How do we establish, cultivate, and grow our Catholic identity? Commonweal has a great article entitled “What Makes a University Catholic?” examining how universities struggle to establish their Catholic identity. The president of Catholic University argues that over 50 percent of the faculty must be Catholic while a Notre Dame professor argues for hiring for mission. I interviewed Dr. Tom Evans, the president of Carroll College in Helena, Montana and we discussed hiring for mission at a small, Catholic college. It’s really not that different from the struggles of K-12 schools. That episode is now live.
Dr. Mimi Schuttloffel of Catholic University has an interesting perspective in her October 2016 article about the contemplative practice of school leaders. Catholic schools should view themselves as faith internship communities, she argues, that train our students about the faith, allowing for experiences and growth in the faith. Schuttloffel also argues that school leaders should be metacognitive—that is, thinking about their thinking about Catholic identity. We need to be deliberately examining how we are viewing and shaping the Catholic identities of our schools.
This is part of a larger (and longer) conversation. Dr. Tim Cook of Creighton, for example, wrote about this in 2001 with his work, Architects of Catholic Culture. The work was reviewed by Michael Caruso. Ultimately, our attempts to design and form Catholic culture is based on the spiritual capacity of our teachers, many of whom haven’t developed their faith since Confirmation (if they are even Catholic at all). Some believe their Catholic formation is complete and are too busy and uninterested in learning about their faith. Really?
In our Montana Catholic schools this year, we have adopted Jonathan Doyle’s Going Deeper faith formation program. This program allows for teachers to receive a personalized faith formation video every week along with discussion questions and a prayer service which can be used with students or fellow staff members. The program is short, personal, and relevant.
Here’s a link to one of the videos from last month which talks about Church teachings and the Internet. The weekly series can include inspiration, teachings, and humor. It sends the message that taking care of our teachers’ faith formation needs is a priority for our Catholic school communities. It challenges our principals to motivate our teachers to watch the videos. It doesn’t solve our struggle for a more authentic Catholic identity, but it certainly moves us closer. Watch the video because the message and the style are really appropriate for our schools.
Jonathan will be coming to St. Louis in April to keynote the NCEA convention and will also be travelling to Montana this fall for our Professional Development days. Jonathan is working hard to plant the seeds of Catholic identity across the States.