School superintendent addresses role of Catholic Schools
By Dr. Mark Myers, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend
Fernanda Becker of Bishop Dwenger High School and Mattie Willerton of Mishawaka Catholic graduated from the Alliance for Catholic Education’s Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame campus in South Bend on July 14. Theresa A. Sullivan, president of the University of Virginia presented the address to the graduates, family members and guests. The graduation Mass was celebrated by Holy Cross Father Timothy R. Scully, co-founder of the Alliance for Education at the conclusion of the master’s degree ceremony at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Notre Dame.
President Sullivan spoke eloquently about the value and characteristics of the unique and special relationship between the teacher and learner. Father Scully made numerous references in his homily about the dynamics of a Catholic community that evolve to become the spiritual mainspring to enrich others as well as ministries of Christ that bare abundant fruit.
American educators have a litany of research on effective teacher classroom practices; however, very little has been documented in the literature on the value of the relationship between a teacher and a student. Surveys on post undergraduate students show consistently the most frequent response to the question about the perceived benefit of a graduate degree is, “… the relationship between my professors and me.”
Clearly, the spiritual formation of a young child — or adult— continues as a result of the conscience efforts of those who participate unselfishly within a loving, Catholic community.
President Sullivan’s remarks on student-teacher relationships and the content of Father Scully’s homily on the functioning Catholic community are certainly not mutually exclusive.
Our responsible Catholic teachers, staff and principals within our schools who share the Holy Spirit within a faith-filled, loving community acquire significant — and eternal — results.
Recently, a senior citizen healthcare administrator who serves the needs of elderly religious in a retirement home reported the most frequent visitors of residents who served as Catholic teachers and administrators are former students; many whom travel extensive distances to show their gratitude for the special relationships they shared as children with their former teachers and principals.
Clearly, the powerful, sustaining effects of the community fortified the religious who taught five or more decades ago; Catholic educators must strive strategically now to replicate the characteristics of those religious communities within our schools in order to continue to share the gift of our Catholic faith. The advantages gained as a result of direct involvement in strong Catholic school communities can be seen in student-teacher relationships, academic achievement, faith formation and moral habits of children who grow to become practicing, adult Catholics.
When we ask parents why they enroll their children in our Catholic schools, frequently we hear, “Someone talked to me about the school; or, the school is like a family.”
Numerous opportunities exist to support our Catholic school communities. Given the present opportunities to enroll children in Catholic schools in Indiana, when our parents talk to others about their child’s school, prospective families can benefit greatly as a result of such discussions. Parents can learn if their children qualify for vouchers or tax-credit scholarships, how and where to apply, and about the various benefits available. Today, throughout the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, parents can assist our Catholic schools greatly by sharing school information.
We encourage each Catholic school parent to contact the principal of their school to learn more regarding how to provide information to other parents about the admissions process.
Data shows when parents visit the school after such discussions, there is a high probability of enrolling the child. Secondly, we ask our parents to continue to participate fully within their own school. When parents, through their actions, model how to make contributions to a school community today, they teach Catholic community values to children.
Finally, we ask for prayers as we work together to keep our Catholic school communities vibrant and strong. Pray that we can reach the level of faith sharing that served former generations of active, practicing Catholics. We are deeply grateful for your support of our children and our Catholic school communities of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.
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