Living the Vision: A Pastoral Guide to Service Learning in Catholic High Schools

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Ignatius House yellow : Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of an Order of priests and brothers, the Jesuits. Ignatius placed great importance on all-round education and striving for excellence in all we do. A formal program of regular lessons in personal development runs from Prep through to Year The content and delivery of the program varies according to the needs, maturity and interests of the students.

We are a KidsMatter school. KidsMatter is an Australian mental health and wellbeing initiative set in primary schools. We use the resources to help us sustain the good mental health for all members of our school community, especially our children. The Kidsmatter resources include many parent information sheets which you may find relevant for any issues that might like to investigate.

Central to the development of these 5 foundations is instilling in young people 12 Habits of the Mind that support and nourish the 5 foundations, including Accepting Myself, Taking Risks, Setting Goals, Planning My Time, Being Tolerant of Others, Thinking First, Playing by the Rules, and Social Responsibility includes the values of respect, responsibility, caring, fairness and honesty.

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Lessons and incidental learning from everyday situations play an important role in the social and emotional education of students. Through the buddy system, younger girls and boys can develop friendships across year levels and find positive role models. Have the generosity of heart to show compassion, both in their decision making and in their relationships with others. Have the integrity to create community through relationships, which are based on respect, inclusion and tolerance.

The Classroom Teacher can give valuable insight into their progress in academic and social areas.

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We focus on meeting the needs of each individual student and provide programs that collectively focus on the development of the whole person. Schools today need a collaborative model of governance which invites a wider pool of talent to help fashion and communicate the direction of the school and its mission. The Second Vatican Council called for a wider participation of the laity in the mission and work of the Church. The school is a particularly appropriate venue for this participation.

While the role of the Pastor is vital and important he needs to enlist the skills and talents of his parishioners in the nuts and bolts work of running and maintaining a school today. In most parishes an important resource should be the parishioners who have attended our Catholic schools and who have been successful in their various secular professions and fields of expertise. We must not be shy about asking individuals to give of their time and talent to help in this important and essential work of the Church. I highly suggest here that if your school and parish community are not yet imbued with the "stewardship" understanding of living one's faith that you begin that educative process immediately.

I assure you it will make the task of maintaining the Catholic school in your parish a lot less onerous. I believe as well that every Pastor needs the assistance of a Board, even a Board with limited jurisdiction, that will help direct and guide the future well-being of the school.

I am not simply referring here to a Home and School Association whose work is often raising money for enhancements to the school program. I am talking about a body whose members will become stakeholders in the future success of the school. I now turn briefly to two areas that must be addressed in the sustainability and viability of our schools going forward.

The two areas are finance and communications. I suggest it is especially here that participation of the laity and people with expertise is vital. There is a cost to education. The financial piece of running and maintaining Catholic schools is a daunting task in the current economic climate.

Venerable Michael J. McGivney (1852-1890)

I do want to suggest however, that this is not a new reality in Catholic education. I have a feeling that in the last century that saw the schools survive through a depression and two world wars that this was an issue as well. However, the fact is the resources are available now as they were then if we approach the finances with a strategic and realistic financial plan. Planning is important in any project and is vitally important in the operation of a school. In speaking about a financial plan I am not simply talking about an accounting spreadsheet. Today when we talk about a financial plan we must talk about development and institutional advancement.

This means constructing a plan that will help the school to identify, recruit, and solicit individuals and entities that have the ability and the desire to sustain the school as it goes forward. Recent studies have found that 82 percent of the graduates from Catholic elementary schools would contribute to their schools if they were asked to do so.

Another fact that we should keep in mind is that there has never been more wealth in the Catholic community than there is right now.

A good financial plan needs to be cognizant of these facts and to develop a strategy to access them. Development is crucial to the success of a school and it is time that we get serious about doing it. I also want to point out at this juncture another hopeful sign for our schools in the area of finances. In recent years school choice has been gaining momentum in different areas of our country.

Pastoral Associates & Ministers (PAMAD) | Archdiocese of Dubuque

We know that in some States such as Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Pennsylvania to name a few, there has been the development of initiatives to get government aid to families for the education of their children in schools of their choice. In Pennsylvania the Catholic community and the Bishops joined by other non-Catholic school choice advocates lobbied our State legislators for a full voucher program. While we were not successful in getting a voucher program for every child we were able to get significant legislative support to increase the existing Educational Improvement Tax Credit program from 75 million dollars to million dollars.

This program allows businesses to contribute their state tax liability to a qualified scholarship organization to be used for scholarships to low income families. We also got the legislature to create a new business tax credit program funded at 50 million dollars to be used for low income children in the lowest performing school districts in the Commonwealth allowing them to receive scholarships to be used at the school of their choice.

While we did not achieve vouchers for all children we believe that we have opened the door for future success in this area. I believe that this type of success can be achieved around the country but we must organize our people to become politically active in this area. We must also understand that we live in an information age. The global communications network that has come of age with the development of the internet at the dawn of this millennium requires schools to be able to communicate their message effectively to their constituents.

This will require a well thought out and well crafted marketing plan for the school. The Catholic schools will not succeed unless they tell their success story effectively to a wider community and promote the success they achieve in working with our young people. People like to support successful endeavors and they like to be associated with what I call a winning program. As Jesus tells us in Matthew's Gospel," Neither do you light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket where no one can see but rather on a lamp stand so it gives light to all the world.

I guarantee you that someone else is telling their story and we should not be surprised at their success and our failure. In my own experience as the overseer of the Catholic Schools in Philadelphia I was always distressed that despite having excellent Catholic secondary schools, a number of our Catholic families were sending their children to other Church run Prep schools and contributing to their program. They had a drive to build a new school complex for million dollars. When I saw a list of their donors I was disappointed to see that a good number of the significant donors to the drive were our own Catholic families.

When I asked some of them why they chose Episcopal over our Catholic schools they said it was a better program. When I pointed out to them the achievement of our students and their standard test scores being comparable to those of the Academy they claimed they were not aware of that. Conclusion There is no question that the maintenance of our Catholic schools and the education they provide will be an ongoing challenge in the years ahead. However, I ask that we don't dismiss too quickly the ability of a parish to maintain a school or of a Diocese to provide Catholic schools.

We must also not underestimate the overall benefits that come to a parish from sponsoring a Catholic school.

Faith & Pastoral Care

Always keep in mind that this is about children and the formation that is needed to help them develop into the sons and daughters that God has called them to be. The education they receive in a Catholic school is not merely to prepare them for success in this life but much more importantly for success in the Kingdom of God that is coming about. A parish is called to be a community of faith where the Gospel of Jesus is proclaimed, where God is praised and worshipped, where charity is the guiding principle of all that we say and do and where a person experiences true communion of life and love as the Lord intends.

A good Catholic school in a parish is a life giving entity. The energy that young families bring to the community needs to be harnessed and guided. While a Catholic school is focused on children, I suggest that it has a significant role to play in the formation of Christian families and ultimately the family of God. This is an important work of the Church.

Here individuals first experience love, forgiveness and trust. As one ventures forth from the domestic Church the Catholic school should be the perfect corollary for building on the initial experience.


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The Catholic school must be a family of families where Christ is encountered on a daily basis and where authentic values are learned and lived leading to the transformation of the individual and ultimately all of society into the people of God. In truth a good Catholic school should be for the Christian community the lifeblood of the parish.


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It should be forming children to take their proper place within the Church and family of God. It must not only be focused on the notional information about our God and life but it must also be a formational experience where Jesus is encountered, the individual is transformed and God is glorified in His creation. In sponsoring the Catholic school a parish needs to make sure that the mission of the school is clear to all.

The administrators, the faculty and the staff must understand the importance of their witness in living out their Catholic faith. Those who are engaged in the educational mission must be actively practicing their faith and must themselves be active learners in growing in their own knowledge and understanding of the faith. A commitment to spiritual development and a vibrant prayer life, active participation in the sacramental life of the Church with an abiding love for the Eucharist is essential for ensuring that the school is truly Catholic and fulfilling its potential. To quote Pope Benedict XVI in a talk he gave to Catholic educators in The United Kingdom "the task of a teacher is not simply to impart information or to provide training in skills intended to deliver some economic benefit to society; education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian.