Realism needed to save school system, Philadelphia archbishop says
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia
By Benjamin Mann
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- Catholic schools must move forward with hope and realism, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput said as his education commission announced school mergers and closings in a Jan. 6 report.

“We need to honor the great history of Catholic education in our archdiocese. But we must not be constrained by it,” the archbishop said in a letter to the Blue Ribbon Commission. “Nostalgia for the past is a bad foundation if we want to think clearly and build creatively for the future.”

He praised the authors of the “Faith in the Future” report for their “courage in facing the hard financial realities burdening many of our schools,” nearly 50 of which may be closed or merged.

During hard times, he said, “justice requires that we use our resources to best effect,” while pursuing “new forms of governance, government advocacy and foundation funding.”

“It is not enough for Catholic education to survive,” Archbishop Chaput stated. “It needs to grow, and we cannot make that happen with old behaviors and models of operation.”

“The goal of Catholic education remains the same: We need to give our young people a zeal for the Catholic faith and a strong moral character, and in our schools, a superior academic curriculum. But how we achieve that goal should always be open to change.”

Major changes are in store after the release of the Blue Ribbon Commission's report, part of a process begun by Archbishop Chaput's predecessor Cardinal Justin F. Rigali in December 2010.

The commission, which continued its work under Archbishop Chaput, found many schools struggling to survive and lacking plans for recovery. During its consultation process, the group heard from teachers, business leaders, clergy, parents, and pastors in monthly meetings.

In his introduction to the report, commission chair John J. Quindlen said group members were “unanimous” in their belief that Catholic schools “have a great future – if they are wisely led.”

“Commission members are equally unanimous that current financial losses cannot be justified or sustained,” Quindlen wrote.

“Strategic decisions about our Catholic schools have already been delayed too long at great cost. Now these decisions are urgent. They cannot in good conscience or sound stewardship be delayed.”

The commission found that up to 45 of the archdiocese's 156 elementary or regional schools “cannot be sustained” because of their deficits and the debt accumulated by associated parishes. These schools will merge with others in the archdiocese.

The commission also found declining enrollment and financial challenges in several of the archdiocese's 17 high schools. It supports a plan developed by the Archdiocesan Board of Education, under which four of the schools would close.

Along with these changes, a new governance model will go into effect, with an Executive Board of Education chaired by an auxiliary bishop. Individual boards will be formed to oversee elementary schools, secondary schools, religious education and special education.

Steps will also be taken to strengthen the Catholic identity of schools – which the report said was the “very reason for (their) existence” – and to address parents' concerns about tuition through a new fundraising foundation.

Members of the Blue Ribbon Commission acknowledged that the school mergers and closings “will cause significant pain and change in the lives of children, families and alumni.”

Rita Schwartz, president of the Association of Catholic Teachers in the archdiocese, told the Associated Press that the news was “extremely sad” and had sparked a “grieving process” in elementary and high schools.

But the commission members said that closing and merging schools was “not a decision that was made easily or in a vacuum.”

Rather, they said, it took into account “the best interest of all the students and parents who are committed to ensuring that Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia remains
strong and vibrant.”

Archbishop Chaput praised the commission members for their willingness to acknowledge hard realities and develop a forward-looking response.

“Over the next 18 months, in the spirit of the report, we should examine all our education efforts and structures for their effectiveness,” he told them in his letter.

The archbishop also noted that “any serious proposal” from donors or community leaders should receive consideration going forward, “so long as we serve our Catholic identity and mission” in the process.

Archbishop Chaput also expressed his closeness to families affected by the closings and mergers, in a separate Jan. 6 letter.

“Please be sure of my understanding and support in what may come as difficult news for your family," he told parents and guardians in the letter. “We are dedicated to assisting you and your family during this time of transition.”

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages


Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Cardinal Luis Tagle to Pope Francis
Pope Francis in the Philippines: Manila Welcomes the Pope
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Highlights
Pope Francis in Sri Lanka: Interview with Cardinal Ranjith
Pope Francis in SriLanka: Inter-religious Faith Meeting
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day

Liturgical Calendar

January 26, 2015

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, Bishops

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mk 3:22-30


Daily Readings

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »


Homily of the Day

Mk 3:22-30