Grand Rapids, Mich., Feb 1, 2019 / 03:28 am
As Catholic schools in many areas of the country struggle to keep attendance up, one Michigan diocese has enjoyed a significant boost in enrollment, after the local bishop introduced a plan to prioritize Catholic education.
“[Catholic schools] are at the heart of the mission of the Church,” said David Faber, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Grand Rapids.
“Catholic schools are good all around, not only for the Church, but for the community and the good of our country,” he told CNA.
Faber said the recent growth in Catholic school enrollment followed a 15-year period of decline. The decrease had been due to a drop in the state’s economy, a reduction in church attendance, and the Michigan Blaine Amendment that bans the state from providing funds to Catholic schools, he said.
But over the past four years, the diocesan school district has overcome obstacles, adding 254 new students for a total of 6,555 students. Faber said the diocese is currently seeing the biggest preschool class in 21 years and the biggest kindergarten class in six years.
He attributed the growth to the efforts of Bishop David Walkowiak, who in 2015 created the Bishop’s Catholic Schools Initiative, a program that classified Catholics schools as a high priority in the diocese.
Bishop Walkowiak “really believes that Catholic schools are the single most effective means the Church has created for evangelization,” he said. “He wanted every child to have the opportunity for a Catholic education. The same opportunity that he had.”
The program consisted of three parts, Faber said. “One was to increase affordability through scholarships, the second part was to grow our professional capacity in our office of Catholic schools, and the third party was to plan for the future vitality of our schools.”