Celebrating Catholic Schools

If seeing is believing, than I wish the entire country could have seen what I saw on Monday when I visited Saint Raymond’s Parish in the Bronx to celebrate the beginning of Catholic Schools Week.  If they did, we would have a nation full of believers in Catholic schools, instead of too many skeptics and opponents.

Was I ever impressed and encouraged by what I experienced there!

We began the day with a Mass that was not only reverent and respectful, but also full of spirit and joy.  The church was packed with young men and women, ranging in age from 4 to 18, praying and singing with a sincerity and devotion that was palpable.  Formation in the faith is obviously a top priority at Saint Raymond’s.

It’s equally obvious that academic achievement flourishes at Saint Raymond. After Mass, I had the opportunity to visit both the elementary school and the girl’s high school.  (Although I didn’t make it to the boy’s high school, as the faculty had a day-long retreat, I did meet a contingent of the young men who were there to welcome me.) The halls are spotless, the atmosphere bright and welcoming, the classrooms are in perfect order, and the teachers and students work together to create an atmosphere of mutual respect and learning.  It was easy to see why Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese graduate 98% of their students, with 95% of the graduates going on to colleges and universities.

As impressive as those statistics are, I was much more impressed by the people I met.  The kindergarten children who led the congregation at the Mass in the “Alleluia” before the Gospel; the dedicated faculty, led by their principals, Sister Patricia Brito, Brother Daniel Gardiner, and Sister MaryAnn D’Antonio; the girls who are about to graduate from high school, many of whom had been at Saint Raymond’s since pre-k, and who had tears in their eyes as they contemplated the end of their years as Saint Raymond’s students; the elementary school students who prayed the Hail Mary and recited the Pledge of Allegiance, as they do every morning.

I am well aware of the challenges that must be faced concerning our Catholic schools.  We will need to plan, to work, to sacrifice, in order to keep our Catholic schools open.  We must seek new ways to strengthen our schools, to market and promote them, to make certain that they are strong in their Catholic identity.

How we will face these challenges is a question that must be addressed if we want Catholic schools to survive. To me, the answer is simple: Yes, Catholic schools must not only survive but thrive.  Here’s why.  During my visit, I was given three checks – one from each of the three schools – totaling more than $24,000 that the students had raised for the relief of their brothers and sisters in Haiti.  What a magnificent outpouring of generosity – and this from kids hardly wealthy or even middle class!   If, as Jesus teaches, “by their fruits you will know them,” then this Catholic school, and Catholic schools across the archdiocese and throughout the country, are responsible for young men and women who are educated, loving, respectful and faithful.

Catholic schools. We need them now more than ever.

Happy Catholic Schools Week!

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12 Responses to “Celebrating Catholic Schools”

  1. Danette says:

    What a refreshing story! We are fortunate to have two daughters in Catholic High School and we have so many blessings coming from them already. Their future will be different- stronger in Faith and compassionate love. May I ask that you pray for John? He is 16, in Catholic High School and considering the call of the priesthood. He is active and strong and unwavering in his faith! Classmates at his school have discovered this information and begun to tease him about it. As few priests as we have answering His call, I am just prayerful that he will make the right choice and is able to make his way through this challenging time. Thank you for being so wonderful leading the way! God Bless You!

  2. And if the Catholic schools are doing such a great job, then why do you hardly see any Catholic school graduates at Sunday Mass?

  3. Michael Cardew says:

    “We will need to plan, to work, to sacrifice, in order to keep our Catholic schools open.”
    I think this is a great concept and it should be applied to the schools that are being closed on the Lower East Side. St. James, St. Patricks, & St. Josephs are being closed and as of this moment a plan has not been put out to place these students.

    I’ve written to too many people to name and haven’t even received a letter saying we received your concerns. Faith and prayer are the cornerstone of my home, but without action on my part on this matter my children will end up to the winds.

    I ask you to pray for all the students, staff, & parents that will be impacted by what is being done. I also ask for you to reach out to the students, staff, & parents of these schools to explain why this is happening to our schools.

  4. John Scheaffer says:

    Why didn’t you visit Old St Patrick’s Cathedral, the city’s FIRST and OLDEST Catholic School. Did you intentionally skip Old St Pat’s because of its CLOSING next year? It is an amazing school, with amazing kids, parents, teachers and principal. A principal who has turned the school around in just 2-3 years. We, as parents, would love for you to come downtown and visit our school; see a Catholic School that is thriving and growing.

    Like you said, “Catholic Schools, we need them now more than ever” – Please keep our school open!

    As well as, “Diocese where the bishop’s office simply announces widespread reorganization without exhaustive dialogue, face bitterness, resentment and LOSS OF PEOPLE.” – Timothy Dolan

    Bishop Dolan, I’m sure you’ll practice what you preach regarding the closure of the first and oldest Catholic School in NYC…. This has become a fight worth fighting.

    Best regards,

    John M. Scheaffer

  5. Michael Cardew says:

    If seeing is believing, than I wish you could come down to the Lower East Side & see the wonderful schools that are being closed. Why was the announcment of the closure of the St. James school made without any clear & concise plan in place for where all the chilren will be placed? It is really troubling that we have to make a decision on where to enroll our children in such a short period of time. Why does it seem our children are not being valued by the church? When are all the facts on these closings going to come to light? Why hasn’t the community been made a part of these deciasions?

    I’m sorry I am just left with more questions than comments on this matter.

    Warm regards & keep the faith.

  6. Lissette Garcia says:

    This is a quote that you gave during an interview with, The Wall Street Journal, Dated May 11, 2009;

    The Archbishop admits that at times others in the Catholic Church
    don’t share his enthusiasm. “Some priests and some bishops have
    lost their nerve when it comes to Catholic schools. (They’ve) almost
    said, ‘boy they were nice and we’ll do our best to keep the ones
    that we got but more or less they are on life support and I guess in
    50 years they’re going to fade away.’ “The archbishop says his
    predecessor Cardinal Egan rejected this line of thinking and he does
    too.” “It’s time for us bishops to say: these… are …. worth
    … fighting ….. for,” he says, emphasizing each word slowly.
    “These are worth putting at the top of our agenda, and these are
    worth something not only internally for us as a church as we pass on
    the faith for our kids and grand kids, but it is also a highly regarded
    public services that we do for the wider community. And darn it we do
    it well, we have a great tradition of it and we’re not going to stand
    by and see it collapse”.

    Did you really mean what you said, “It’s time for us bishops to say: these… are …. worth… fighting ….. for,”

    Why would you say the above statement and still close Old St. Patrick’s and St. James School.

    You should take time out of your schedule and meet with the children and tell them why their school is not worth saving.


    Lissette Garcia

  7. kevin says:

    Catholic schools are necessary as is formation of our youth in the Faith. There is an entire generation of poorly catechized Catholic adults. Many of these adults have children and send them to Catholic schools to learn the Faith. Unfortunately, they will not learn it in most Catholic schools. Catholics complain about bad homilies and Mass is first and foremost about the Eucharist.

    Many Catholic schools do a great job when it comes to raising money for causes or helping out others. This is the works part of our faith. What about the other part, Faith? How many of those student are taught and know that the Eucharist is the source, center, and summit of our life as a Catholic? How many believe Jesus is humbly present in the Eucharist as crushed wheat and the blood of grapes? Isn’t this part of the mission of a Catholic school? When students are allowed to receive communion during the week at school Mass and they do not attend Sunday Mass, doesn’t this cause confusion for all of the people present at Mass? Have the students been taught that this is a mortal sin? The students should be invited forward to receive a blessing, but not to receive our Lord.

    Because so many parents are lacking in the knowledge of the faith, we need look to our Holy Priests to catechize the masses. In my opinion, sacramental preparation is the time to try and bring fallen away families back into the Church. During preparation for communion, students and families need to know that they are not to receive the Body or Blood of our Lord unless they are free from mortal sin. They need to know that weekly Mass attendance is required (mortal sin to miss without a valid reason) and this is only a baby step in the Faith. If students are reminded at every school Mass right before communion how important the Eucharist is as in 1 Corinthians 11:27 (Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord.) maybe our schools would become a light for a nation that seems to have lost its soul.

    Pray for our Holy priests and fallen away Catholics.

    How can we as a Church evangelize the world when we cannot even evangelize our own?

  8. DEBRA PERRY says:

    Good Morning:

    I’m so dissapointed with the decision to kick our kids out of St. James. It seems everything these days are about money. I made a decision to put my children in Catholic school for the following reasons: One I did not want to put up with the politics of City Schools, second I wanted them to have a catholic upbring, and three I felt they would become family with their classmates. I don’t make a lot of money I sacrificed. My niece who started out in first grade with St. Patricks and continued in 3rd grade with St. James. She is now a graduate of St. James. My daughter has attended St. James since Kindergarteen. I made a sacrifice to keep them in Catholic School sometimes barely making it. Sometimes not having lunch to eat. You mean to tell me you are making our children a sacrifice to mayhem. I hope and pray things will work out for them because they love their school, their teachers, and Principal. Please, Please, hear our cries. DON’T SACRIFICE OUR CHILDREN!!!!!!

  9. Michael Cardew says:

    I will spare my story because my post was actually taken off this page for some strange reason. I will instead simply state that the parents of St. James would really appreciate if you were to take some time out your busy schedule to see the way the children of these schools are being dispalced without a voice & it seems without much of an initial plan fromthe powers that be.

    A strong & diverse community, united through faith, is being torn apart. Please stop this from occuring.

  10. Josie Farrell says:

    This is a real shame to see how Archbishop Dolan saved schools in Milwaukee, but comes to New York and it seems to be okay with the closure of St. James and Old St. Patrick schools. Archbishop Dolan, what is so different between the schools in Milwaukee and the schools in New York? Don’t you believe our children have the same right to obtain an outstanding religious education like the children in Milwaukee? The closure of these schools will cause over crowding in other Catholic schools. This decision is also causing some families to go to public schools because why pay tuition in an overcrowded school, if pubic school is also overcrowded and it’s free. At the rate we are going, in a few years there will be no Catholic schools for our children to attend. We have to fight for what we believe in and I know we believe in St. James School. We must continue to voice our concerns.

  11. Sherry-Ann Redhead-Garcia says:

    I wish the entire country could have seen what I saw on Monday when I visited Saint Raymond’s Parish in the Bronx to celebrate the beginning of Catholic Schools Week. If they did, we would have a nation full of believers in Catholic schools, instead of too many skeptics and opponents. These were your words about Saint Raymond’s Parish… Well I wish you could visit the St James Parish and school, because if you had i am positive you would be saying the same thing and more. To see the kids parents and teachers interact with each other every day the way they do can only be an act of God and the catholic faith we all share and believe in. But how can we not start to be skeptics and opponents when the very faith that we teach our kids and believe in is kicking us out into the streets. I grew up going to Catholic school and that is where i really learned to but my faith and beliefs into action. At St. James I see the same thing. I don’t know anywhere else where you can have so many people of diffrent culture share so much love and care for each other. In this world where we live that has so much hate and violence it is refreshing to enter into thi enviromet with my child and feel so loved and so safe. Please don’t take that away from us. Please don’t take that away from our kids.

  12. Lissette Garcia says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,

    This is a letter sent to Dr. Timothy McNiff regarding our recent meeting with him over the proposed closure of St. James school.

    Dear Dr. McNiff,

    Thank you for meeting with us last night. Upon reflection, and as a
    result of a meeting held with parents this morning, parents are absolutely adamant that under no circumstances will we allow our small children in grades Pre K 3,
    Pre K4, K, and First grades in classrooms which can only be reached by climbing three flights of stairs. In case of fire, this is a disaster waiting to happen.

    The position of Concerned Parents of St. James remains that we wish
    ardently to work with the Archdiocese to implement the plan to fully
    integrate a merger of both St. James and St. Joseph schools, keeping
    and fully utilizing both facilities. Which is to build a school census of 500 over three years.. Give us these three years and work with us. Together we will make it happen.

    Our goal is to build the student census to 500, and provide the best
    Catholic education possible for our children.