Catholic schools known for excellence, embrace church’s evangelizing mission

Jerry Sanderson

By Dr. Jerry Sanderson

The annual observance of Catholic Schools Week provides an opportunity to celebrate the Christ-centered mission of Catholic schools and the impact that a Catholic education has on the lives of students. This year’s theme is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” We see this theme lived out in our diocesan schools as they help students learn to love Jesus Christ and His Church, develop the knowledge necessary for human flourishing, and care for their neighbor as engaged citizens who contribute to the common good.

Catholic schools provide a safe and nurturing environment where children can experience God’s love, develop the skills they need to be successful, and grow in the values and virtues that lead to eternal life.

Known for their academic excellence, Catholic schools integrate the teachings and traditions of our Catholic faith across the curriculum to educate the whole person — mind, body, and spirit. Catholic schools provide a safe and nurturing environment where children can experience God’s love, develop the skills they need to be successful, and grow in the values and virtues that lead to eternal life.

Pope Francis has called upon schools to provide a culture of encounter, in which Catholic schools “form hearts convinced of the mission for which they were created, with the certainty that life grows and matures to the extent that we give it for the life of others” (“Letter to Latin American Jesuit Schools,” June 2021). We see this vision of Catholic education realized in the lives of our graduates, who serve as priests and consecrated religious, in leadership positions in the Church and their communities, and all those graduates who have dedicated their lives as educators, health care workers, first responders, and so many other service-oriented careers.


Catholic Schools Week is an appropriate time to thank the many parents throughout the diocese who have partnered with our diocesan schools in the education and faith formation of their children. Enrolling a child in a Catholic school is a significant investment — one that requires families to make considerable financial sacrifice.

I invite anyone in the diocese who has been blessed financially to consider supporting scholarship opportunities such as the State of Illinois Invest in Kids Scholarship Program and/or the Diocese of Peoria’s John Lancaster Spalding Scholarship Fund to enable a Catholic education to be readily accessible to all students. Anyone who would like more information about contributing to these scholarship programs can contact me at

Catholic education would not be possible without the generous support of our pastors, parishioners, alumni, and donors, together with the daily sacrifices made by our administrators, teachers, and support staff — who could earn far more in the public sector but have chosen to share their gifts and talents in a faith-based environment for the sake of God’s kingdom.  As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week, please take time to pray for all who contribute to the success of our schools.

Catholic schools are a wonderful blessing to our parishes and communities! May Catholic Schools Week be a time to remember and celebrate the important role that our Catholic schools play in the evangelizing mission of the Church.

Sanderson named interim superintendent of diocesan schools

Dr. Jerry Sanderson has been named interim superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria. His appointment was effective Jan. 1.

Dr. Sharon Weiss, who had been superintendent for 10 years, retired Dec. 31, 2022.

“Dr. Sanderson, as interim superintendent, is very aware of the importance of mission and vision in our Catholic schools. His professional and personal life truly reflect this awareness,” Weiss said. “I am very excited to see how his doctoral research on STEM education will strengthen his diocesan curriculum and instruction objectives.”

Sanderson holds three degrees from the University of Illinois, including a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master of education in curriculum and instruction, and an advanced certificate in educational administration. Last November he successfully defended his dissertation, “How Middle and High School Principals Provide Culturally Responsive Leadership for Underrepresented Students in STEM: A Qualitative Comparative Case Study,” to receive his doctorate from Illinois State University.

He has given 36 years to Catholic education in the Diocese of Peoria. He taught for two years at Carroll Catholic School in Lincoln and for five years at St. Matthew School in Champaign, where he was also athletic director and assistant principal.

In addition, he was principal at St. Anne School in East Moline, now Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy.

Sanderson is in his 22nd year with the Office of Catholic Schools. As the associate superintendent, he has worked in data analysis, curriculum, and professional development for administrators and teachers, and conducted principal searches.

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