In his interview on Episode #38 on the “Catholic School Matters” podcast, Dr. Hosffman Ospino points out that in the 1950s, American Catholics had a “culture of Catholic schools” meaning that over 55% of Catholic children attended Catholic schools whereas today the total enrollment (less than 2 million with significant number of non-Catholics out of an estimated 14.6 million Catholics of school age) is much lower.
It is easy to dismiss those numbers as a product of the disruptions which have occurred such as the rising costs of running schools, the trend toward decreased religiosity, etc. Leave it to a pastoral theologian to point out the religious “cost,” if you will, of losing the powerful tool of evangelization. How much more influential could the Church become if it was guiding the education of more of the next generation?
How? Ospino opines that we need to come down from the mountain and not simply build tents and stay in the presence of Jesus (a reference to the Transfiguration) but we need to find ways to impact Catholic school enrollment. His recommendation is to improve the intercultural competencies of Catholic school staff members. As principals become educated in communicating with people of different cultures, their schools will become more welcoming, more capable and perhaps more fully enrolled.
The other solution is to become less silo-centered. Ospino points out that many people in Hispanic ministry (pastors, parish religious education directors, liturgy directors, Hispanic ministers, principals, etc) aren’t always communicating. They are each working an angle and aren’t coordinating their efforts or sharing best practices. We also see university programs touting their excellent Latino outreach programs without coordinating with other programs. We see schools competing for enrollment and not cooperating to share best practices.
Ospino shares a refreshing multi-faceted approach to building a culture of Catholic school enrollment.