STLToday has a story about Archbishop Carlson’s efforts to revitalize Catholic schools in the Archdiocese. It is a generally positive piece, and His Grace does cite to the importance of imparting the Catholic faith for Catholic schools to succeed.
But like most secular outlets, the Post simply doesn’t get that there is only one reason for Catholic schools to exist, and that is to teach the Catholic faith. Any other function can be approximated in other places, but only a Catholic school can be Catholic. Talking with “national experts” is good, but I wonder if these are finance people or other “experts”. I just hope these aren’t the same national experts who have SpiritofVaticanII-ed us out of business.
What the Archdiocesan officials can do is to ensure a vibrantly Orthodox Catholic faith curriculum. Then work to ensure that faithful Catholics are the ones teaching it. And then ensure that this program has the active support of school principals.
In the end, if the Catholicity of the school doesn’t “sell” the school to parents, then what is the point? From the full story at STLToday:
Carlson aims to fulfill vow to improve schools in archdiocese
By Elisa Crouch
Thursday, December 23, 2010
As soon as Archbishop Robert Carlson arrived in St. Louis last year, he made clear that improving Catholic schools was his top priority.
Enrollment throughout the 11-county archdiocese had been steadily declining for four decades. Concern that schools were losing their Catholic identity was growing. In the city’s core, where white Catholics have left some neighborhoods, demographic shifts had some parish schools struggling financially.
Carlson vowed to tackle the problems even if it meant taking on potentially contentious issues, such as moving resources from wealthier parishes to struggling ones, and restructuring tuition.
So for the last year, he has been meeting with national experts as well as parents, teachers and pastors to develop strategies to improve Catholic schools. In doing so, Carlson is positioning the St. Louis Archdiocese to follow the lead of other large city Catholic school systems that have restructured to stem the loss of students.
“We don’t have to sit by and let this happen,” Carlson said in an interview this week at his Central West End residence. “Let’s grow this system again.”
Carlson said he doesn’t expect drastic change. But he isn’t ruling out spreading the cost of educating more than 34,000 students among all 189 parishes, including those that don’t have schools. Nor is he ruling out closing or consolidating schools.
“It’s always possible that schools are going to close,” Carlson said. “At least at this point it’s too early to say this school or that school.”
He’s considering ways to change the way parochial schools are financed.
One idea being explored is a full-cost tuition model with significant financial aid, similar to colleges and universities, said Daniel Conway, consultant for missionary advancement for the archdiocese.
The parents who could afford to pay full tuition would, and those who couldn’t could apply for significant financial assistance.
Another is developing a foundation in the archdiocese so parishes wouldn’t have to depend on their own resources.
In the Catholic system, most parish schools must survive through tuition, Sunday collections and fundraising. In addition, the archdiocese uses interest from a $10 million endowment to help parents with tuition. The Today and Tomorrow Educational Foundation is helping 1,800 low-income children who live in the city and cannot afford parochial or private education.
“We want to make sure everyone has access to our schools,” Carlson said.
While many schools in the suburbs are flourishing, others in the city are struggling.
“It’s really a very significant justice issue to have good schools that move people out of poverty,” Carlson said.
“You can see something building,” Carlson said. “Where people begin to see Catholic schools not so much in terms of their cost, but here we can provide a pathway out of poverty, here we can share the principles of our faith clearly, and here we can help our young people come in contact with Jesus Christ.”
Overall, Catholic school enrollment in the 11 counties under the Archdiocese of St. Louis has dropped by 14,000 in the last 10 years, according to the archdiocese. However, the school system continues to be the seventh-largest Catholic school system in the country.
Carlson said he doesn’t plan to mimic the approach that Archbishop Timothy Dolan is taking in New York. There, Dolan is restructuring the way schools are funded so they’re not reliant on a home parish to stay afloat but rather would depend on clusters of parishes, or the archdiocese at large.
“Every diocese has its own personality,” Carlson said.
“While regional funding is good, if you get the school too far away from the parish, in my experience the parish community can lose interest,” he said. “It’s a delicate balancing act where you keep the parish involved but you have regional sharing.”
In early spring, Carlson plans to announce strategies that he hopes won’t become contentious.
“With any huge effort, people will like this part and that part, but they may not like everything,” he said. “Hopefully we’ve listened well and we can craft something which can be successful here in St. Louis.”