Thursday, January 8, 2009

D&C: Monroe County Catholic schools fiscally sound

D&C reporter Erica Bryant has posted a story related to the MCCS System's 2007-08 financial report. She quotes diocesan  spokesman Doug Mandelaro as saying that the forced closure of 13 Catholic schools last June has eliminated a potentially large budget deficit.

It is difficult to communicate that the decision, as hard as it was to do, was made to preserve Catholic education for the long term and to head off financial issues that would have threatened the whole system.

Well, the MCCS may have balanced its financial budget but the long term effect on the diocese's spiritual budget will be nothing but negative. The reason is that the hundreds of Catholic children forced out of the MCCS system will now have to attend a religious education program in order to learn something of their faith. As a catechist in one of those programs I can assure anyone interested that one hour in a religious ed class is but a poor substitute for a full week in a school imbued with an authentic Catholic Christian culture.

Some folks in the Diocese of Tulsa have made this point much more eloquently than I ever could. Their arguments can be found here, especially in the last four paragraphs

Finally, I wish Doug Mandelaro or Bishop Clark or even Anne Wilkens-Leach would tell us why DOR refuses to benchmark and then emulate the best practices of dioceses with successful, growing school systems.  The Diocese of Wichita, for example, has but 1/3 the number of Catholics as Rochester, yet it still serves over 10,800 students in its system of 39 Catholic elementary and high schools. In the last 10 years Wichita has added 3 schools and over 800 children to its system and, since 2002, every one of those schools - every grade from K through 12 - is totally tuition-free to Catholic students. As one report puts it,

Wichita has reaped an enormous reward for its youngest members, flying in the face of conventional wisdom that Catholic schools were doomed to raise their prices to the point of diminishing returns and eventual closure.

The full story can be found here.

What is Wichita doing that DOR is not?  Is DOR doing anything that prevents it from being a second Wichita? 

One would think that our leaders would have have ready answers to those questions. After all, isn't the spiritual health of a diocese much more important than numbers on a balance sheet?

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

What is Wichita doing that DOR is not? Is DOR doing anything that prevents it from being a second Wichita?

The answer is that Wichita is making a true commitment to Catholic education and evangelization, while in the DoR it's all talk with no commitment.
Everyone knows the Bishop's position on the schools, even though he's never been strong enough to admit it publicly. He feels they are a drain and all our money that goes to them would be better spent by him.
CathMom

Mike said...

CathMom,

Those were really rhetorical questions, as I think you suspected.

Wichita is successful because it has managed to get the vast majority of its Catholics to support true stewardship.

Essential to achieving that level of buy-in is a total commitment to all the truths of the Catholic faith. Yes, we have some "hard sayings" we are supposed to live by but, as the recent history of this diocese clearly shows, minimizing or ignoring the difficult parts of our faith only leads to decline.

A vibrant, growing school system is only one result of fidelity to Rome. An 85% weekend Mass attendance rate is another (see here and here). Vocations to the priesthood are a third (see here).

Orthodoxy does pay.

Dr. K said...

What a spin put on by the D&C.

~Dr. K

Rich Leonardi said...

As a catechist in one of those programs I can assure anyone interested that one hour in a religious ed class is but a poor substitute for a full week in a school imbued with an authentic Catholic Christian culture.

So can I, but it would surprise me if Bishop Clark's schools are so imbued.

Mike said...

Rich,

I can only speak for the now-closed Holy Cross. My 3 granddaughters are all graduates (2005, 2006 and 2007) and I was involved enough with the school that many of the kids - and their parents - still call me Grandpa.

While the school wasn't as overtly "religious" as St. Charles was when I was a student there back in the '50s (it would have taken a bus load of orthodox nuns in habits to achieve that effect), there was no doubt in my mind that it was a Catholic school.

The principal was a very devout woman (as are both parish priests) and this permeated the entire school. Solid religion text books, First Friday Masses, the Stations of the Cross during Lent, May Day crowning ceremonies, morning prayers, the saint of the day, etc., etc. - they were all regular parts of the life of the school.

I have no doubt that Holy Cross was an authentic Catholic school - in spite of it being in DOR.