Catholic Schools focus on strengthening identity

October 15, 2013

HOUSTON — Strengthening the Catholic identity of the Archdiocese’s 60 schools will be a top priority for the next phase of an ambitious six-year plan to overhaul one of the nation’s fastest growing Catholic school systems, local educational leaders said.

During a Sept. 21 workshop on the “Lumen Pro Via” plan, officials from the Archdiocese’s Catholic Schools Office outlined goals and strategies for the next three years, the second and final phase of the plan to prepare and revitalize Catholic schools for the future. 

Chief among them is ensuring that Catholic schools are places where the call of the Gospel is the guiding principle in forming the intellect, heart and imagination of young people. 

“This is really the heart and soul of our schools,” said Dr. Miguel Perez, associate superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo welcomed nearly 200 Catholic school teachers, pastors, principals and board members from the greater Houston area to the workshop held at St. Dominic Center. 

The workshops have been held annually for the past three years that the Lumen Pro Via (Light for the Way) plan has been in place. They are meant to inform, unite and inspire participants to action.

The Lumen Pro Via plan is the result of extensive, Archdiocese-wide collaboration on the mission and future direction of local Catholic Schools. 
It stemmed from an 18-month Meitler study done about six years ago to evaluate the state of individual schools and the system as a whole. It looked at needs and growth potential in a region experiencing a population boom. 

The Lumen plan was broken into two phases, the second of which focuses more tightly on many of the same action areas as the first — strengthening Catholic identity, educational excellence, leadership, governance, enrollment and marketing, facilities, temporal vitality, that is fundraising and budgeting, and growth and expansion. 

The Archdiocesan system is on the cusp of becoming a major Catholic school system in the U.S. with more than 18,000 students, Cardinal DiNardo told workshop participants.

It is already the largest private school system in Texas, according to the Archdiocese. 

“We have a great dimension in our Catholic School system that other systems can’t boast — we keep getting bigger,” he added, referencing growing enrollment numbers and the opening and planned opening of two new Catholic schools. 

Catholic identity is expressed both inside the walls of the school, where “the scrolls of the Old and New testaments are unrolled” and doctrine is integrated and explored across the curriculum, but also outside the walls in service to others, reflecting the social justice teachings of the Church, presenters said. 

John Stanton, a board member at St. Martha Catholic School in Kingwood and a workshop participant, said faith formation was the chief reason he and his wife chose to send their sons to St. Martha as opposed to the excellent — and free — public schools in Humble. 

“I’m very glad we sent them because what it does is integrate Catholicism with secular, everyday life, which is something they will need to have when they get into the real world,” Stanton said.