Seminarian Perspectives on Catholic Schools and the New evangelization/Perspectivas Seminaristas Sobre Las Escuelas Catolicas Y la Nueva Evangelizacion

By Simonds, Thomas A.; Brock, Barbara L. et al. | Journal of Catholic Education, March 2017 | Go to article overview

Seminarian Perspectives on Catholic Schools and the New evangelization/Perspectivas Seminaristas Sobre Las Escuelas Catolicas Y la Nueva Evangelizacion


Simonds, Thomas A., Brock, Barbara L., Cook, Timothy Jay, Engel, Max T., Journal of Catholic Education


Introduction

Pastors of parishes with a Catholic school fulfill a vital role in today's Catholic Church as chief educational leaders of these schools (Dolan, 2010; King, 2013; Schafer, 2013; USCCB, 2005b). In light of the importance of the role of pastor as school leader, the research team conducting this study asked, "How are current seminarians--tomorrow's pastors--being prepared in seminaries across the United States to lead the New Evangelization and provide leadership for parish schools?" This research question is important for three reasons. First, understanding seminary preparation will help diocesan officials, school principals, and parish school teachers better understand the perspective of new priests as these local educators help new priests transition to work in a parish school. Second, the results of this study will provide seminary rectors with information they can use to review their practices and curricula. Lastly, the findings shared in this article are timely because the Committee on Priestly Formation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is drafting an updated version of the Program of Priestly Formation (USCCB, 2006). This document will guide the formation of future pastors and chief school leaders for decades to come, and this study can help to inform the writers of this important new document about the need to prepare seminarians for school leadership roles.

Literature Review

Catholic schools are uniquely gifted with all that is necessary to provide faith leadership formation for youth (CCE, 1997; DiGiacomo, 2007; Dolan, 2010; Francis, 2013b). For example, Catholic schools encourage young people to critique societal trends and values in light of the Gospel message (CCE, 1997; Cessna, 2013; Cook & Simonds, 2011; DiGiacomo, 2007; Francis, 2013b; Priego, 2013; Simonds, 2009). In the words of the Second Vatican Council (1965), graduates of Catholic schools become "a saving leaven in the human community" (section 8).

Beginning with John Paul II and his announcement of a program he called the New Evangelization, Catholic schools have had to reevaluate how well they were providing faith leadership formation for their students (CCE, 1997; Francis, 2013a; John Paul II, 1997, 1999; USCCB, 2005b). At the same time, Catholic school leaders and members of the Catholic community continued to wrestle with the problematic issue of financing Catholic education (DeFiore, 2011; USCCB, 2005b).

The Pastor as Chief Educational Leader of the School

Today, in light of the New Evangelization and the unanswered questions about how to fund parish schools, pastors of parish schools have a challenging role as chief educational leaders (Schafer, 2013; Weiss, 2007). Pastors must engage in policy making for the school, create a board to help with oversight duties, provide ongoing financial supervision of the school, and lead or provide faith formation programs for faculty who will teach students in the school. While the pastor may delegate the day-to-day operations of the school to the principal, the pastor is the chief administrator of the school (Schafer, 2013).

The importance of staying on top of school finances was underlined in a survey of 1,042 pastors who had oversight of parish schools (Nuzzi, Frabutt, and Holter, 2008). The pastors who were surveyed reported that operating a parish school required regular and time consuming attention to the financial details involved in operating a school. As noted by Schafer (2013), even when a pastor seeks the help of qualified persons in the parish who can assist him with development efforts, enrollment management, investment, and financial reporting, the pastor is the person who is ultimately responsible for the financial well-being of the school.

The pastor must also understand the complexity of leadership roles and domains within the Catholic school (Weiss, 2007). If the Catholic school is to be an effective school, the pastor and the principal must work together for the good of the educational mission of the school (Weiss, 2007). …

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