By Chris Mominey
Sun Contributing Writer
Albert Einstein was credited with defining the word insanity this way: the practice of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In many respects Einstein might look at the current models of Catholic education across the country as being a bit insane. We have continued to look at Catholic schools and their future through a lens that may have worked in the past but is not likely to work in the future. As a result, on Oct. 22 I called together our schools and our parishes from across the Western Region to ask the question: What must the Catholic School Office do to ensure that our schools remain sustainable for years to come in this region of the diocese? Not an easy question to answer by any measure but one which all parishes and all schools must examine with honesty and transparency.
I am grateful to the 127 participants of the convocation that came together to offer their concerns, their solutions and their insights about the future of Catholic education. There was representation from each of the 14 schools of the region including principals, parents, board members and teachers. In addition, the parishes of the region were well-represented by their pastors, parochial vicars, parish council members and parish trustees.
In total there were over 25 parishes represented, each bringing a unique and valued perspective. I am especially thankful for the 32 priests who spent the day with us and articulated their vision for the future of schools. There can be no doubt that a collaborative effort such as this convocation will lead to a brighter, more sustainable future for our kids. It is my belief that by gathering the wisdom of all stakeholders we are in a much better position to create a future for the greater good of the Church of Syracuse.
Often times gatherings such as these can go without concrete follow up steps and there is a loss of momentum that leaves people feeling disillusioned about the work that was done. That is why we have committed to taking a series of immediate steps as a follow-up to the convocation.
First, my office staff and I are reviewing all of the feedback from the participants and creating a report that will be made available to all of the Western Region. Second, as the superintendent I will prioritize the next steps, meet with Bishop Cunningham and create a roadmap for the coming months. Third, I will be meeting with pastors throughout the region to gather their input on the future of parish investments in Catholic schools and listen to the struggles that they face in continuing into the future. Finally, I intend to establish a Western Region Task Force or Board to oversee the work ahead and to advise me on the new directions that we will be taking.
Furthermore, I am encouraged by the tangible steps that the participants of the convocation have charged me with, and I am working on reaching out to all of them via e-mail in the next few weeks to assure them that we have taken their input seriously.
In his opening remarks on Oct. 22, Bishop Robert Cunningham reminded all of us how important the mission of Catholic education is to the future of the church. He went on to recount the influence that Catholic schools have had on his lives and the life of so many others.
In doing so the Bishop reaffirmed his commitment to making sure that Catholic schools do not become a dying institution but one that adapts to today’s realities so as to thrive in the future. And while the challenges ahead are daunting, they are not impossible. First we must have faith in the Spirit’s willingness to guide us in our actions, and second we must have the courage to be bold enough to reinvent ourselves with new ideas, new models and new ways of understanding our mission. To do anything less would be insane.
Editor’s note: The author is the superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Syracuse.