My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
The summer months are over, and students all across Brooklyn and Queens returned to school this past week. The Diocese of Brooklyn, our pastors, principals, and directors of the Academies kicked off a great beginning to the 2019-2020 Academic Year.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, noted that Catholic education is our greatest and best inheritance, and we together must make every effort to sustain Catholic school presence within our world.
The US Conference of Catholic Bishops states that: “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. The Catholic school forms part of the saving Mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith.”
Within the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens, we are continuously looking at ways to implement new academic programs, increase enrollment, identify new sources of funding and prepare students for the future.
Our Catholic Academies and Parish Schools form children for a personal and living encounter with Jesus Christ. Furthermore, our effort to provide a quality Catholic education which challenges students is a benchmark for which we strive. There is a balance of our Catholic faith and academic excellence; both strongly connect to the Mission of Catholic education.
As a Church, we are proud standards 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 one which I call “welcoming evangelization.” Through the Pastoral Assistance Plans, we work with our pastors, parish 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 to bringing the Good News of our Lord to the children, the future disciples of the Church. Our pastors and parish priests play a vital role in creating a partnership among the parents, the academies/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 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 teachers 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 35 state-of-the-art STEM Labs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math Labs) throughout Brooklyn and Queens. In the last academic year, the Aquinas Enrichment Program was introduced. Through the support of our pastors and parishes within the Diocese, we can provide this unique opportunity for the students entrusted to us.
I applaud all the efforts of the principals and teachers within the Diocese of Brooklyn to work toward the standards and expectations associated with the New York State Equivalency of Instruction. The majority of our Academies have a strategic and business plan. As more of our Academies become accredited through AdvancED, we are then able to move the Academies toward the attainment of an Absolute Charter from the New York State Board of Regents. Attaining an Absolute Charter is a great accomplishment and allows us to be in full compliance with the New York State Equivalency of Instruction.
In partnership with the DeSales Media Group, students in over 35 academies and parish schools have received iPads for daily classroom instruction. In addition, DeSales has developed and implemented the Diocesan Technology Institute. Through this Institute, 35 teachers have been trained so far as technology coaches and will be working through the year with their colleagues to further integrate technology within the classroom.
Continuous efforts to secure grants from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, the Achilles Foundation, the Catholic Foundation, and the Kramer Foundation provide educational opportunities for the 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.
A great education is taking place in the academies and parish schools within the Diocese of Brooklyn. In June 2019, the 8th-grade graduating class generated over $4,188,779 in scholarships. In addition, students continue to be accepted in Regis High School and the Public Specialized High Schools, including Bronx 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 Board of Directors in the Academies bring their expertise to further enhance the Mission of Catholic education within the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. Through their untiring efforts, the Board of Directors works diligently in the areas of finance, marketing, development, and recruitment of new students.
In the Spring of 2019, I once again engaged the Board of Directors in recruiting new students through our Religious Education Programs. This recruitment process, known as the Evangelization Scholarship, has yielded 535 new students. While a work in progress, we are committed to continuing to support the Board of Directors in the recruitment of new students. As we begin this new academic year, I remain concerned about the enrollment trends. The changing demographics, the number of families leaving the boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens, and the inability for some to pay tuition continue to impact our enrollment. That is why we continue to look for new ways to fund Catholic education. The ongoing need for advocacy at the New York State and Federal Level is essential to the success of Catholic education.
Maintaining enrollment with the Academies and Parish Schools continues to be a major goal of our work within the Diocese of Brooklyn. In partnership with Futures in Education, 4,690 scholarships were provided totaling $7,270,771.
In addition, through the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust, we identified 16 Embassy Schools within the Diocese of Brooklyn. Each of the Embassy Schools was provided with $25,000 of additional scholarship funds.
Our parents are the primary educators of their children. As parents, they are making great sacrifices to enroll their children in our academies and parish schools. Covering tuition costs are not easy for many of our 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 within the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Through the promulgation of the Preserving the Vision Strategic Plan in January 2018, we are planning for the future of Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn.
The Preserving the Vision Strategic Plan is the road map for the next three years as we continue to focus on the following:
>> The Mission of Catholic Identity and the Role Catholic Education Plays within the Diocese of Brooklyn
>> 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 which we face within the Diocese of Brooklyn
>> Ensuring that Catholic education remains viable and accessible for all those seeking Catholic education
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 the great educational programs afforded to the students.
On October 23, 2019, we will be holding the Catholic Education Summit to highlight the accomplishments of Preserving the Vision and the goals and objectives for Catholic Education within the Diocese of Brooklyn.
All of those involved in the Mission of Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn put into the deep each and every day. As we begin this new academic year (2019-2020), we remember the continuation of our pledge to the commitment of the Mission of Catholic education and to keep the flame of God’s love for us burning brightly here in Brooklyn and Queens.
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