As we begin to celebrate Catholic Schools Week on Jan. 31, the theme: “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service” definitely applies to the parish schools and academies within the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to discuss Catholic education and Catholic Schools Week. The following is a portion of our conversation:
Bishop DiMarzio, in your pastoral vision for the New Evangelization, which you wrote in 2007, you asked Catholic schools to strengthen their efforts to identify and fulfill their Catholic mission.
Four years later in 2011, when the Preserving the Vision Strategic Plan for Catholic Education was promulgated, you emphasized that the true mission of Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn is to lead those entrusted to its care to find salvation in Jesus Christ, a mission that is shared by all of us.
Now in 2016, the evangelistic mission of Catholic education incorporates many priorities in addition to strengthening the Catholic Identity within the parish schools and academies.
The priorities of Catholic education include: academic excellence, building enrollment and class capacity, sustaining the academy governance model, seeking new ways of funding the parish school/academy finances and ensuring that our parish schools/academies are preparing their students for future leadership throughout the area.
Moreover, parish schools and academies within the diocese continue to prioritize strong support for the New Evangelization. I would like to ask you a few specific questions.
How are our parish priests involved in the Catholic Identity of parish schools and academies?
Catholic Identity in our parish schools/academies is always a priority here within the Diocese of Brooklyn. The centrality of the faith guides Catholic educators each day, as they diligently educate the children of God, who have been entrusted to our parish schools/academies by their parents. In addition, Catholic parish school and academy communities live the faith through daily prayer and life in the sacraments. Through the Pastoral Assistance Plan, all parish priests within the Diocese of Brooklyn are involved in the mission of Catholic education through the presence at liturgies, prayer services and teaching of religion classes.
How is our Catholic faith unlike other academic subjects?
Our Catholic faith is unlike other academic subjects because it is not purely academic. Our faith is infused into all academic areas and our faith forms us. Pope Francis recognizes this when he notes that, “Catholic schools, which always strive to join their work of education with the explicit proclamation of the Gospel, are a most valuable resource for the evangelization of culture.” (EG.134).
Throughout my years as Bishop of Brooklyn, I have met many leaders within our diocese who have been formed by the faith through Catholic education. There is great hope and promise for the future, as Catholic school children become the future leaders of our Church and Country.
I firmly believe that faith is part of our Catholic parish school and academy culture, as it is lived each day in the work done by our dedicated priests, principals, faculty, staff, parents and students.
What is the level of commitment you have seen from our local principals and educators to 21st-century learning?
Catholic parish schools and academies within the Diocese of Brooklyn have a great commitment to academic excellence that is rooted in the faith-based mission of Catholic education. Through the years, we have continued our quest for academic excellence and 21st-century learning. Without diminishing our Catholic Identity, the pursuit of academic excellence has been a major priority.
Through the implementation of the New York State Common Core Learning Standards and participation in the New York State Assessments for ELA and Math, we have prepared our students for the educational challenges that they will face in secondary school and college. Our principals and teachers have dedicated themselves to professional development opportunities to ensure that they have an understanding of the necessary tools and resources to meet the educational needs of all our students.
Within this edition of The Tablet, you will note the progress that our students have made in both ELA and Math. I applaud and thank the principals and teachers for all their hard work, dedication and commitment to Catholic education.
We must continue to provide our students with the basic tools of 21st-century learning. Through effective partnerships with DeSales Media Group, our parish schools and academies have been provided with a number of technology initiatives that have greatly enhanced the technology infrastructure in our parish schools and academies. Through various programs, our principals have been able to provide students with iPads, laptops, SMART Boards, SMART Tables and impressive multimedia labs.
The goal is to continue to ensure that our parish schools and academies are equipped with the technology that will allow our students to be successful in the future.
What are some ways Catholic education is supported within the Diocese of Brooklyn?
Through the continued generosity of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, we are able to provide students with innovative programs that enhance the academic program. Within this edition of The Tablet, you will note the various initiatives that are supported by the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust.
Pursuit of academic excellence and knowledge is a priority. Through partnerships with various agencies, collaboration with the secondary schools, colleges and universities and the guidance of the staff of the Office of the Superintendent ~ Catholic School Support Services, we are in a position to continue our efforts toward achieving the goals associated with academic excellence.
How is service an important part of the mission and ministry of Catholic education?
Service to others is a key tenet of our Catholic faith, for Christ tells us that “if anyone wishes to be first, he shall be last of all and the servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Just as our parishes do a great deal of service work within the community, our parish schools and academies are partners in this important work.
Also of important service is the work of the Board of Directors in our academies. This new ministry for lay leadership is essential to the success of the mission of Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn. Through their time, talent and expertise, they provide service to our academy governance model. Their work continues to build our communities of learning, and their efforts are advancing the mission of Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Bishop, would you like to share any final thoughts about Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn?
As we look at Catholic education within the diocese, I would like to highlight some final reflections:
– We offer an education that combines Catholic faith and teachings with academic excellence.
– We partner with parents in the faith formation of their children.
– We set high standards for student achievement and help them to achieve success.
– We provide a balanced academic program that integrates faith culture and life.
– We use technology to effectively enhance education.
– We instill in students the value of service.
– We prepare students to be productive citizens and future leaders.
– We cultivate a faculty and staff who are dedicated, caring and effective.
One final question: How will you be celebrating Catholic Schools Week?
This Catholic Schools Week, I will, along with my brother bishops, visit several parish schools and academies within the Diocese of Brooklyn to witness and experience our local “Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” (Click here for full schedule.)
I pray that our schools and academies may continue to grow and flourish, and that God may bless all of their work, so that it is realized in the lives of the students and families throughout this great city and beyond.