Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 21 January |
Saint of the Day: St. Agnes
home iconChurch
line break icon

Priests' involvement is seen as vital to parish schools' success

Jeffrey Bruno

John Burger - published on 07/18/16

‘If we get rid of the school the parish will thrive.’ That never happens.

Are Catholic parochial schools a thing of the past? For the most part, the image of teaching sisters regularly presiding over full classrooms of boys and girls in neat uniforms is a dim memory, replaced by the stark reality of having to pay salaries and benefits for lay teachers.

But should a struggling parish just cut loose a school that is not much more than a financial albatross?

By no means, says Father Peter M.J. Stravinskas, and he is bringing a panel of experts together next weekend to prove his point.

Father Stravinskas, executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation, worries about the tendency of parishes to be dismissive of schools at best and to regard them as a drain at worst.

“Two years ago I taught a graduate school course at Fordham [University] for administrators,” he said. He had four high school and 13 grammar school administrators. “On the first day of class I asked ‘What’s the involvement of priests at your school?’ Not a single high school had a single priest on staff. At the parish level it was worse. Not one had a priest that came near the school whatsoever.”

But a priest’s involvement is vital, he and others will argue during a three-day conference, “The Role of the Priest in Today’s Catholic School,” July 19-21 at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia.

“A bishop told me about a parish in his diocese that he said should have been shuttered years ago,” Father Stravinskas said. “However, he wanted to give it another shot. He called a young priest in to talk about the assignment. The guy said ‘You’ve got to be kidding. You want to set me up for failure?’ The bishop said, ‘I’m not forcing you to do it.’ But the young priest decided to try it. Every morning he led the children in morning prayer. He took over teaching religion in 7th and 8th grades. He was in the cafeteria with kids at lunch time. At the end of the school day he made the sign of the cross over the students as they left.

“The school enrollment quickly went from 50 to 100 then 150 and now largest  school in the city,” the priest reported.

Father Stravinskas concluded: “The principal mistake parishes make is saying, ‘If we get rid of the school the parish will thrive.’ That never happens. If the school goes the parish is finished.”

Anthony Pienta, one of the speakers at next weekend’s conference, concurred. “One of the last urban Catholic schools in Grand Rapids, Mich., is Sacred Heart Academy,” said Pienta, Director of K-12 Education Programs at the Philanthropy Roundtable. “The parish was aging quite a bit. A number of young families moved in, but none of them went to the school. Nobody would have faulted them if they had closed the school.”

But some in the parish said, “Why don’t we try something new?”

“So they reconstituted it as a classical academy,” Pienta said. “Now they’re gong to be building a high school. It’s an amazing success story. And now they’re starting to offer a program for homeschooling families.”

He said the parish is flourishing because of the revival of its school.

In a welcome letter for the conference, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, says, “The essential role and presence of the priest in Catholic education is well documented.”

[Editor’s Note: Take the Poll – Should priests be present to improve Catholic school enrollment?]

Tags:
Education
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in eight languages: English, French, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
LUXOR FILM FESTIVAL
Zoe Romanowsky
20-year-old filmmaker wins award for powerful 1-minute film about...
2
DAD, HOW DO I?
Cerith Gardiner
Meet the dad who's teaching basic skills on YouTube for kids with...
3
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
Reasons Catholics should read the Bible
4
MARTIN LUTHER KING
Jorge Graña
Did you know Martin Luther King appreciated the Rosary?
5
couple
Anna Gębalska-Berekets
Couple praises Padre Pio's recipe for a happy marriage
6
Fr. Patrick Briscoe, OP
'An American Blessed': A documentary to thank God in 2021
7
ARTIST
Fr. Michael Rennier
What if you think you missed your calling in life?
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.