Catholic schools planning: the next steps Print
Our Catholic Schools
Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009 -- 12:00 AM

Our Catholic Schools by Michael Lancaster

Over the last several weeks, the Office of Catholic Schools has been busy moving forward with Catholic Schools Planning.

Between May and July, over 300 people attended one of 12 task force meetings conducted at locations throughout the diocese. Each meeting began with prayer, a brief history of the process, and an explanation of our goal: to find ways to strengthen our Catholic schools throughout the diocese and ensure that they are "available, affordable, accessible," and that they offer both an unparalleled faith formation and academic education to all students now and for generations to come.

Once the planning process was underway, participants considered the various challenges currently facing Catholic schools, shared opinions and experiences, brainstormed ideas, and discussed possible courses of action as we look for ways to strengthen our schools.

Faith and academics

Throughout the meetings we heard many emerging themes regarding what must be done. One of the most often repeated was that we must ensure that all of our schools excel in both the Catholic faith formation and the academic education that students receive. This dual purpose of Catholic schools is reflected in the diocesan mission statement for Catholic schools.

Mission Statement of Catholic Schools -- Diocese of Madison: Catholic schools in the Diocese of Madison cultivate a love for Christ and His Church by inviting students, and the entire school community, to meet and know Jesus and embrace a loving God. Catholic schools seek to assist parents with excellent moral and academic formation for their children, developing the talents of all students and fostering a commitment to service, justice, and the sanctity of human life.

As we seek ways to better fulfill this mission and strengthen our schools, we must continue to hear from all of you who entrust us with your children, who support our schools through your financial gifts to your parish and the diocese, and who teach, lead, and volunteer in our schools, forming the hearts and educating the minds of our children.

To date, over 1,000 people throughout the diocese have been involved in this planning process by attending a meeting, completing a survey, serving on a team, or contacting us with their thoughts and ideas. This involvement is crucial if our schools are to truly succeed and serve the Church and her people.

Four major themes

From all of the involvement thus far, four major themes have emerged: Catechize, Centralize, Communicate, and Cooperate.

Catechize: Ensure that the Catholic faith is infused throughout the curriculum. Reach out to parents and parishioners to more purposefully involve them in the school to build a greater appreciation for our Catholic faith and Catholic schools. Provide for the continuing faith formation of teachers and principals.

Centralize: Centralize and standardize certain functions at regional and/or diocesan levels including: purchasing, curriculum revision, curriculum resources, recruiting and retaining teachers, professional development in the areas of both teaching methods and faith formation. Standardize reporting procedures at the diocesan level.

Communicate: Proclaim our Catholic identity to both our own communities and through marketing campaigns. Communicate policies, procedures, and expectations clearly at all levels. Forge relationship with the business communities, colleges, universities, and public entities.

Cooperate: Share personnel, ideas, materials, purchasing, and expertise. Create a system where all parishes provide financial support for Catholic schools. Work together to provide more Catholic high schools and middle schools in areas where these opportunities do not currently exist.

Opportunity to join discussion

On Saturday, Oct. 17, all people from across the diocese will have a final opportunity to participate in this planning process and voice their concerns and ideas. If you care about Catholic schools and have ideas to add to our planning discussion, this event is for you.

Everyone in the diocese is invited to attend the diocesan-wide, Catholic Schools Planning Congress on Saturday, Oct. 17, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Bishop O'Connor Center in Madison.

The congress will be an opportunity to enter the discussion, talk about the challenges we face, offer solutions, and cast a vote as we set the priorities for our plan of action.

The results of all of this work will then be considered by the Catholic Schools Planning Steering Committee and by all of our pastors before being formulated into an action plan to be presented to Bishop Morlino for his review and approval.

If you have been involved in this process, I sincerely thank you. If you would like to be involved in this process, I invite you to attend on October 17. There is still time! More information about the entire planning process may be found on our Web site. Visit www.madisondiocese.org and click on the "Schools" tab at the top of the page.

As always, thank you for reading this column and may God continue to bless you and your families.

Michael Lancaster is the superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Madison.