Dr. Thomas Chadzutko
Many recall the visit of Pope Francis to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in East Harlem in September of 2015. While Pope Francis was intrigued by the use of the SMART Board, he also used this time to reflect on the importance of Catholic education, stating that: “School then ends up being one big family. A family, where together with our mothers and father, our grandparents, our teachers and friends, we learn to help one another, to share our good qualities, to give the best of ourselves, to work together and to pursue our dreams.”
The mission of Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn shares in this important vision. Through the leadership of Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Catholic education is made a priority and everyone associated with the Catholic academies and parish schools plays a vital role in advancing this mission.
Quality Catholic education is built upon a strong foundation of those who have gone before us and we continue to build for the future. Essential to our continued growth are the following: sustaining the mission of Catholic education for generations to come, providing all students with the necessary skills to be successful in the future, the quest for academic excellence, supportive parish priests, dedicated principals, teachers and staff and the commitment of our parents.
As one would reflect on Catholic education, one of the first essential elements is the role that the Catholic faith plays in advancing the mission. Academies and parish schools within the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens are places for the new evangelization, which includes complete formation and service to others.
Striving to follow the Gospel and creating learning environments based on values and virtues is an essential part of the Catholic identity of each academy and parish school.
Living the Gospel
One can experience the Catholic identity of an academy and parish school upon entering the doors. It is a reminder that the reason why we exist is to infuse the Gospel message into our academic programs, learning environment and culture of the academy and parish school.
I enjoy visiting the academies and parish schools throughout the year. What strikes me often are the conversations that I have with the pastors, parish priests, principals, teachers and students. They all share in enhancing the mission of Catholic education within the academy and parish school community.
The students often share their experiences whether it be in providing service to others, working with their classmates, participating in regular Mass and prayer experiences. All of this is fostered on a regular basis by parish priests. The academy and parish schools are an essential element in the life of the parish.
Parents, as the first teachers, are partners in Catholic education. By choosing Catholic education, they want for their children not only a quality education, but also a full understanding of the Catholic faith.
Catholic faith is the cornerstone of academies and parish schools, and students are the future of the Catholic Church. Through our Catholic identity, we must continue to encourage them to be bearers of the Good News.
Our Catholic academies and parish schools are charged with infusing the curriculum with strong Catholic values and virtues, while striving to provide academic excellence. It is not Catholic identity or academic excellence – it “both and” – an each is equally important to the success of each individual student.
Academic excellence is achieved through the instructional leadership of our principals. Through their efforts to guide their teachers, they ensure that the necessary resources are available to them. In addition, through the efforts of various benefactors and partnerships with the colleges and universities, principals and teachers are provided with extensive professional development in all academic areas.
Our academies and parish schools have been the recipients of the generosity of the St. Elizabeth Seton Trust. Through their financial support, the following programs have been established in the academies and parish schools:
• Artist in Residency – a fine arts program for fourth, sixth and eighth graders infused with play writing, the literary classics and production of plays
• Greek and Latin Roots Challenge – a program providing all students with an understanding of the English language based upon Latin and Greek words
• STEM Labs – providing 20 academies and parish schools with a state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering and math lab for use students in all grades.
Over $1 million has been contributed by the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Trust for these efforts.
The goal is to ensure that all students are provided with a well-rounded academic program that allows them to develop their critical thinking skills and to apply what they have learned to real-life situations. Dedicated teachers make this happen every day. As we begin this new academic year, we pause to show true appreciation for everything that teachers within the academies and parish schools do for the students entrusted to them.
This appreciation is also extended to administrators who work tirelessly in a striving to provide each student with a quality Catholic education.
Partners in Catholic Education
In the academy governance model, the diocese has true partners in the boards of directors. As volunteers, the board of directors at each academy works tirelessly to support the efforts of the principal. These men and women provide their time, talent and expertise to enhance the mission of Catholic education. Their many contributions in development, finances, marketing and recruitment are essential to the success of the academy governance model. As partners, the board of directors support the pastor as spiritual moderator of the academy and the principal as the chief catechist and instructional leader.
Catholic academies and parish schools are supported by the efforts of parents who make sacrifices each day for their children to be provided with a quality Catholic education. This is never easy but parents continue to make Catholic education a priority for their children.
Catholic education within the Diocese of Brooklyn is focused on providing each student with a quality Catholic education. By everyone working together, students will be provided with the necessary skills to be successful in the future.
Catholic education is a true “team” effort and when everyone communicates, cooperates and concentrates on the needs of the students, we will be successful in forming the whole child: spiritually, emotionally, educationally and physically.
As we prepare for this new academic year, let us all work together for the students enrolled in academies and parish schools. They are our future and they need support, encouragement and attention.
As Pope Francis has reminded us, “Catholic education allows us to celebrate the opportunities which enable each of us all, not to lose hope of a better world with greater possibilities. Catholic education allows us to dream and to move ahead in our lives. Everyone has a role in attaining those dreams and we all must work together to ensure that dreams are met.”
Dr. Chadzutko, Ed.D., is the superintendent of schools in the diocesan Office of the Superintendent-Catholic School Support Services.