Today’s Guest Blogger is Lisa Orchen of the Archdiocese of Hartford and Notre Dame’s STEP theology program.  She is responding to Podcast #87 on In Support of Catholic Elementary & Secondary Schools which was a conversation between Dr. Kevin Baxter and Dr. Tim Uhl.

The 1990 pastoral statement, In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, serves as a ‘snapshot’ in time in the sequence of Church documents we are studying as part of the Catholic School Matters Church Documents Series.  The United States Catholic Conference paused on the 18th anniversary of the foundational statement, To Teach As Jesus Did, to do a self-check using the anticipated 25th anniversary to assess progress.

We are now at the 45th anniversary of To Teach As Jesus Did and together, with Montana Schools Superintendent Dr. Tim Uhl and Archdiocese of Los Angeles Superintendent Dr. Kevin Baxter, pause for our own check-in.  A relatively short statement, In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools, strongly affirms the primary assertion from To Teach As Jesus Did, “Of the educational programs available to the Catholic community, Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the three-fold purpose of Christian education among children and young people (TT, 101).  The document also briefly highlights the documents that emerged since To Teach As Jesus Did and weaves together their key assertions.

The self-check discloses that “Much progress has been made.  More needs to be done (pg. 182).”  Enter Dr. Uhl and Dr. Baxter into the conversation to talk about the urgent needs in Catholic education today.  Dr. Baxter exudes vision and optimism about Catholic education throughout the podcast.  His hopeful enthusiasm is contagious as he energetically picks up the original call in To Teach As Jesus Did to look at alternative education models and challenges all of us to continue to think outside of the traditional-school-box.  Dr. Baxter serves as an outstanding example of a contemporary leader who is willing to try new models.  I invite you to listen to the podcast to hear the examples he offers about how the Archdiocese of Los Angeles  “can be as creative and innovative in our Catholic schools as anywhere.”  He describes innovations in dual language schools, blended learning schools, STEM oriented schools and high schools that point students to possibilities in technical professions.

In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools was the first document to explicitly encourage outreach to Hispanic Catholics.  As we know, this conversation continues today with an even greater laser focus.  Dr. Baxter asks how we are reaching and educating the future of our Church which is increasingly Hispanic and goes on to encourage all regions of the country to actively seek ways to invite Hispanic families to our schools.

A stand-out feature of In Support of Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools is the fact that the authors explicitly named four goals to push Catholic educators forward to realize the vision of To Teach As Jesus Did by the 25th Anniversary.  Dr. Uhl and Dr. Baxter offer analysis about how we did in light of the stated goals with energetic emphasis on Goal #4, “That salaries and benefits of Catholic school teachers and administrators will reflect our teaching as expressed in Economic Justice for All.”  I felt gratified to hear their creative ideas about fairly compensating Catholic school teachers who dedicate their work in service to the Church.