Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

A Catholic Higher Education Collaborative: Focusing on New Ways of Supporting Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools

Academic journal article Journal of Catholic Education

A Catholic Higher Education Collaborative: Focusing on New Ways of Supporting Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools

Article excerpt

K-12 Catholic education is at a critical juncture in its history, a point emphasized by representatives from Catholic higher education and related institutions who gathered at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in January 2009. Their purpose: to seek creative ways to collaborate in support of the nation's Catholic elementary and secondary schools.

For years, individual institutions of higher education have assisted Catholic elementary and secondary schools in various ways, including professional training programs, research, and other vital resources typically unavailable to the Catholic school, but never have they looked to harness their collective talents and resources for the benefit of all--until now. Faced with a new wave of national closures hastened by the current economic downturn, the Catholic school story--despite a proven track record (Bryk, Lee, & Holland, 1993)--has become one of survival and struggle in large swaths of the country (Youniss, 2000). The time to stand in solidarity with Catholic schools has come to higher education, and these institutions are answering the call via new partnerships designed to help revitalize Catholic schools in the United States (Whipp & Scanlan, 2009).

The conference at LMU was the first of six planned gatherings to be held at Catholic colleges and universities throughout the country over the next few years. (1) The initiative for these was established during a 2007 national dialogue on Catholic schooling hosted by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, at which approximately 50 participants gathered to explore ways to strengthen the field of Catholic education. One outcome from the initial Carnegie gathering was to convene a series of national conferences around topics related to the nature of Catholic schooling. Calling themselves the Catholic Higher Education Collaborative (CHEC), these educators have set out to prove that more can be accomplished collectively than individually when addressing the serious needs of the nation's Catholic schools.

The 3-day event, cohosted by LMU and the University of San Francisco (USF), was entitled "Catholic Schools and the Immigrant Church: Lessons from the Past and a Bridge to the Future." Keynote speakers, panelists, and participants explored Catholic schools' development and present challenges in serving a diverse Church. In all, 13 Catholic schools and colleges were represented as well as numerous other Catholic educational institutions (see Appendix). The purpose of this article is to summarize the conference as well as shed light on the issue of Catholic schools and the immigrant Church. What follows is a historical review of the Catholic school as it relates to immigrant families, including the so-called new immigrants of today. Next will be an overview of the conference, including summaries of the various keynotes. The article will conclude with a list of action items put forth by conference organizers.

A Movement Buoyed and Sustained by Immigrants

A Historical Perspective

In April 2008 during an address at the Catholic University of America, Pope Benedict XVI thanked Catholic educators for their central role in educating immigrants: "Countless dedicated religious sisters, brothers and priests," he stated, "together with selfless parents have, through Catholic schools, helped generations of immigrants to rise from poverty and take their place in mainstream society" (para. 4). It could also be said that without the immigrants to whom the pope referred, Catholic schools in the United States would not exist today. Catholic schools grew in number only as immigrants poured in, eventually reaching 10,000 at its apex in 1960 (Walch, 1996). In the course of American history, the convergence of new arrivals with a willing Church created a recipe for a system of schools that would grow and thrive for decades; it was a kind of symbiosis that ushered an educational movement into the mainstream. …

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