undergoing something of a decline.

Charts released by the archdiocese gave a stark picture of the problems that Carlson faces. Since 1960, annual tuition at Catholic elementary schools has risen from near zero to close to $4,000. During the same period, enrollment, which peaked in 1960 around 90,000, has dropped to near 30,000, and the number of elementary schools has fallen to about 125 from more than 200.

To reverse those trends, Carlson laid out a plan with three priorities:

  • Schools must have a vibrant Catholic identity, with everything about its programs grounded in the teaching of the church. “We must never impose our Catholic faith on anyone,” Carlson said in a pastoral letter released along with his presentation, “but we should be eager to share what we believe with others – inviting them to learn, to pray and to serve with us.
  • In what he said may be the greatest challenge, schools must be financially healthy and provide tuition help to those who could not otherwise attend. “The cost of a Catholic school education threatens the continued existence of too many schools in our archdiocese,” he said.
  • Schools must be growing through active recruitment and enrollment management. “We cannot be content with the status quo, or, worse, with declining enrollments in our schools,” he said.

The archbishop has developed some broad ideas as “the result of several months of community meetings and listening sessions involving nearly 3,000 people.”

“The ideas came from the parishes,” Carlson noted. “We didn’t do this stuff in the back room. We never want to have things so centralized that we take away local interest and support.” Carlson said four concepts will drive the improvements: catechesis (faith education) and academic excellence; evangelization; social justice; and stewardship. He stressed that vibrant schools and vibrant parishes go hand in hand, with each drawing strength and enthusiasm from the other.

By 2018, according to his vision, “Catholics who once left the church will be coming home. Registrations and parish membership will be increasing; Sunday Mass attendance and the reception of the sacraments – especially the sacrament of penance – will be on the rise. Youth and young adult ministries will be vibrant. Increasing numbers of Catholics will be actively involved in a variety of parish-based ministries.”

… Carlson said Catholic schools are vital to the future of the faith.

“Our biggest challenge,” he said, “is having parents realize that the best way to hand on the Catholic faith is the Catholic school.”

Full story here.



2 Responses to ““Vibrant schools and vibrant parishes go hand in hand””

  1. avatar Gretchen G says:

    God bless Archbishop Carlson!

  2. avatar JLo says:

    I recently heard a very good idea regarding Catholic education for today, though it harkens back to the reasons parishes were formed in America in the first place… because Catholic families formed an area community and needed the sacraments and needed the Faith passed onto their children. Period. There is no reason to even have a parish in a particular location if there are no growing families.

    Given an honest assessment by that measure (enough family needs and support), a viable parish then would be one where every child in the parish is educated in a parish-run school from pre-K through third grade at no cost to families other than their church tithe. If there is not enough parish support for such, that means there are not enough families and that particular parish should close and the people join up with another in the area.

    Catholic parishes were never formed for social justice and to serve the poor, but to serve the Faith community and propagate the Faith in our children. Catholics know that social justice and serving our brethren are outgrowths of a living faith community, not the reason for parish origination. Catholic parishes were formed for Catholic family needs and Faith propagation, and that’s still the only reason for such.

    Would like to hear more discussion of this concept.


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