Feb 2, 2013

Catholic schools are 'centers for new evangelization,' bishop says



(Iobserve file photo by Gillian Jones)

By Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Catholic schools are "centers for the new evangelization," said the chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee on Catholic Education.

Catholic schools reach out to children and parents of diverse cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, said Bishop Joseph P. McFadden of Harrisburg, Pa.

"The unique atmosphere of our Catholic schools is a space and place where the new evangelization can reach out to parents and children in a way that is respectful of the human person, presents the teachings of the church, and supports family life," he said in a statement released Jan. 29.

The statement marked the observance of National Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27-Feb. 2.

"Catholic schools have a rich history in supporting the work of ongoing evangelization of the Catholic community in the United States, Bishop McFadden said.

"For more than two centuries, Catholic bishops, pastors and parents have educated children in parish and private schools," he said, "with the intention of offering the life-giving word of the Gospel in an environment that shows respect for the human person, the virtues of good citizenship and academic excellence."

Bishop McFadden also stressed parents' "fundamental and inalienable right to choose Catholic schools to support the faith formation and excellent education for their children."

He noted that Catholic schools function without aid or subsidies from state or federal monies and largely through the "tenacious efforts of parents, pastors, principals and teachers."

He also pointed out that based on public school per pupil cost, Catholic schools save the nation more than $20 billion a year.

                (Iobserve file photo by Terence Hegarty)

"The success of Catholic schools is one of the Catholic Church's best stories in the United States," he said, noting that 99 percent of Catholic high school students graduate each year and 84 percent go on to graduate from a four year college.

"Our Catholic schools reach 2 million students nationwide every day," he said, thanking the 151,395 teachers in more than 6,841 Catholic elementary schools and high schools.

The annual Catholic Schools Week observance starts on the last Sunday in January. Schools typically celebrate the week with Masses, open houses, and other activities for students, families, parishioners and the community at large.

"Catholic Schools Raise the Standards" was chosen as the theme for this year to support the set of national standards and benchmarks for Catholic schools released last spring.

The publication, National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools outlines policies, programs, structures and processes that should be present in effective schools.

It also provides specific benchmarks to determine if schools are adhering to Catholic mission and identity, effectively establishing governance and leadership, providing academic excellence and successful management of facilities with up-to-date technologies and communications.

Watch for news stories on Catholic schools in the Springfield Diocese on this evening's edition of "Real to Reel," which airs at 7 p.m. on WWLP-22NEWS.