My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The summer months of July and August are fast coming to a close and the new academic year is about to begin here in Brooklyn and Queens.
As I reflect upon the importance of Catholic education in the Diocese of Brooklyn, we are called to think about the mission of our Catholic academies and parish schools. The mission of Catholic education is to form children in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ as celebrated in the Catholic Church, while providing a comprehensive academic education that will help them reach their full human potential and contribute to the common good of our Nation and our world.
As a Church, we are proud standard bearers of the rich Catholic tradition and mission set forth by those who have walked before us. It is our obligation to nurture, foster, safeguard, and grow this most grand responsibility. Our Catholic Identity to the greater community is what I call “welcoming evangelization.”
This has never been more evident than in our Catholic academies and parish schools in Brooklyn and Queens that are effective and powerful vehicles for prompting commitment to the teachings of the Gospel. Our Catholic schools and academies are apostolates of hope, joy, and enthusiasm to empower us to serve as role models of faith, forming and molding the future of our students. We strive to have a formative impact on the whole child.
Spiritually, our Catholic education is one of the greatest conduits for bringing the Good News to our children, the future disciples of the Church. Our pastors and priests play a vital role in creating a partnership among the parents, the Catholic academies and parish schools and the parish community. Building a community of faith is essential to the mission of Catholic education. Our pastors and parish priests are present in our academies and parish schools on a regular basis. They are living models of our faith. They embody the directive of Christ to offer hope instead of despair, love where there is hatred, and tolerance where there is prejudice. Their welcoming pastoral presence provides a model for acceptance that we are all children of God. They are the teachers of teachers.
Intellectually, our Catholic academies and parish schools are called to educate to the highest standards of academic excellence. Our benchmarks of excellence call us to develop the unique God-given talents of each and every student placed before us. We are able to keep current with the educational needs of our students through the ongoing generosity of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, made possible by our parish contributions. The trust provides unique programs for all students. This year, there will be 20 state-of-the-art STEM Labs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Labs) in Brooklyn and Queens.
Through the support of our pastors and parishes, we are able to provide this unique opportunity for the students entrusted to us. In partnership with the DeSales Media Group, students in over 25 Catholic academies and parish schools will receive iPads for daily classroom instruction. Continuous efforts to secure grants from Fidelis Care, the Achilles Foundation and the Kramer Foundation provide enhanced educational opportunities for our students. Through the leadership of our principals and the dedication of our teachers, we are able to provide all students with a well-rounded Catholic education based on academic excellence.
Great education is taking place in the Diocese. In June 2017, the eighth-grade graduating class generated over $4,316,291 in scholarships to high schools. We are on the right track and our students are well prepared for high school and beyond.
While our pastors are the spiritual moderators, the principals, the instructional leaders, and the Board of Directors of each Catholic academy brings their expertise to enhance the mission of Catholic education. Through their untiring efforts, the Boards of Directors work diligently in the areas of finance, marketing, development and recruitment of new students to their academy.
In January 2017, I engaged the Boards in recruiting new students through our religious education programs. This recruitment process known as the Evangelization Scholarship has yielded 545 new students to our academies. This program is aimed at recruiting new students who can experience more intense catechesis in our Catholic schools and academies. While this is a work in process, we are committed to continuing to support each Board of Directors in the recruitment of new students for their academy.
Our Catholic faith teaches us that parents are the primary educators of their children. As parents, they are making great sacrifices to enroll their children in Catholic schools. Covering tuition costs is not easy for many families. Through the support of Futures in Education, eligible families receive financial assistance. The financial needs of our families are great and we continue to raise much-needed funds to assist all families in the Diocese.
As we look to the start of the 2017-2018 academic year, we also prepare to promulgate an updated Preserving the Vision Strategic Plan. Through broad-based consultation of the 2016-17 academic year, we have identified the essential elements for viable and vibrant Catholic academies and parish schools in the Diocese. In looking to the future, we continue to focus on:
Ensure the hallmarks of the academies and parish schools are rooted in the evangelizing, Christ-centered, educational mission of the Catholic Church;
Living witnesses of the Catholic faith and values;
Cherishing and drawing from the gifts, strengths, and contributions which all cultures and faith traditions bring; and
Valued as an important mission of the Diocese of Brooklyn and its aligned parishes.
Ensure excellence that nurtures the intellectual, social, emotional, and development needs of students, within the context of faith formation;
Plan, implement and maintain evolving technology and supporting infrastructure to complement curriculum, instruction, assessment, and communication at all levels; and
Foster the collaboration of leadership among the Catholic academies and parish schools, the Catholic high schools, and institutions of higher learning to ensure quality Catholic education from Pre-K through college.
In the near future, I look forward to sharing with you the updated Preserving the Vision Strategic Plan.
As we enter the 2017-18 academic year, I am hopeful that we have reversed the trend of enrollment decline and that this year we begin to see an increase. We have much to offer to the students entrusted to us: a strong Catholic identity and quality Catholic education in a safe and nurturing environment.
All of those involved in the mission of Catholic education in our Diocese put out into the deep each and every day. As we begin the 2017-18 academic year, we remember our pledge to the commitment of the mission and to keep the flame of God’s love burning brightly for each of us.