.- As students get ready to head back to the classroom, Catholic school teachers in Grand Rapids, Michigan are getting their own pep rally to kick off the year. Some 600 Catholic educators and clergy joined Bishop Walter Hurley at Grand Rapid’s Blessed Sacrament church yesterday for a special Mass and celebration aimed at firing up educators in the diocese’ 45 schools.
The annual event brings together Catholic teachers from around western Michigan for a chance to network and get energized for the new school year.
James O’Donnell, superintendent of the diocese’ Catholic schools said that because of the size of the diocese, teachers don’t get to gather like this very often. He told the Grand Rapids Press that he sees it “as a good opportunity for them to be around each other, and for some professional development as well."
He and the diocese are also serious about promoting Catholic schools. With the growth of charter schools and the cost of tuition at diocesan schools, enrollment rates have substantially dropped in recent years.
Noting the high quality of Catholic education, Nelson said that, "Perhaps the approach to marketing it is to really stress the character development that's part of a Catholic education…That's not to denigrate what public schools do. It's to celebrate what we are about."
Nelson, who is a product of Catholic schools all the way through college, told the Press that "It was a marvelous balance of the intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual,” and thinks that stressing these virtues could help fight a recent trend of closures at some Catholic schools.
Currently, the diocese of Grand Rapids serves some 8,800 students and their parents within its district.