January 26, 2022 // Diocese
Parents, religious and teachers essential for educating children intellectually, spiritually
By Dr. Joseph Brettnacher, Superintendent of Catholic Schools
Welcome to the 48th Annual Catholic Schools Week. It provides me with an opportunity to thank all the parents who have chosen a Catholic education for their children in our schools. We take the responsibility of working with you seriously. We know that parents are their child’s primary and most important teachers. Our schools help parents by educating the whole child spiritually, intellectually, and socially. We help students develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ within his mystical body, the Church, become disciples of Christ, fulfill their destiny to become saints, and reach the ultimate goal for students in our Catholic schools – heaven.
The theme for Catholic Schools Week is “Faith, Excellence, and Service.” Allow me to add a twist to the theme, tailored for our 39 elementary schools and four high schools, rather than discuss national statistics. We will look at faith, excellence, service, and add another extremely important element … why Catholic Education is more affordable than you may think.
Catholic Schools Week is a time to reflect on past bishops, priests, and religious who built, oversaw, ran, taught, and supported Catholic education. An interesting historical note is that Father Julian Benoit was appointed to the diocese in 1840. He took on finishing a church, begun by his predecessor, then built the first schools in what is now the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. The first was St. Augustine Academy, which opened in 1845, and then more followed. He secured the Sisters of Providence and Brothers of Holy Cross to help run them. Father Benoit expressed, “I can do nothing without schools.”
I, of course, must add a brief note about Saint Mother Theodore Guerin. She was the foundress of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods and opened an academy for girls less than a year after migrating from France. She continued to establish schools across Indiana and eastern Illinois throughout her adult life.
We are grateful to the religious orders that have taught in or run our schools. They include the Sisters of Notre Dame, Sisters of St. Agnes, Sisters of Holy Cross, Sisters of St. Francis, Sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, Franciscan Sisters of Joliet Illinois, Sisters of St. Francis of the Sacred Heart, Sisters of St. Joseph, Sisters of the Precious Blood, Sisters of St. Francis of Kunegunda, Sisters of Providence from St. Mary of the Woods, the Dominican Sisters, Sisters of Nazareth, Sisters of St. Francis of Lafayette, Felician Sisters, Sisters of St. Joseph Tipton, Holy Cross brothers and sisters, and many others. Let us also not forget the past priests who have run or taught in our schools for their very important contributions and support of Catholic education.
Currently, we are fortunate to have the Most Reverend Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades, pastors, and religious who support Catholic education.
Bishop Rhoades is a staunch advocate for our schools. He genuinely cares for our administrators, faculty, staff, students, and parents. The bishop works hard to ensure those who teach religious instruction have outstanding and correct doctrine. So, too, he expects all our administrators and educators to live the Gospel, practice strong pedagogy, and work to distinguish their schools spiritually and academically.
We are blessed to have excellent pastors, priests, and other religious support Catholic education. These men and women work hard to assist parents. Through their collaboration with each other, we are able to fulfill the serious obligation parents have to provide their children with suitable Catholic education, both in our schools and in our parishes.
The laity, current and past administrators, faculty, and staff, have filled in for the religious who were prevalent in our schools up until the mid-1960s. They are faith-filled people who see Catholic education as a vocation. Let us not forget their contribution to our schools.
God has blessed us with these Christ-like servant-leaders who help to ensure our schools are faith-filled.
An excellent Catholic education requires committed administrators, faculty, and staff. The commitment is always apparent, but especially during this COVID-19 pandemic. During this crisis, our Catholic schools strived to keep open wide the doors for in-person learning. They have put in long hours and endured much stress to keep our children safe while teaching them. Their faith in God has helped them become beacons of hope for parents and their children. May God continue to shower His blessings upon them.
Excellence is evident in our 43 diocesan schools in many ways. We educate more than 11,500 students, and by the time they graduate, more than half earn an honors diploma. In addition, 100% of our K-8 students attend Mass weekly. Our four high schools earned an “A” rating from the Indiana Department of Education, and 98.1% graduated in four years. On average, we have 17 students per teacher, allowing for more individualized instruction. We have more than 700 dedicated educators and we have diversity in our schools (21.6% Hispanic/Latino and 10.9% racial minorities). Also, a significant number of our schools score higher than the state average on proficiency tests. The list could go on.
Service to others is an essential component of Catholic education. When our students participate in service activities, learning locally and abroad, they demonstrate their faith, values, and learn how to make the world a better place both now, and throughout their lives.
Many of our schools plan to do the following, among many other acts of service as part of suggestions from the National Catholic Education Association:
• Donate educational materials for students in underserved communities and poorer schools.
• Host an awards assembly recognizing students and teachers who have demonstrated outstanding community service.
• Put together care packages to send to active-duty military with personalized notes and other items.
• Write notes, make posters, or decorate treat baskets to deliver to community leaders, local service organizations, nursing homes, and local children’s hospitals.
• Write notes, make posters, or decorate treat baskets to deliver to neighbors and local businesses around the school to thank them for being great neighbors!
• Host a dress-down day fundraiser, asking students to donate $1 toward a Catholic charity or service organization.
• Invite community members into the school for muffins or other appetizers or a student-led tour or event.
Many of our Catholic graduates go on to a lifetime of service to their communities due to their service learning.
With the Indiana Choice Scholarship Program, Scholarship Granting Organizations, and school-specific tuition assistance, affording a Catholic education is easier than you may think.
Indiana Choice Scholarship Program: The Indiana Choice Scholarship Program has three criteria. The student must reside in Indiana. Each student must meet one of eight Choice Scholarship program tracks. Families whose household income is less than 300% of the Child Nutrition Program Income Eligibility Guidelines qualify for 90% of what it costs to educate a student at their local public school. For instance, a family of one can make up to $71,484 adjusted gross income and qualify; a family of four, $147,075; a family of eight, $273,060; and a family of ten $298,257. Contact your local Catholic school for a comprehensive list.
• Scholarship Granting Organizations: Families qualify for scholarships based upon the same household income guidelines listed above through the Scholarship Granting Organization.
• School-specific tuition assistance: Many schools in the Diocese of Fort-Wayne-South Bend provide tuition assistance such as family discounts, parishioner rates, and scholarships.
Your pathway to Catholic education is as simple as contacting the Diocesan school of your choice, applying for assistance, and enrolling.
Happy Catholic Schools Week!
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