Local Catholic schools continue to thrive

August 20, 2013

HOUSTON — With the new academic year upon us, it is clear that Catholic school education in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is in demand.

Boasting the largest private school network in Texas, there are currently 60 Catholic schools in the Galveston-Houston system, spanning six counties and 23 public school districts. Archdiocesan Catholic schools currently have their highest enrollment in 33 years, serving more than 18,000 students in 2012-2013.

"When the public considers the numerous Catholic schools in the nation that are closing or consolidating, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Catholic schools system continues to build and assimilate the many students who desire to attend and acquire a quality Catholic education," said Dr. George Laird, interim Superintendent.

Laird said his primary goal is to continue supporting and expanding the Lumen Pro Via Catholic School Plan which will "strengthen our Catholic schools with strong formation programs spiritually, academically and in social justice formation. Additionally, I want to continue servicing our Catholic schools with innovative programs and training to enhance their efforts to deliver quality educational curriculums to our students."

Local Catholic schools will have even more momentum after Houston successfully hosted the annual National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) Conference this past April, which saw more than 8,000 educators and catechists congregate for their own brand of continued education and formation. Laird praised the conference steering committee as well as local principals and teachers for their organizational efforts in accommodating the thousands of participants. 

"According to the NCEA, our convention was one of the best in recent years and they are still receiving positive acknowledgements from many Catholic dioceses, archdioceses, presenters and vendors," Laird said. "Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston participants have raved over the spiritual events and quality of information they received from the presentations. They now have a springboard to move our Catholic school curriculums and faith formation programs forward into the future."

Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston:

• The Archdiocese has the largest private school system in Texas.
• There are currently 60 schools throughout the counties of the Archdiocese.
• Approximately 18,000 students are enrolled.
• The schools serve students PreK-3 through 12th grade.
• The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston serves 1.2 million Catholics in 10 counties. It is the largest Roman Catholic diocese in Texas and the 12th largest in the United States.

The future is indeed looking bright for Catholic school education in the area. Frassati Catholic High School in Spring will open this school year with a freshman class and add a grade each year until the 9-12 classifications are represented at the co-ed Catholic high school. 

"I think it is of great significance that Frassati Catholic High School will open its doors during this Year of Faith," said Sister John Paul Meyers, O.P., principal. "The opening of this new Catholic high school is a powerful testimony to the deep faith of the families of Galveston-Houston. And we are opening this school precisely for the purpose of faith — to give our young people the opportunity to receive an education rooted in faith."

Sister Meyers said Catholic education is important "because we want our youth to experience the happiness that comes from knowing God."
"We are grateful to Cardinal DiNardo for naming our high school after Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, an outstanding example for young people of this connection between faith and happiness," she said. "Given the unique title Man of the Beatitudes, Pier Giorgio illumines for us the way of beatitude, that is, the way of true happiness."

The Archdiocese has also approved the opening of Christ the Redeemer Catholic School in northwest Houston. The school is planning to begin classes in the fall of 2014.

With Daniel Cardinal DiNardo closely watching developments regarding Inner City Catholic Schools in other dioceses across the U.S., he has expressed great concern that these important beacons serving the poor in the inner city communities are quickly disappearing. While the Inner City Catholic Schools have greatly benefited by the creation of the Cardinal's Circle, after some reflection and consultation, Cardinal DiNardo has determined that the time has come for the Archdiocese to create a position to focus exclusively on the ongoing sustainability of all 13 Inner City Catholic Schools in this Archdiocese. 

Gregory Gomez was recently appointed to serve as the Cardinal's Special Liaison to the Inner City Schools. He will be working closely with the entire Catholic Schools office staff, and in particular with Enrique Benitez (Schools Cooperative) and the pastors and principals of the 13 Inner City Catholic Schools, to collaborate in developing solutions for the many challenges facing these institutions in our Archdiocese. 

Gomez holds a bachelor's degree in Biology from St. Mary University in San Antonio and a master's in Education from the University of Notre Dame's ACE Program. He also continued his graduate studies at Columbia University. 

His previous educational experience includes serving as a teacher and assistant principal in Inner City Catholic Schools in central Los Angeles. For the last three years, he has served as a member of the faculty at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory High School in Houston. In addition to his teaching responsibilities at Cristo Rey, he was also responsible for the professional development of the teaching staff. Cristo Rey celebrated its first graduating class this past academic year.

"His addition to Catholic education will be a major asset to not only the development of our inner city schools but Catholic education in general," Laird said.

Besides the physical growth of the schools, the Catholic Schools Office continues to expand development programs to increase enrollment with a goal of 20,000-plus students for the upcoming school year, according to Laird.

"I have been in education for 46 years both in the public and Catholic school system and serving as a teacher, coach and administrator in the Catholic system has been exciting, adventurous and very challenging," Laird said. "The spiritual and academic growth we deliver to our students has been the unique difference from other school systems. We work with limited funding, facilities and supplies but we manage to graduate some of the national leaders in many professions."