June 5, 2019 // Diocese

Dr. Joseph Brettnacher, former Marian High School principal, appointed superintendent of Catholic schools

FORT WAYNE — Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades announced May 28 the appointment of Joseph Brettnacher, Ph.D., as superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.


Brettnacher recently served as principal of Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis. He previously served as superintendent of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio, the 29th largest Catholic school system in the United States. He also has served as principal and president of Lafayette Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School in Lafayette, Rossville High School in Rossville, and Marian High School in Mishawaka. In addition to these leadership positions, Brettnacher helped Indiana schools gain or sustain accreditation status in the state of Indiana through his role on a statewide committee.

“We are blessed to have Joe Brettnacher returning to serve again in our diocese. The search committee was very impressed with his breadth of experience in schools and dioceses throughout the Midwest, his proven track record of success in Catholic schools, his commitment to Catholic identity, and his deep desire to work closely with principals and teachers to implement Bishop Rhoades’ vision for Catholic education” said Carl Loesch, secretary for Catholic Education. “Everyone who knows Joe Brettnacher knows him as a humble and dedicated leader who works collaboratively to serve children.”

“With humility, I accepted the appointment from the Most Reverend Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades to become the next superintendent for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend where my Catholic school vocation began,” Brettnacher responded. “I look forward to working with Bishop Rhoades, Mr. Loesch, clergy, boards, parents, administrators, faculty and staff in the diocese to ensure for our students that Jesus Christ is and always will be the reason for our schools.” 

Brettnacher graduated from Purdue University with a Bachelor of Arts in industrial education. He earned a Master of Science in secondary education from Indiana University and a Doctor of Philosophy in leadership from Andrews University. His doctoral dissertation focused on the importance of teacher formation and retention in Catholic schools. Among his areas of knowledge and experience are instructional strategies, developing human resources, school safety, effective communication, and evaluation and assessment. He enjoys spending time with his family, exercising and volunteering in the community.

The title of Marquis de Lafayette, the highest honor bestowed on a citizen by the mayor of Lafayette, has been given to Brettnacher. While serving as principal of Marian High School, he received the Sister Laura Moellmann, OSF, Award for Dedicated Commitment to Catholic Education, and the Light of Learning Outstanding Principal Award from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He also was a state winner in the Illinois Vocational Education Small Business/Education Partnership.

Catholic identity fits into the context of a Catholic school when a school’s culture is rooted in Christ, Gospel-based, and with a creed, code and vision that provides inspiration and identity, Brettnacher said.

“A school’s Catholic identity includes the school’s history, tradition, symbols, relationships, norms and educational programs. The school’s culture brings Catholic identity to life.”

As superintendent, he hopes to influence the academic success of Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend Catholic school students by emphasizing the Christian mission to serve God.

“Schools must be held accountable by providing a challenging academic education integrated with Catholic values and morals, that develops the whole student spiritually, intellectually, physically and socially,” he said. He plans to emphasize active Catholic formation, while maintaining the expectation for high academic standards. “Also, instruction must be based on best practices and rooted in our Catholic beliefs.”

His appointment comes at the end of a national search to fill the position vacated by Marsha Jordan, who was set to retire at the end of the 2018-19 school year. Jordan passed away in May after serving as superintendent from 2014 to 2019.

Brettnacher begins his role on July 1.

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