My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The summer months are coming to a close and the new academic year is about to begin. While these months bring rest and relaxation, we in the Diocese of Brooklyn, our pastors, principals, and directors of the academies, continue to make plans for a great beginning to the academic year.
Pope Francis noted that Catholic education is our greatest and best inheritance, and together we must make every effort to sustain the Catholic school presence in our world. The U.S. Conference of Bishops has stated: “Catholic education is essential to the future of our country and we must continue to ensure that Catholic education is prominent in every archdiocese and diocese within the United States.”
In Brooklyn and Queens, we are continuously looking at ways to implement new academic programs, increase enrollment, identify new sources of funding and prepare our students for the future.
Our Catholic academies and parish schools impact our children in a living faith in Jesus. Furthermore, our effort to provide a quality Catholic education, which challenges students, is a benchmark that we strive for. There is a balance between our Catholic faith and academic excellence. Both strongly connect to the mission of Catholic education.
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 grand responsibility. Our Catholic Identity to the greater community is one of “welcoming evangelization.” Through pastoral assistance plans, we work with our pastors, priests, deacons, and principals to develop liturgical celebrations and service projects that engage faculty, staff, students, and parents in their faith.
Spiritually, our Catholic education is one of the greatest conduits for bringing the Good News to our children, the future disciples of our Church. Our pastors and priests play a vital role in creating a partnership among parents, academies/parish schools and the parish community. Building a community of faith is essential to Catholic education. Our pastors and parish priests are regularly present in our academies and parishes as living models of 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 playbook for acceptance that we are all children of God. They are the mentors of teachers.
Intellectually, our academies and parish schools are called to educate to the highest standards of academic excellence and rigor, and we deliver. Our benchmarks of excellence call for 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, which provides unique programs for the students.
This year, there will be 30 state-of-the-art STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Labs throughout the Diocese 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 DeSales Media Group, students in over 35 academies and parish schools have received iPads for daily classroom instruction.
In addition, DeSales Media has developed and implemented the Diocesan Technology Institute, through which 35 teachers have been trained as technology coaches and will be working with their colleagues to further integrate technology within the classroom.
Efforts will continue to secure grants from Fidelis Care, and in the future the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, as well as the Achilles and the Kramer Foundations that provide opportunities for 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 academies and parish schools.
In June 2018, the eighth grade graduating class generated over $4,416,291 in scholarships. In addition, students continue to be accepted at our Catholic high schools and the public specialized high schools including The Bronx High School of Science. We are on the right track and our students are well prepared for high school and beyond.
While our pastors and parish priests are the spiritual moderators, the principals, the instructional leaders, and the boards of directors in the academies bring their expertise to further enhance Catholic education in Brooklyn and Queens. Through their untiring efforts, the boards work diligently in the areas of finance, marketing, development and recruitment of new students.
This Spring, I once again engaged the boards of directors in recruiting students through our religious education programs. This process known as the Evangelization Scholarship has yielded 415 new students. While a work in process, we are committed to continuing to support the boards in recruiting students. As we begin the academic year, I remain concerned about enrollment trends, changing demographics, the number of families leaving the boroughs and the inability of some to pay tuition. That is why we continue to look for new ways of funding. The ongoing need for advocacy at the state and federal levels is essential to the success of Catholic education.
Our parents are the primary educators of their children. As parents, they are making great sacrifices to enroll their children in our schools. Covering tuition is not easy for many of our families. Through 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.
Through the promulgation of the Preserving the Vision Strategic Plan in January 2018, we are planning for the future. Preserving the Vision Strategic Plan is the roadmap for the next three years as we continue to focus on the following:
• The Mission of Catholic Identity and the role Catholic education plays
• Academic Excellence and Providing All Students with a Quality Catholic Education that prepares them for their future
• Identifying new funding sources to further assist with financial assistance for our families
• Increasing enrollment given the challenges with we face in the Diocese
• Ensuring that Catholic education remains viable and accessible for all
We are reminded by the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) in their Catholic Schools Week Theme: “Catholic Schools: Learn, Serve, Lead and Succeed.”
We have much to be proud of in Catholic education. We must all collectively continue to promote the great benefits of Catholic education, publicize our ongoing success stories and market our great educational programs.
All of those involved in Catholic education put out into the deep every day. As we begin this new academic year, we continue our commitment to Catholic education and to the flame of God’s love burning brightly here in Brooklyn and Queens.