Tuesday, May 6, 2008

DOR vs. Wichita

About 10 days ago the D&C published Catholic schools' decline here among worst in U.S. Accompanying that story was a link to a spreadsheet containing data for 176 U.S. dioceses. The data, supplied by the National Catholic Education Association, included the number of schools and the total student enrollment for each diocese for both the 1997-98 and 2007-08 school years.

A post a few weeks ago reported on the Diocese of Wichita and its Catholic schools. Several years ago Wichita instituted diocesan-wide stewardship and today no Catholic student pays any tuition in any of its Catholic elementary or high schools. The recently released NCEA data allows us to take a closer look at the Wichita Catholic schools and compare them to what we have here.

Keep in mind that Wichita, with just over 120,000 Catholics, is about one-third the size of DOR. Also, U.S. Census data indicate that the overall population of each diocese is stable, with a net change in each diocese of less than 1% in the past 7 years.

10 years ago Wichita had 36 Catholic schools and today it has 39, while Rochester has gone from 63 to 48 (and is about to lose another 13).

In terms of enrollment, Wichita has grown from 9,976 students to 10,806 in the past 10 years, while DOR has declined from 17,710 students to 10,739 (and is about to lose several hundred more).

The bishops of both Rochester and Wichita say they care about Catholic schools. At least one of them means it.


Anonymous said...

Wichita is known for a greater commitment to stewardship.

I don't have any doubt that Rochesterians are committed, bishop and parents alike, to Catholic schools. What Rochester lacks is the vision to see schools as part of an integrated whole. Schools are part of the church's ministry, not even its centerpiece.

Wichita put stewardship at forefront a long time ago. Their effort bears the fruit that permits a commitment not only to the Catholic education of children, but also an adult commitment for the faith.

It might be said Bishop Clark and his advisers needed to be more progressive and forward-thinking to enliven Rochester Catholics and their apostolate. I don't doubt a favorable attitude toward Catholic education. But you have to get past conservative and hidebound Eastern notions that overemphasizes leadership and creates an expectation that schools will always be there.


Mike said...

Thanks for the comment, Todd.

As for "an expectation that schools will always be there," any of us around here with half a brain place that thought in the same category as belief in the tooth fairy.

The primary reason for doing so is what many perceive as the total incompetence and lack of credibility on the part of the Bishop and his advisers. For instance just 3 1/2 years ago Bishop Clark wrote, “We really believe this model will help preserve the treasure of Catholic education for future generations of families in our diocese.”

These words were written in conjunction with our last school reorganization which closed 4 schools and raised tuition for most middle class parents some 40%, driving many of them from the system.

Now we're closing another 13 schools, filling the remaining 11 with as many children as the fire marshal will allow, and relegating hundreds of former Catholic school students to the public schools.

This time, says the diocese, we've got it right.


Anonymous said...


My sense is that the Catholic school situation in Rochester is circling the drain. I don't need to impugn ill motives; I just chalk up the waves of school closings to incompetence. People can have good intentions yet still screw things up badly.

I remember the regionalization of schools in the late 80's/early 90's. It presumed that parents and school structures could keep the model afloat independently of a particular parish connection. That was clearly wrong. And sadly, now you get more of it.

It struck me there was some vain hope on the horizon Things Would Level Off. As you say, "right."

About twenty to thirty years ago, Rochester needed something like Wichita's approach to stewardship. The problem today is that there's enough bad blood dripping that a project involving sacrifice and trust might never fly. Except for the wealthiest, Catholic schools in Rochester might be DOA by 2030. Or sooner.

A sorry shame, I'd say. I knew Bishop Clark in the 80's, and considered him a kind, spiritual, and insightful leader. These days, he and his advisers spend a lot of energy circling the wagons it seems. Good ideas are out there, but somebody will need to cut through the adversarial aspect of it all to get people to open up.