The University Consortium for Catholic Education (UCCE): A Response to Sustain and Strengthen Catholic Education

By Smith, Paige A. | Catholic Education, March 2007 | Go to article overview

The University Consortium for Catholic Education (UCCE): A Response to Sustain and Strengthen Catholic Education


Smith, Paige A., Catholic Education


This article examines the current and potential contributions of the University Consortium for Catholic Education (UCCE) to both K-12 and higher Catholic education. In order to situate the development of alternative teacher preparation programs, a history of Catholic teacher formation is addressed followed by a brief summary of the existing programs that comprise the UCCE. Attention is given to the essential nature of a Catholic educator's responsibility to deepen Catholic identity through authentic education in collaboration with the family and how recent college graduates who matriculate in UCCE programs are formed to respond to this task.

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The Second Vatican Council exhorts the faithful "to assist to their utmost in finding suitable methods of education and programs of study and in forming teachers who can give youth a true education" (Vatican Council II, 1965, [section] 6). One manifestation of this exhortation has been the University Consortium for Catholic Education, a collaboration of 13 programs at colleges and universities across the country which receive and form recent college graduates to teach and serve in K-12 Catholic and parochial schools (see Figure 1; Tables 1 and 2). Since its beginnings in the late 1990s, the consortium supports primarily Catholic colleges and universities as they design and implement graduate level teaching service programs for the purpose of service to Catholic and parochial schools in the United States.

To explore the contributions of the UCCE, we begin by reflecting briefly on the history of Catholic teacher preparation, particularly in the context of religious communities. We then explore the shift that took place in the latter part of the 20th century from a teaching population in Catholic schools of predominantly vowed religious to laity and how this transformation has contributed to the rise of alternative teacher preparation programs. Such a historical discussion enables a deeper probing into the essential task of Catholic education and the spiritual role of those involved at every level to create communities "animated by the Gospel ... and illumined by faith" (Vatican Council II, 1965, [section] 8). In short, an understanding of what it means to be an educator imbued with an authentic Catholic identity will be posited. Finally, we will touch upon the mutual gift of Catholic schools and the family and what this suggests about the manner in which we should engage in future research and responsible stewardship of the Church and her resources.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

HISTORY OF CATHOLIC TEACHER PREPARATION

Like the core of the Catholic faith, the origins of the American Catholic school system can be attributed to sacrifice; most notably, the sacrifice of vowed women religious who faced the challenges of serving in parish schools throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th century (Jacobs, 2000; Walch, 1996). Hostility toward Catholics began to breathe forth from Protestant pulpits beginning in the 1830s; however, concurrently the Holy Spirit was preparing new vessels to imbue with its grace: the Catholic school (Walch, 1996).

Between 1820 and 1870 the wave of European immigrants to the United States numbered over 5 million. The children of these immigrants were being schooled in anti-Catholic environments; Catholic schools began to combat the dangers of public schools which Americanized children through Protestant ideals. This gave rise to Catholic communities that banded together in ethnic neighborhoods to preserve their Catholic identity and protect their children's faith development, a dynamic that supported the building of Catholic parochial schools (Walch, 1996). These communities were strengthened by their common adversary--publicly funded Protestant schools which aggressively formed children contrary to the culture of their heritage.

At the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884, the bishops, responding to the ardent desire for Catholic schools, commanded that a Catholic school be founded at every parish in the United States (Gibbons, 1884/1954). …

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