Superintendent reflects on 5 marks that identify distinctively Catholic schools

Father Joel Phelps blesses St. Malachy School in Rantoul and its students, faculty, and staff after dedicating its new chapel room in this 2018 file photo. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

By Dr. Sharon Weiss, Superintendent of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Peoria

Welcome back to our school communities as we begin a new academic year!  Summer is a time of rest and renewal, but we always looks forward to the excitement that a new year brings.

Dr. Sharon Weiss

At the celebration of Holy Mass one Sunday this summer, I began to think about the marks of the Church that we proclaim in the Creed, “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic,” and just as we recite weekly who we are as Catholic believers, I wondered if there were marks of the Church that identified Catholic schools as being distinctively Catholic?

Yes, indeed, there are.*

Mark #1. The Church sees Catholic education as a process that forms the whole child and seeks to fix his or her eyes on heaven. The school is here to form boys and girls who will be good citizens in this world, who love God and neighbor, and who will also be citizens of the world to come, thus fulfilling their destiny to become saints.

Mark #2. A Catholic school must be founded on Jesus Christ as our Savior.  Christ is the Teacher in our schools, and we must ensure that our schools are places where Jesus Christ is encountered each and every day. Our mission, therefore, is salvific.

Mark #3. There must be an emphasis on the school as a community, as a genuine community of faith, and as a community, there needs to be teamwork and cooperation among all involved; between educators and bishops; between students and their teachers; and within the walls of the building.

Mark #4. The curriculum in a Catholic school should be saturated with a Catholic worldview. If the purpose of a Catholic school is to educate the whole child, then we must educate our children in the intellectual and moral virtues throughout the entire academic program where wisdom, truth, and love must live.

Mark #5. Finally, a school that is authentically Catholic will be a reflection of the vital witness of its teachers and administrators in what we say and do in word and deed. Our priests, our principals, our teachers, and our staff members really do have the primary responsibility for creating a faith-filled school environment and making sure that the school achieves its purpose. The Church clearly speaks about the vocation of teaching and the participation of those who teach and lead as being central to the Church’s evangelizing mission.

As the Superintendent of Schools, it is my sincere hope and prayer that anyone who crosses the threshold of the doors at one of our 42 schools in the Catholic Diocese of Peoria will know that they are entering a place of education that is distinctively Catholic and known as a place where Jesus Christ is known, loved, and served.

On behalf of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and the Office of Catholic Schools staff, have a great 2019-2020 academic year!

*Adapted from the article, “Five Essential Marks of Catholic Schools,” (Sophia Press, 2006) and written by Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB of Vancouver, British Columbia.


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