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Renewing Catholic Schools

Renewing Catholic Schools

By Bob Schell, Principal

In previous Gatherings, we explored the five marks from The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools and the implications they present for SMG Catholic School. As our 2021-2022 school year comes to a close, we reflect on our “glows and grows” in hopes of gearing up for a fun and Christ-centered 2022-2023 school year.

This summer our staff members are excited to dive into a book study using Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age from the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education (ICLE).

The book begins with an introduction from R. Jared Staudt, Ph.D., Associate Superintendent for Mission and Formation, Archdiocese of Denver and Visiting Associate Professor, Augustine Institute, who presents the Challenges and Opportunities for Catholic Education.

Dr. Staudt shares that while Catholic schools in the 1960s were home to 2.5 million elementary students, 700,000 secondary students, and 200,000 university students, over 76 percent of Catholic elementary schools closed their doors between 1964 and 1984. This coincides with a sharp decline in Mass attendance, shrinking numbers of priests and religious, and concerns about the teaching of doctrine in catechesis.

“Catholic schools no longer served as a place of refuge from a secular culture, as decades following the Second Vatican Council initiated an experiment in increased openness to the world and the adoption of secular models in Catholic education. Catholic identity and traditional pedagogy were sidelined for more utilitarian goals of academic success and career preparation, with a precipitous decline in enrollment following.” (Renewing Catholic Schools: How to Regain a Catholic Vision in a Secular Age, page 5)

Staudt asks, “How can we stem the tide of decreasing enrollment and school closures, as well as face the competition from charter schools? Can we sustain schools financially? How do we help our students to navigate new challenges in a secular culture…”

He and the other co-authors respond to these practical concerns with a vision for renewal. They suggest beginning with recognizing the need for change and strengthening the school’s Catholic identity.

Our school staff recognize this need for change and will rely on the Church in her wisdom to guide us. What’s more, we find examples of how hundreds of schools have strengthened their Catholic identity in recent years.

One example of our efforts to increase our Catholic identity at SMG Catholic School is helping students grow in virtue through the Nashville Dominicans’ Virtues in Practice, which is a program for children in grades pre-kindergarten through eight to grow closer to Jesus by imitating His life and virtues. It is set up in such a way that a whole school studies the same virtue each month, to provide a whole-school (and at home, whole-family) focus. The program covers 27 virtues over a three-year cycle, with 81 saints held up as models of the virtues.

In our ongoing search for truth, goodness, and beauty, our SMG Catholic School community is energized and excited to embark on this path for renewal… for the greater glory of God!

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