.- Bishop Thomas J. Curry, chairman of the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Catholic Education and an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, has lauded a recent effort to increase access to and enrollment in Catholic schools for Latino children.
The initiative, backed by the Notre Dame Task Force on the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools, has set a goal of enrolling one million Latino children in Catholic schools by 2020, which would double the current percentage of 3 percent to 6 percent.
On Dec. 12, the task force, which includes more than 50 national leaders from the Latino community within the Church, academia, government, business, philanthropy and K-12 education, published its report, “To Nurture the Soul of a Nation: Latino Families, Catholic Schools, and Educational Opportunity.”
“The study highlights two items in particular,” said Bishop Curry in a USCCB press release on Tuesday. “Hispanic students who attend Catholic schools do better than their counterparts who do not; and Catholic schools are not attracting enough Hispanic students.”
The report also outlines four critical gaps in achievement and enrollment and also discusses the opportunities available in urban Catholic schools. Although finances are often noted as the primary factor in low enrollment, other issues such as information, culture and leadership are also causes.
“The message of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, that culture is enlivened by faith, challenges us to open for Latino children the rich opportunity of a Catholic School education,” said Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento. Bishop Soto, who is the chairman of the USCCB Committee on Cultural Diversity and a member of the task force, also stressed the importance of welcoming immigrants and poor people.
“As in the past,” said Bishop Curry, “Catholic schools are a gift to the Catholic immigrants to America. We rejoice in and celebrate that fact.”
Fr. Allan Figueroa Deck, executive director of the USCCB Secretariat for Cultural Diversity in the Church and a member of the task force, said that the “Latino presence, more than any other factor, offers Catholic education the opportunity to renew itself and face the vexing challenges of the 21st century. We are being presented with a fundamental choice that we ignore at our peril.”
Bishop Curry added that, “we are deeply grateful to the University of Notre Dame for this wonderful contribution to Catholic school education and for its continuing contribution to the Catholic Community in America.”