Creative models to support, deliver Catholic education are being sought

Students from Corpus Christi Catholic School in Bloomington walk hand-in-hand in this file photo. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Catholic schools across the Diocese of Peoria have strong support from their pastors, who see them as a mission of the parish. At the same time, the priests have expressed a desire for the Office of Catholic Schools to be “creative” in planning for the future, according to Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent.

Dr. Sharon Weiss

“They all believe in Catholic education, but they feel that the timing and culture is such that we may have to look at a different model of how we deliver Catholic education,” Weiss told The Catholic Post after visiting with the priests in each of the diocese’s 12 vicariates. She did so at the request of Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and will share her findings with him.

Weiss said she learned a lot during the meetings and wasn’t surprised at what she heard.

“Some of the things they said were percolating in my mind, as well — and Bishop Jenky’s mind, too,” she said. “I could tell by the discussion that they’ve given this a lot of thought.”

In addition to Catholic schools, the priests expressed a desire for support in providing education about the faith across the board in their parishes. That includes religious education programs and adult faith formation programs, Weiss explained.

“How we deliver it is what they asked us to think about creatively,” she said, noting that they suggested sharing resources and working together to provide training for teachers and catechists.

“I thought that was a good idea,” she said.

CATHOLIC SCHOOLS WEEK

The Diocese of Peoria will join other dioceses across the country to celebrate Catholic Schools Week from Jan. 26 to Feb. 1. The theme for this year’s observance is “Catholic Schools: Learn. Serve. Lead. Succeed.” (Click here for a list of activities planned at individual schools.)

As she looks at Catholic schools around the diocese, Weiss said she is grateful for the hard work of the principals and teachers and proud of the excellence they’re achieving. The presence of the clergy hasn’t gone unnoticed either.

“I really feel that our schools are fulfilling the mission to be evangelizing tools of the church, evangelizing missions,” she told The Post. “They’re out there teaching the faith.”

She pointed to the service projects the students work on weekly, monthly and quarterly as a sign of that.

“They’re learning about lifelong service in the name of the church, in the name of Christ,” Weiss said. “By their sheer testimony, their sheer witness they are being disciples and that’s exciting to me.”

She is also awed by the way the students — even the littlest among them — are able to pray openly and take turns proclaiming the readings at Mass. “They take their faith day to day and they’re living it.”

Weiss said she plans to write a primer based on Bishop Jenky’s 19th Festival Letter, “The Real Presence,” this summer and offer it to the schools as further support and training in their mission of making disciples.

“We’re trying to prepare them for heaven,” Weiss said. “We’re trying to make saints.”

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