Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church

Posts Tagged ‘Catholic Schools’

Vouchers prompt Indiana school exodus

August 30th, 2011, Promulgated by Bernie


OUTH BEND, Ind. – Weeks after Indiana began the nation’s broadest school voucher program, thousands of students have transferred from public to private schools, causing a spike in enrollment at some Catholic institutions that were recently on the brink of closing.

It is a scenario public school advocates have long feared: Students fleeing local districts in large numbers, taking with them vital tax dollars that often end up at parochial schools. Opponents say the practice violates the separation of church and state.

In at least one district, public school principals have been pleading with parents not …

Read more

U.S. Catholic schools: An update

June 24th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

Three years ago the Thomas B. Fordham Institute released an extensive report (available here) on the current status and potential future of U.S. Catholic elementary and secondary schools.

Jeff Ziegler has now revisited the subject and has published his findings in the June, 2011 issue of The Catholic World Report.

CWR blogger Catherine Harmon lists several highlights from Ziegler’s report …

With the average elementary school tuition now at $3,383 and the average secondary school tuition at $8,182, the same concerns about affordability that keep Latino parents from sending their children to Catholic schools are barriers to other parents as well. As expensive as tuition is for many Catholic families, it does not meet the actual per-pupil cost of Catholic schooling ($5,436 for elementary schools, $10,808 for secondary schools), according to the NCEA. …

Costs have risen largely because of the collapse of vocations to the religious life in the United States; the number of women religious (in previous decades the primary educators in Catholic schools) declined from 179,954 in 1965 to 57,544 in 2010. Today, only 2.6 percent of teachers in Catholic schools are nuns, 0.1 percent are brothers, and 0.3 percent are clergy, according to the NCEA; 84 percent are laywomen, and 13 percent are laymen. …

“What is the greatest challenge facing our Catholic schools today? Providing just compensation for our staff while protecting our families,” says Daryl Hagan, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Evansville.

But the landscape of Catholic education in the US isn’t totally bleak; Ziegler highlights two dioceses in particular that have succeeded in improving the quality of education offered and in making that education more accessible to Catholic families:

Amid the collapse of Catholic primary and secondary education in the United States, episcopal support has helped lead to two extraordinary success stories: Memphis and Wichita.

Mary McDonald is superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Memphis, and she credits Bishop J. Terry Steib with the growth of schools in the diocese. With his support, she says, “we have increased the number of schools during the past 12 years from 16”—five of which were a year from closing—“to 29. We reopened eight long-closed schools in the inner city to address a population in poverty [and] opened a new high school for 1,000 and a few new elementary schools.” …

In 1998, Bishop Steib hired McDonald to reopen some of the closed schools. The Memphis Commercial-Appeal reported that McDonald’s success followed a brief 1999 meeting with Pope John Paul II, during which she asked him to pray for the Memphis schools. A month later, two Protestant businessmen gave $10 million, allowing for the reopening of several inner-city schools in one of the nation’s most violent urban areas. While the majority of the students in these inner-city schools are non-Catholic, all are required to attend Mass and pray the Rosary weekly, according to the Fordham Institute.

In Wichita, all Catholic primary and secondary schools have been tuition-free for Catholic students since 2002. Msgr. Thomas McGread, a legendary local pastor from 1968 to 1999, challenged his parishioners to donate 5 percent of their income to allow all of the parish’s children to attend the parish school for free. After parishioners obliged, he challenged them to donate 8 percent of their income so that the parish could pay for the Catholic high school tuition of any child in the parish. Again, the parishioners obliged. According to the Fordham Institute, Msgr. McGread’s vision spread throughout the diocese under the leadership of Bishop Eugene Gerber (1982-2001) and Voboril, who has served as superintendent since 1993.

Today, under the leadership of Bishop Michael Jackels, “Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wichita continue to grow because of our parishes’ commitment to fund the Catholic education of parish families without the need to charge tuition at the elementary or secondary levels,” Voboril told CWR. “Because of the tremendous generosity of our parishes to Catholic education and a growing commitment to serving all families regardless of income levels, ethnic background, language capability, or academic ability, our schools are unusually diverse. We have more than 2,600 ethnic minority students…and more than 700 students who come from homes where English is not the primary language.”

The Fordham Institute’s report on Wichita starts here and runs for 12 pages.  It is well worth reading. Fordham’s Memphis report also spans 12 pages and begins here.

Jeff Ziegler’s full report is here.

Bishop Clark Closes St. Michael School in Newark

May 26th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

From YNN comes the following DoR press release:

“Based on recommendations from the leaders at St. Michael’s Church and the Diocese of Rochester Catholic School Board, Bishop Clark has made the decision to close St. Michael School in Newark at the end of the current academic year. This decision was not made lightly and comes after careful consideration and much prayer.

We were heartened to see the strong community support that St. Michael received in its effort to stay open and viable. Unfortunately, despite all of their efforts, the steady decline in enrollment has continued over the last several years. The parish can no longer continue to incur considerable debt to operate the school.

We believe strongly in the virtues of a Catholic education and will continue to do all we can to support the remaining schools across the Diocese of Rochester.”

Close, close, close.

What is going to happen to the $71,000+ raised so far to keep the school open? I hope the diocese will return this money in full to its respective donors.

Please pray that the students who attend St. Michael will find another place to receive a Catholic education.

Diocese’s financial policies hurt churches

May 4th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

Gretchen Garrity and Susan Miller of All Saints parish in Corning have a thought-provoking piece at …

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester is a wasteland of closed churches. Parishioners are told repeatedly that there is not enough money to keep them open. Yet the diocese and Catholic Charities (which receives parish money) remain financially strong. How? The answer is found in the appropriation of parishioners’ offerings and government money.

First, parishioners contribute to the annual Catholic Ministries Appeal (CMA). Begun by Bishop Matthew Clark in the 1980s, this effort has raised tens of millions of dollars for diocesan ministries. The diocese sets a goal for individual parishes, and each parish must meet it. If contributions run short, the parish must take the remainder from collections and/or savings. Consider All Saints Parish in Corning, with one church demolished and two others slated for sale or destruction. Still, the parish’s CMA goal this year is more than $107,000.

Second, Catholic Charities receives about $625,000 from the CMA. This is more than twice what diocesan schools receive. Between the CMA and government funding, parishioners subsidize Catholic Charities twice through contributions and taxes.

The next beneficiary is Providence Housing Development Corporation (PHDC). From its beginning in 1994, it envisioned using diocesan lands for redevelopment. The PHDC board president is John Balinsky, also director of Catholic Charities. PHDC gains access to taxpayer funds through government grants, while acquiring church properties at bargain prices for redevelopment.

The diocesan web of relationships directs the flow of CMA and taxpayer money for the redevelopment of church properties. The diocese, either directly or through its affiliates, transfers money and property from the faithful to nonprofits and taxpayer-funded organizations. Since PHDC is a corporation with diocesan officials as principal members (including the bishop, vicar general and chancellor), the property essentially remains in diocesan hands.

Catholic Charities and PHDC do some important work, and Catholics are called to serve the needy. However, reasonable people can debate how to do this most effectively where government programs, taxes and personal donations of time and money are concerned. Catholics can certainly question whether they are obligated to meet CMA goals that may be the difference between keeping open their churches or not.

The prospering of the diocese’s CMA and its affiliates, Catholic Charities and PHDC, has come at the expense of parishes. Closing churches has consequences: the alienation of the faithful; less ability to support local charities; reduction/withholding of contributions; and the loss of parishioners. This means fewer people to support parishes, the diocese and, yes, the worthy activities of Catholic Charities. Most seriously, it means the destruction of faith communities and possible loss of souls.

Garrity and Miller are parishioners at All Saints Parish in Corning


UPDATE: Several weeks ago Ben Anderson posted an article which mentioned another, more detailed critique of DOR priorities by the same authors.  That critique is located here.

A Catholic education pays cash dividends

April 4th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

From Miller-McCune …

Catholic high schools in the United States have long boasted a 99 percent graduation rate compared to 73 percent for public schools, and they report sending twice as many students to four-year colleges.

Now, a study from Michigan State University system’s Oakland University finds there may be a substantial cash benefit for those who obtain a Catholic high school degree. On average, it shows, students who graduated in 1957 from Catholic high schools earned 18 percent higher wages in their mid-30s and mid-50s than their peers in public high schools.

It’s true that Catholic students tend to have higher IQs and more educated and affluent parents than students in public schools, said researcher Young-Joo Kim, a former assistant professor of education at Oakland. But even taking into account those differences, she said, Catholic high school graduates still earned 10 percent more than their peers in public schools.

More here.

DOR Catholic High Schools – 1979 vs 2010

April 3rd, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

In Friday’s post we took a look at parish- and diocesan-operated Catholic elementary schools in the Diocese of Rochester, along with their 1979 and 2010 enrollments. Today’s post takes a similar look at our Catholic high schools.

Once again, all the enrollment data is from either the 1979 or the 2010 Official Catholic Directory (except as noted) and is claimed to be accurate as of January 1st of the appropriate year.

DOR Monroe County Catholic High Schools
  School                    City/Town   1979 Students  2010 Students
  Aquinas Institute (1)     Rochester             706            887
  Bishop Kearney (1)        Irondequoit         1,760            535
  Cardinal Mooney (1)       Greece              1,265       (Closed)
  McQuaid Jesuit (1)        Brighton              770            846
  Nazareth Academy (1) (3)  Rochester             730            230
  Our Lady of Mercy (1)     Brighton              770            650
  St. Agnes (1)             Brighton              500       (Closed)
Totals – Monroe County                          6,501          3,148
DOR Catholic High Schools Outside Monroe County
  Notre Dame (1)            Elmira                595            222
  De Sales High School (2)  Geneva                215             95
Totals – Outside Monroe County                    810            317
Totals – All DOR Catholic High Schools          7,311          3,465
 (1) Privately owned and operated
 (2) Owned and operated by DOR
 (3) 2010 enrollment from newspaper accounts;
     all other enrollment numbers from OCD

(A pdf version of the above data – in a larger font size – is available here.)

As can be seen, we have lost 2 of our 9 Catholic high schools (it would become 3 in June of 2010 with the closing of Nazareth Academy) and 3,846 (52.6%) of our Catholic high school students during the first 31 years of Matthew Clark’s tenure as Bishop of Rochester.

DOR Catholic Schools – 1979 vs 2010

April 1st, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

A few days ago Dr. K. posted a bulletin excerpt from Peace of Christ Parish which  referred to the decline of Catholic schools in Metropolitan Rochester. While not mentioning a precise year, the snippet stated there were once 21 “urban” Catholic schools on the east side of the river and another 14 on the west.

Matthew Clark was installed as Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester in 1979 so that seemed like an interesting year on which to base an historic look at DOR’s Catholic schools. That year’s edition of the Official Catholic Directory showed a total 40 Catholic schools listed under what it termed “Metropolitan Rochester,” 21 of them on the east side and 19 on the west. Also listed were another 9 Monroe County Schools in the OCD’s “Outside Metropolitan Rochester”  category.  A list of those 49 schools and their 1979 enrollments follows.

Monroe County Catholic Schools - 1979

  School                     City/Town Students   Total
  Annunciation               Rochester      196
  Blessed Sacrament          Rochester      138
  Corpus Christi             Rochester      210
  Holy Apostles              Rochester      289
  Holy Cross                 Rochester      282
  Holy Family                Rochester      131
  Holy Rosary                Rochester      330
  Most Precious Blood        Rochester      225
  Our Lady of Good Counsel   Rochester      266
  Our Lady of Perpetual Help Rochester      226
  Sacred Heart               Rochester      423
  St. Ambrose                Rochester      620
  St. Andrew                 Rochester      380
  St. Anthony of Padua       Rochester      193
  St. Augustine              Rochester      339
  St. Boniface               Rochester      260
  St. John the Evangelist    Rochester      299
  St. Monica                 Rochester      315
  St. Philip Neri            Rochester      271
  St. Salome                 Rochester      247
  St. Stanislaus             Rochester      250
  Our Lady of Lourdes        Brighton       180
  Our Lady Queen of Peace    Brighton        96
  St. Anne                   Brighton       210
  St. Thomas More            Brighton       201
  St. Pius Tenth             Chili          588
  Holy Ghost                 Gates          290
  St. Helen                  Gates          415
  St. Theodore               Gates          455
  Our Lady of Mercy          Greece         170
  Our Mother of Sorrows      Greece         460
  St. Charles Borromeo       Greece         462
  St. John the Evangelist    Greece         425
  St. Lawrence               Greece         262
  Guardian Angels            Henrietta      200
  Christ the King            Irondequoit    250
  St. Cecilia                Irondequoit    455
  St. James                  Irondequoit    242
  St. Margaret Mary          Irondequoit    300
  St. Thomas the Apostle     Irondequoit    349
Total – Metro Rochester                          11,900

  Nativity of the B.V.M.     Brockport      175
  St. Jerome                 East Rochester 196
  Good Shepherd              Henrietta      350
  St. Joseph                 Penfield       484
  St. John of Rochester      Perinton       209
  St. Louis                  Pittsford      405
  St. John the Evangelist    Spencerport    265
  Holy Trinity               Webster        366
  St. Rita                   West Webster   431
Total – Outside Metro Rochester                   2,881
Total – Monroe County                            14,781

There were also another 23 Catholic schools in the remaining 11 counties of DOR.

Catholic Schools Outside Monroe County - 1979

  School                  City/Town    Students   Total
  Holy Family             Auburn            110
  St. Hyacinth            Auburn            194
  St. Mary                Auburn            283
  St. Agnes               Avon              137
  St. Mary                Bath              109
  St. Mary                Canandaigua       311
  St. Vincent de Paul     Corning           128
  St. Mary                Dansville         204
  Our Lady of Lourdes     Elmira            197
  St. Casimir             Elmira            205
  St. Mary                Elmira            267
  St. Francis de Sales    Geneva            288
  St. Stephen             Geneva            264
  St. Ann                 Hornell           240
  St. Mary Our Mother     Horseheads        256
  Immaculate Conception   Ithaca            200
  St. Michael             Newark            338
  St. Patrick             Owego             124
  St. Michael             Penn Yan          151
  St. Patrick             Seneca Falls      258
  St. Mary                Waterloo          241
  St. James               Waverly           128
  St. Joseph              Wayland           120
Total - Outside Monroe County                     4,753

Total - All DOR Elementary Schools (1979)        19,534

As seen above, these 72 Catholic elementary schools were educating a total of 19,534 students in 1979.

Fast-foward to 2010

The 2010 edition of the OCD is the latest one available. It shows that last year the diocese had 24 Catholic elementary schools, 11 of which were combined into the Monroe County Catholic School system which did not break down enrollment by school but, instead, provided the OCD with a summary number.

All DOR Catholic Schools (2010)

  School                             City/Town    Students  Total
  Monroe County Catholic Schools - Comprised of      3,446
    Christ the King                  Irondequoit
    Cathedral School at Holy Rosary
      (formerly Holy Rosary)         Rochester
    Seton Catholic
      (formerly Our Lady of Lourdes) Brighton
    Our Mother of Sorrows            Greece
    St. John Neumann
      (formerly St. Ambrose)         Rochester
    St. Joseph                       Penfield
    St. Lawrence                     Greece
    St. Louis                        Pittsford
    St. Pius X                       Chili
    St. Rita                         West Webster
    Siena Catholic Academy
      (formerly St. Thomas More)     Brighton
Total - Monroe County                                       3,446

  St. Joseph                         Auburn            173
  St. Agnes                          Avon              123
  St. Mary                           Canandaigua       202
  All Saints Academy                 Corning           129
  Holy Family                        Elmira            144
  Holy Family Middle                 Elmira             98
  St. Francis de Sales               Geneva            130
  St. Ann                            Hornell            86
  St. Mary Our Mother                Horseheads         98
  Immaculate Conception              Ithaca            106
  St. Michael                        Newark            120
  St. Patrick                        Owego              61
  St. Michael                        Penn Yan          114
Total - Outside Monroe County                               1,584

Total - All DOR Elementary Schools (2010)                   5,030

As the above data shows, the Diocese of Rochester has closed 48 (66.7%) of its 72 Catholic elementary schools and has lost 14,504 (74.3%) of its 19,534 Catholic school students in the first 31 years of Matthew Clark’s tenure as Bishop of Rochester.

It would seem thus difficult to assert that Catholic schools have been high on Bishop Clark’s list of priorities these last 31 years.

UPDATE: I realize the 3 tables above are in a font size so small as to make reading difficult for some.  This seems to be due to a limitation inherent in the WordPress software we use at Cleansing Fire that I have not been able to find a way around.

Those desiring a larger font size may view these tables in PDF format.  Click here.

Sobering Statistics

March 28th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

From Peace of Christ parish:

35 Catholic schools in the city of Rochester… and now we’re down to two. This figure does not even include all the suburban and rural Catholic schools to have closed over the past few decades (i.e. St. Thomas the Apostle, St. John in Spencerport, Mother of Sorrows, St. John in Greece, etc.).

Talk about “Keeping the Spirit Alive”

“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.

Archangel Open House

February 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Dr. K

On the topic of Catholic education, the Archangel school will be holding a special open house for prospective students and parents tomorrow, February 8th, from 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM and 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM. Archangel is an independent K-12 Catholic school located in the town of Irondequoit who prides themselves on the quality, traditional Catholic education they provide for their students. The students at Archangel attend daily Mass and receive an education in the faith that is not watered down, yet appropriate for each student’s age level and understanding. The institution is also recognized by the New York State board of Regents.

For more information about tomorrow’s open house, please contact the school at: 426-5990, or send an e-mail to:

Given that the open house is tomorrow, it would probably be best to make a phone call if you have any questions. Archangel is located at 95 Stanton Lane, Irondequoit.

Bulletin ad here.

The Splendor of a Catholic Education

February 7th, 2011, Promulgated by Mike

Fr. Tom Wheeland, pastor of Holy Cross Parish, and Ms. Kathleen Dougherty, current principal at the Cathedral School at Holy Rosary and future principal at the soon-to-be-reopened Holy Cross School, published an Op-Ed piece in yesterday’s Democrat and Chronicle in which they offered their answers to the questions, “Why ‘Catholic’ schools? Why now?”

The short answer is that a Catholic faith-based education continues to meet important needs.

For Catholic families, school is a natural extension of a church community joined together to live the message of God’s love as taught by His Son Jesus. Catholic schools integrate important spiritual and moral components with the New York state curriculum, which is a great attraction for non-Catholic families as well. From preschool classes through college, lessons are lived that model how to be a responsible, contributing member of society.

This spiritual element also enhances the learning experience. While the best teachers everywhere teach with a sense of mission, what makes Catholic schools different is what anchors our mission — Christ’s teachings. Our teachers accept traditionally lower compensation levels for equal professional qualifications because of their willingness to assume the role of Jesus’ present-day disciples.

What this means is that even as Catholic faculties challenge students to achieve their full academic excellence, we lift them up with God’s love made visible by their teachers’ caring for the individual and passion for teaching.

This combination of spiritual and secular energy makes an attractive package.

While there is nothing wrong with these answers there are those who would say they just do not go deep enough. One of these would be Fr. Phillip De Vous, pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Crescent Springs, KY (Diocese of Covington).

Fr. De Vous sees Catholic schools as part of the answer to a society steeped in the Kool-Aid of secularism.

As we celebrate Catholic Schools’ Week in the Diocese of Covington, and here at St. Joseph’s, during the first week of February, we are mindful of what is the splendor of a Catholic education. The splendor of a Catholic education shows itself all the more shining and necessary in a culture where the secularist elites in law, government education, mass media, academia, advertising, and others — who act as self-appointed gatekeepers in order to control the official definitions of reality — want put our Catholic Faith and the demands of the Catholic way of life in a box. Our Catholic schools exist to teach our children to think, act, and live in an authentically, evangelically Catholic way so they can be formed as whole persons in Jesus Christ, who is “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.”

The witness and work of Catholic education is all the more important when we recognize the diabolical power and persuasion of the culture of death — aptly described by Blessed John Paul II — which suffocates the souls and suffuses the lives of so many, leaving in its wake a great spiritual, moral, psychological and personal poverty. The idea that fuels the hateful, anti-human and atheistic worldview is that of secularism.

Secularism has become the regnant ideology in our time. Secularism, both as a philosophical idea and an uncritical ideology, artificially separates truth into two domains. The image of a two-story house is instructive to understanding the secularist worldview: The first “floor” of the house is the realm of “facts,” generally narrowly defined in an empiricist and totally materialist way. So only the truths of science, as secularists define and understand them, are admitted to the first floor. It is only on this “floor” that “facts” are to be known and where “real truths” about the world — truths that are objective and verifiable — are found. Note the narrowness of this view and how far from actual human experience and reality it is.

Secularists confine “values” such as statements about beauty, morality, and God, to the second “floor” of the house. These are considered by secularists to be expressions of mere personal preference only, which have no basis in objective reality and thus are unverifiable. And since they have no foundation in objective reality and are unverifiable, according to secularist renderings, they cannot form the basis for public discussion or actions, personal or communal. So religion, which is the lived-life of the Faith, is treated like an eccentric aunt shut up in the attic.

The practical conclusion that one reaches if they buy or breathe in this worldview is that the Christian life, which the Faith gives us and forms in us and among us, is not really true and, if it happens to be true, then it doesn’t really matter. Given the low rates of Mass attendance and participation in the whole life of the parish by those who have received and are in the midst of receiving a Catholic education, it is clear this pernicious and humanly-unfulfilling idea has been breathed in and bought by many in our day.

Catholic education in our time is a witness to a fuller, authentically human, and true way of life. In this our Faith forms the foundation, the first “floor” and second “floor” of the “house,” as well as providing all the furnishings, as the human spirit is lifted to God on the twin wings of faith and reason. Authentic Catholic education stands over and against the materialist and secularist worldview that would define us as nothing more than the sum total of our possessions and earning power. The work of Catholic education in our Catholic schools is about teaching the next generation of Christ’s disciples how to be men and women in full, not “folks full of stuff.” In that regard our schools seek to educate the whole person, not just in the technical skills of living in the world, but in the truths that are indispensable in reaching their eternal destiny: life in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The challenges of carrying out the work of Catholic education are faced by every generation who would apply themselves to this holy and necessary vocation. And it is often the case that at precisely the moment when something becomes the most challenging and difficult to accomplish is when the work is most necessary and urgent. I believe that to be the situation as it pertains to the work of Catholic schools. Catholic schools are more necessary, and their survival more urgent, than ever, especially as we recognize the debilitating and toxic moral, spiritual, intellectual, and spiritual environment our children and their families are exposed to on a daily basis.

It is a fact that the challenges involved and the sacrifices required in achieving and maintaining a Catholic school that provides an authentically Catholic education are formidable. The consequences, however, of not meeting those challenges and making those sacrifices in order to succeed in keeping the holy and necessary work of Catholic schools alive in our parishes and in the world are even more daunting and devastating, given the alienation and toxicity of contemporary lifestyles.

Catholic schools are islands of moral, spiritual, intellectual, and spiritual sanity in world that has been turned upside down. Catholic schools, and the work of Catholic education, provide the witness to hope and truth that our world needs to see in action, to which we all need to contribute, and that our children must receive. As our Bishop, the Most Reverend Roger J. Foys, D.D., has taught us on many occasions, “[W]hen it comes to Catholic education, there are many alternatives, but no substitute.”

Blessed John Paul II was fond of saying that “Jesus Christ is the answer to the question that is every human person.” Catholic schools, in carrying out the work of Catholic education, are foundational and necessary in helping our children answer that question for their own sake and for the life of the world, now, and that yet to come — but already in our midst in the gift and mystery of the Church. All the sacrifices it takes to accomplish the work of St. Joseph School are nothing compared to the blessings we shall reap for our fidelity to this Godly task. That is the splendor of a Catholic education!

As I read through Fr. De Vous’ essay I could not help but think of the now 19 year-old U.S. Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which the court reaffirmed the constitutional right to abortion it set forth in 1973 in Roe v. Wade.

A part of this reaffirmation was this stunning example of secular-individualism-run-rampant penned for the majority by Justices O’Connor, Kennedy and Souter:

At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.

Should anyone still question the need for authentic Catholic education I invite them to prayfully ponder the full ramifications of  this one sentence, now enshrined in the law of our land.

H/T: Matt C. Abbott

More on Public Policy

February 4th, 2011, Promulgated by benanderson

I received this email alert today from the New York State Catholic Conference regarding Catholic Schools (yet another issue not addressed by the DOR’s upcoming Public Policy Week).

Cuomo’s Budget Unfair to Catholic Schools


Governor Cuomo’s proposed budget treats public schools far better than it treats religious and independent schools. He proposes cutting reimbursement to religious and independent schools by 8 percent while the proposed cut to public schools is only 7 percent. In addition, public schools are getting $70 million in reimbursement for the MTA payroll tax while our schools receive nothing. (That tax affects schools located in the 12 counties in and around New York City.) Also, the Governor proposes $500 million in new funding to reward public schools for academic improvement and administrative efficiencies.

At the same time, the Governor ignores the fact that the state is delinquent on $260 million in reimbursement to religious and independent schools for mandates carried out by schools dating as far back as the 2002-03 school year. We simply cannot allow this injustice to stand. Your action is needed urgently and immediately to help stop these proposed cuts and to ensure that our schools are treated equitably and receive the funding to which they are entitled.

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The Heart of an Immense Darkness…

January 31st, 2011, Promulgated by Ink

I, too, was present at this “Mass,” and I’m going to be giving my commentary on it.  Hurrah for Catholic Schools Week?

Today was the beginning of Catholic Schools Week, therefore Aquinas deemed it necessary to have a “mass” with the entire school, as well as all of Nazareth Elementary. As it can be imagined, this went about as well as the last one, if a bit worse.

Father Bob Werth said the mass. I didn’t realize how much this would change the entire mass until he opened his mouth. In the opening prayer it was mentioned somewhere about that we shall be solemn “for the next hour or hour and a half.” I thought they were joking, but the mass started at 9:30 and ended at eleven. Long masses are wonderful when they’re, say, Latin mass, but the Father Werth Long Mass is painful.

Father started the FWLM by encouraging us to do the “big sign of the cross,” whereupon he scooped his hands in various ways that vaguely resembled the sign of the cross but seemed more like he was warding off an impending attacker who stood five feet away from him, and somehow his feet were glued to the floor.

I thought it looked like he was slowly and dramatically swatting flies.  It looked really dumb.

The Opening Hymn was, “Shine, Jesus, Shine.” during this hymn, the Nazareth dancers (the same ones from last time, only there were more of them and their dresses contained less fabric.*)paraded around the congregation in the center of the gym, waving their arms in some sort of weird ritualistic dance. This time, they looked less like zombies and more like they were offering up the corn harvest.

*I don’t know why it’s so hard for the little Nazareth dancers to wear sleeves. I understand that ladies no longer wish to wear hats to church, and, as painful as it is, I think it’s not something that can really be controlled anymore. But please, ladies, cover your shoulders when you go to mass. If I could have, i would have given all those girls the Paper Sheets of Shame, like they do in Italian churches.

Nah, the dresses definitely had more fabric.  Lots of fluffy organza-esque stuff, and they were longer this time.  The colours were still awful, though, and they still didn’t fit the liturgical season (light ballerina pink, anyone?), and the dresses were still not appropriate for Mass.  Dance recital, yes.  Mass, not at ALL.  I am agreed on the Paper Sheets of Shame point though.  Those were funny. ^_^

Dear Nazareth teachers: Mass is not a performance.  I love your little children dearly and find them irresistably adorable, of course!  But the Sacrifice of the Mass–the LITURGY! is not a place for them to parade through the area which sould be designated as a “sanctuary” and do their little arm-waving gestures.  And the drum is just unnecessary.  If you have any problems with this, take it up with me.

Father then opened the mass and commented on the situation in Egypt, and somehow the phrase, “it’s not all about the money” sneaked into his speech about three times. It was hard for me to see how it was related because it was hard for me to listen to him at all.

The reading(first and only) and the responsorial psalm went passably, in that they weren’t mentally scarring. The Gospel was from Mark, and it was a good reading. The mass really sterted to go awry at the beginning of the homily.

Fr. Werth seems to be one of those types who likes to give bits of his homily at ALL times of the Mass, not just after the Gospel!  Isn’t this great.  By the way, today’s reading was the Gadarene demoniac, who was possessed by a legion of demons, but then Jesus chased the demons out of the man and into the pigs and then chased the pigs into the sea.  It was awesome. Talk about badass Bible!

Father began by discussing the importance of Catholic schools, which is a good thing, since it seems like our diocese doesn’t really seem to get that. He didn’t talk about the fact that they needed to stay open, though. He spent quite a lot of time praising Aquinas and nazareth for being such good schools and then began discussing his opinions on money. The phrase, “It’s not all about the money” was most of the next part as he said it, then muttered some point about how parents work hard to keep kids in school (which is true), uttered the phrase again, said something else that didn’t really seem related, then shouted the phrase a few more times.

Yeah, I have to say–telling us it’s not all about the money is like saying, “Don’t think of purple elephants.”  We’re students!  The better majority of us listen idly to our parents tell us just how expensive our school is and then move on with life.  (Sorry, Mom.)  The Gospel was about a guy who was POSSESSED.  He had a legion of demons inside him!  And then Jesus kicked all their butts!  How much cooler do you get??  That was the perfect opportunity to sell a totally amazing “Church Militant” homily which glorifies Jesus as a sort of superhero! (I mean, there were tons of little kids there and I think they’d find that story just really, really awesome.)

Somewhere in the homiliy Father Werth stopped talking about schools and started talking about weather. He was annoyed, he said, that people care so much about weather when it doesn’t really matter. At this point I was on the verge of hysterical laughter and had to struggle to maintain silence.

The rest of the homily was him again screaming, “It’s not all about the money” a few hundred times more for good measure and then saying some other stuff. One of these other things was him talking about how Jesus is such a crucial part of our life that he should be the answer to everything. He then began asking everyday questions and encouraging the congregation to respond with, ‘Jesus!’. It went as follows (With FW ans the priest and C as the congregation):

FW: What’s up?
C: Jesus!
FW: How’s it going?
C: Jesus!
FW: What’s the weather like?
C: Jesus!
FW: How are you?
C: Jesus!

…I’m not going to comment a lot on this.  I was trying to stay patient by this point in time.  Any sense of reverence had totally disappeared, and the homily turned the Sacrifice into a talk show. >.<

There were more casual questions that made no sense with the answer as Jesus, but I think the point is there.
He then went on to give five questions that people should be asking themselves daily. I don’t remember exactly what they were, but I can assure you that they were cheesy things such as, ‘How do I see the world differently?” and “Who is in heaven that I should be looking to?” [Both the answers were, of course, Jesus.]

Eventually, the homily ended and after some other, less significantly painful parts of mass, we arrived at the Eucharistic Prayer. During this prayer, the Father would change the words at will, both to change the meaning and to remind everyone of his homily. There were, in the end, maybe two or three sentences of the prayer that were completely unchanged, if that.

Which makes me wonder, was it a legitimate Mass?  He prolonged the words of the Consecration and did two elevations of each the Host and of the chalice–first at the Secret (and waved each the Host and the chalice all the way around the gym) and then at the words of consecration, where they are supposed to be.  The only difference was that at the first elevation, he held the host flat, and at the second, he held it up at the words of “this is my Body.”  If you make it up as you go along, you have destroyed the point of the Sacrifice!  I really, really don’t know if this Mass was legitimate.

The Communion song was, “Lean on Me, ” and I still have no idea how that is a church song. After that song was the song, “Seasons of Love,” which was apparently from the musical Rent. It made me ashamed of the Aquinas choir, because usually they’re pretty okay with at least singing fairly religious songs. Their voices were amazing, but, again, I failed to see how it was related to anything else.

After the usual dull “Post communion reflection” and prayers was the graduation of one of the Chinese exchange students, Joyce, and it went acceptably. Once that was over, however, the mass again became awful as the little dancers gathered again, dancing to the song, “I Send You Out,” which is one of those songs upon which dissertations could be written about how awful it is.

In short, the mass was terrible. None of the elements tied together, the homily made absolutely no sense, and the words were changed for all of it. I don’t feel “churched,” and I don’t think anyone else does either,

Oh yes.  Rent. Let’s do, as a song in MASS, a musical song from a musical about sleeping around.  Lovely. I have nothing against the song itself!  “Seasons of Love” is a fine song, for a Broadway show, and the choir sounds downright flat-out amazing.  But this isn’t a concert, it’s a solemn sacrifice.  Would anyone have known this?  Not at all.

Thank you for reading this, if you made it all the way to the bottom.  If you have any issues with me personally, email me:  Otherwise, comment.  And pray for Aquinas, and for Nazareth.  Pray for deliverance from the insanity, and pray that God gets the respect He is due.  Just once… please.

“It Worked Well”

January 14th, 2011, Promulgated by benanderson

13-WHAM news ran a story on DOR schools returning to parish control (follow this link to see the video)

It [diocesan control of the schools] worked well [did it really?  Perhaps our resident expert on schools can offer some input.], said Anne Willkens Leach, Superintendent of the Department of Catholic Schools.  But now the economy has changed [reminds me of “demographic shifts”], and the Diocese is revisiting the way these schools are configured.

“We’ve also done some research, and discovered schools that do well have a close connection to their parishes,” Willkens Leach said. [A little late, perhaps, but better than never I suppose.  Since the diocese is opening their eyes the research, perhaps they’ll also find out that orthodoxy leads to more people in the pews, more vocations, and more faithful Catholics.]

St. Margaret Mary School in Irondequoit Sold

December 4th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

The following comes in the wake of recent news that Holy Cross will be reopening their Catholic school soon:

(click above to enlarge)

Rochester Catholic Elementary Schools to Return to Parish Support

December 1st, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

To add on to Mike’s post from earlier, the Catholic Courier has made note that all Monroe County Catholic elementary schools will be reverting back to parish control by 2012. This means that the parish will be responsible for financing the operation of the school, not that they will get to set the curriculum (the diocese will continue to do that).

From the Courier:

“As part of ongoing efforts to enhance the stability of Monroe County Catholic schools, the Diocese of Rochester announced Dec. 1 that it will reopen a school it closed in 2008 and consolidate two other schools at that building; move all sixth-grade classes to a diocesan middle school in Brighton; and revert all of its elementary schools to parish operation by 2012.”


“The announcement of the school consolidation and reopening was coupled with further news about changes to the organization of Monroe County diocesan schools. Based on the success of reverting St. Joseph and St. Lawrence schools to parish operation this past fall, Willkens Leach said the diocese will in 2011 return the following schools to parish operation: St. Louis School, Pittsford; St. John Neumann School, Irondequoit; St. Pius Tenth School, Chili; St. Rita School, Webster; and Seton Catholic School, Brighton.”

It’s great to see the diocese beginning to demonstrate a willingness to strengthen our Catholic schools. If a parish can support its school, then it deserves to stay open. Makes sense. Sadly, we will be losing two schools in the process, and I’m sure this decision will receive much debate in the coming days and months. However, the future of Catholic education in Rochester may look a little brighter with the restoration of parish-funded schools. At least I hope.

Holy Cross School to re-open!

December 1st, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

WHAM Channel 13 is reporting the following:

Rochester, N.Y. – The Rochester Catholic Diocese announced Wednesday the Mother of Sorrows school and the Cathedral School at Holy Rosary will close.

Those two schools will be consolidated into the the Holy Cross School in Rochester will which re-open as a parish-operated preK-6th grade Catholic School in the fall of 2011.

The Diocese says the need for the relocation for the Cathedral School had been announced previously to parents due to the sale of the now-closed church property for the construction of senior housing.

Catholic Schools Superintendent Anne Willkens Leach says, “We believe that this consolidation of two schools into a larger facility at Holy Cross with far more amenities for students – including a bigger campus, larger classrooms, a gymnasium and hot lunch program – not only will benefit our students but also help us find the efficiencies we need to continue to operate with a balanced budget.”

Both Mother of Sorrows and the Cathedral School have suffered signficant enrollment declines in recent years and are operating at below capacity.

Documenting the decline

October 29th, 2010, Promulgated by Mike

Within the last year or so the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) has added a “research blog” to its web site.  This new feature, dubbed Nineteen Sixty-four, appears to be a repository for relatively short, statistics-based articles (some of which even seem to stray just a tad from the objective professionalism of the classic CARA report – see here, for example).

One of the blog’s more disturbing entries, however, is classic CARA Catholic statistics and analysis.  In There will likely be fewer Catholic baptisms and marriages next year… again CARA points out that the absolute numbers of both Catholic marriages and baptisms have been falling since 2001.  While the rates (i.e., numbers per 1,000 Catholics) of the celebration of these two sacraments have been in overall decline for decades, the increase in U.S. Catholic population, primarily due to immigration, had been large enough to keep the total numbers rising until 9 years ago.

While the ongoing decline in the number of Catholic marriages is disconcerting, the drop in the total number of baptisms could mean even more trouble ahead for our nation’s Catholic schools.

… it is… of great concern that the absolute number of Catholic infant baptisms continues to dip annually. For example, the number of baptisms, when projected five years into the future, is correlated with entry-level Catholic school enrollment. If baptisms are falling, most likely enrollments will fall at the same pace. Are fewer Catholics choosing to baptize their children? Or are Catholics just having fewer children, as the national trend indicates?  The answer to these questions implies very different potential responses.

CARA then goes on to answer its own question.

The data indicate that almost all self-identified Catholics having children are baptizing those children (most within a year of birth and some in later childhood years). In 2009, the crude birth rate for the United States was 13.8 per 1,000 population whereas the crude Catholic baptism rate was 12.7 per 1,000 Catholics. Historically, these two rates are strongly correlated (R=.984). Most of the decline in Catholic baptisms is attributable to the decline in birth rates from the Baby Boom peak years.

Translation: U.S. Catholics, like the rest of the nation, have been having fewer kids but, by and large, those kids have been getting baptized.

The DOR Story

So how is this story playing out in the Diocese of Rochester?  Well, as the following chart shows, the rate of Catholic marriages in DOR has been running slightly higher (the average is 1.5 units higher) than the national rate, at least for the last 30+ years. (This data comes from my collection of Official Catholic Directories, which only dates back to 1977.  We are therefore looking at the equivalent of the right half of the CARA chart, above.)

The rate of baptisms, however, seems to be a story with two chapters.  In the first chapter, which runs from 1977 to 2004, DOR’s baptismal rate tracked the national rate quite closely, averaging just 0.2 units less than that rate over those 25 years. But in the second chapter, which started in 2005 and is still ongoing today, DOR’s baptismal rate has been showing a marked departure from the national rate.  Indeed, in the last 6 years we have been baptizing infants at a rate that has averaged 3.0 units lower than the national rate.

(By the way, there is no reason to believe that the actual birth rate among local Catholics has collapsed in the last 6 years. While specifically Catholic data is not available, NY State Health Department data shows that the average live birth rate in the 12 counties comprising DOR was 11.5 births per 1,000 residents from 2000 through 2004 and 11.3 per 1,000 from 2005 through 2008.)

So what does this mean for our local Catholic schools?  Well, if our baptismal rate had continued to run about 0.2 units less than the national rate over the last 6 years (as it had done from 1977 to 2004), we would have baptized approximately 26,120 infants since 2005.  However, the actual number of baptisms recorded during that period was 20,646, an average of 912 fewer per year.

Put another way, in the last 6 years DOR’s pool of potential future Catholic 1st graders has become about 20% smaller.

The obvious question is: Why?

Resetting Priorities

October 5th, 2010, Promulgated by Dr. K

You may remember a year ago that many complained that more money was going toward CMA overhead costs, such as advertising and postage, than toward educating our youth in Catholic schools. It looks like the Diocese of Rochester has gotten the message. Below are this year’s allocation numbers for Catholic schools vs. CMA overhead:

Catholic schools could probably still use more money than they are presently getting from the CMA, but the diocese has taken a step in the right direction.

Are You Smarter Than An Atheist?

September 29th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

Are you smarter than an atheist? (Click to read the article.) That’s the title of a column written by James Akin that I received this morning as part of my daily e-news brief from the National Catholic Register newspaper. The article by Mr. Akin is in reaction to the Pew Forum quiz that you probably heard about yesterday purporting to suggest how knowledgeable -or not- we all are in this country about religion. (See Dr. K’s post on this here.)

There is no question in my mind that the level of Catholics’ understanding of their own faith has dropped precipitously over the last 40 years, but Akins makes some very interesting points regarding the survey.

You can read/take the whole survey here.