Making God Known, Loved, and Served: The Future of Catholic Primary and Secondary Schools in the United States

By Travis, Mary Peter | Momentum, April/May 2007 | Go to article overview

Making God Known, Loved, and Served: The Future of Catholic Primary and Secondary Schools in the United States


Travis, Mary Peter, Momentum


Making God Known, Loved, and Served: The Future of Catholic Primary and Secondary Schools in the United States The Final Report by the Notre Dame Task Force University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, Indiana 2006, 28 pages

My feelings on the day in 1976 when the University of Notre Dame closed its Department of Education still are remarkably vivid. Notre Dame was the educational citadel where so many of the effective superintendents and principals of the church's schools were academically prepared for leadership. I am certain today that the internal reasons for the closure were many and complicated, but in those dark days for Catholic schools, it seemed that if the great University of Notre Dame was calling it quits then the closure of individual schools was only a matter of time. The depressing message sent to us in the field was that the University of Notre Dame must have believed that our days, too, were numbered.

Ironically, in the summer of the same year, 1976, the University of San Francisco hosted a national symposium showcasing Andrew Greeley's new book, "Catholic Schools in a Declining Church,"1 to mark the opening of the new Institute for Catholic Educational Leadership (ICEL). The list of 100 attendees read like a who's who in Catholic education. The participants were encouraged not by Greeley's conclusions,2 which were not positive, but by the fact that the University of San Francisco was willing to assert that Catholic elementary and secondary schools indeed did have a future. The opening keynote was reminiscent of Newman's "Second Spring." At the beginning of the fall term, NCEA's journal, Momentum, dedicated an entire issue to the symposium.3

In the early 1980s Boston College, Fordham University, the University of Saint Thomas and the University of Dayton joined the University of San Francisco in offering courses especially for Catholic school personnel. They scraped together their meager, yet unique, resources "to provide Christian formation programs for educators who are evangelizers by call and covenant and mission."3

The five universities founded the Association of Catholic School Leadership Programs4 (ACLP), which today has a membership of more than 30 institutions. Its mission statement expresses a desire to demonstrate cooperation and partnership by sharing ideas, course content and faculty with one another. Even without the influence of Ex Corde Eccelsia, Catholic higher education has rediscovered its role in the Christian formation of teachers, especially of Catholic school teachers. As the Notre Dame study attests, our universities and colleges have come to realize they are the ones who can best provide that formation.

Reading the recently published Notre Dame report against this 1976 backdrop was in many ways akin to observing from a long distance the past 30-year journey of Catholic schools during some of their most disconcerting times. In 1976 Mary Perkins Ryan's "Are Catholic Schools the Answer: Catholic Education n Light of The Counil?"6 was still a popular work and cited in most articles about the schools. 1976 her overarching estion, "Is the Catholic ucational system, as we know it, necessary or even desirable?"7 was being answered "no" by an increasing number of Catholics.

While the church's schools need all the help they can get, still today most Catholic school scholars believe the schools have turned a significant corner in their struggle to remain an apostolic force in the life of the American church. Solid research on the subject of the schools demonstrates their strength in myriad areas, and it reemphasizes their major contributions to our American culture and way of life.

The 28-page "Making God Known, Loved, and Served: The Future of Catholic Primary and secondary Schools in the United States" is well written and beautifully presented. It is a comprehensive response to the bishops' pastoral, "Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and secondary Schools in the Third Millennium. …

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