Grit, Pride, Love, and Determination: What Makes Our Catholic Schools Succeed

As we begin Catholic Schools Week, let me send an early Valentine to all our wonderful students, teachers, principals, staffs, volunteers, boards, benefactors, parents, parishioners, and clergy who, with God’s grace and the sound heritage we’ve inherited, keep them strong.

We’ve been through a lot of trial. Forty-five years ago, especially as it became obvious that we would soon no longer have the precious resource of a numberless supply of our beloved Sisters, Brothers, and Priests, many predicted the demise of Catholic schools.

My predecessors would not let this happen. Not only were Cardinals Cooke, O’Connor, and Egan personally fervent about the inestimable value of our schools, but they knew you were as well.

Our schools got their problems for sure. But, they’re still the best thing we got for passing on our faith and for providing a first-rate education. Everybody – - friend and foe alike – - acknowledges this.

I sometimes wonder if the trials and hardship that come with our Catholic Schools are actually what make them so good. When you’ve got boards, principals, and priests who have to scrape for every dime; when parents have to sacrifice luxuries and even some essentials to keep their kids in our schools; when grandparents and volunteers pitch in to paint classrooms and repair leaks; when you’ve got teachers who could make a lot more money elsewhere, but freely choose Catholic schools; well, then you’ve got grit, pride, love, and determination.

Hits keep coming. Two weeks ago, the renowned Sisters of the Sacred Heart made the deeply painful decision, in concert with their dedicated board, that their splendid Mother Cabrini High School would not be able to open next fall. And another high school that’s already fighting hard just to stay alive, Monsignor Scanlon, was damaged severely by fire.

Sometimes we feel like saying with St. Theresa of Jesus, “Lord, if this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you don’t have very many!”

Yet, the signs of hope are radiantly there. Our regionalization, while still in first gear, is working. The boards that now govern our regional and archdiocesan high schools have brought energy, competence and a sense of ownership. Pathways to Excellence – - our strategic plan for Catholic education – - continues to be implemented, with special attention to renewed Catholic identity, strengthened academic performance, financial stability, and more effective marketing. And there seems a very good chance that Albany will finally come through and approve the Education Investment Tax Credit.

As Sister Diane told me a couple weeks ago when I spent the morning at Santa Maria school in the Bronx, “I love our kids. When I get, tired and discouraged, wondering if it’s worth the massive effort, all I do is look at them. It’s all worth it. We can’t let them down.”

Thanks, everybody, for not letting our kids down.

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