Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
One of the things that I get asked about most often, whether it’s from other priests, parishioners from my old assignments, or people within our community, is “How’s the school doing?”
It’s a legitimate question to ask in our day and age. At the national level, the diocesan level, and the local level, enrollment is down across the board. In December, two schools in our area, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and John Paul II, announced that this will be their last year in operation. With such news, it might give us pause as we look at the health and future of our school.
Truth be told, our enrollment is lower than where we would like it to be. However, we are doing all we can to work on that. In light of the news about OLPH and JPII, the Catholic schools in Burlington County sent representatives to each of these schools this past week to encourage they stay enrolled in local Catholic education. Given the quality and our proximity of our school, I’m confident that a number of families from those communities will come and find a home with us. In addition, we are continuing our marketing efforts with ads and materials being featured in places like Facebook, the Shoprites of Cinnaminson and Delran, and elsewhere.
However, it is important to consider the bigger picture. While an influx of students is a positive for us, if we don’t do something to address some of the wider concerns, there’s a possibility that our school will encounter larger problems in the future. The question becomes, “How do we help people see the value of Catholic education?”
One major step we are considering is to introduce a change to our curriculum. Known as either classical or liberal arts education, it takes a different viewpoint and philosophy towards how to teach. Rather than focusing merely on facts and answers, this model encourages students to take what they know and think more about the deep questions of life. Using things like the Socratic method and more primary sources (i.e. great works of literature), it allows the students to interact with the world and each other as real thinkers. It is profoundly based on Jesus Christ. In schools throughout the country using this model, enrollment has increased and the students thrive academically.
One bulletin letter is not enough to explain fully all the points and complexities of this educational model. But I do want to bring it to the community’s attention with the hope that it is something we can move forward in together. In all the research I have done, in all the people that I’ve spoken to who are familiar with this kind of
curriculum, there is a real enthusiasm present. I am excited about this potential development for our school and parish community.
Peace and Goodness,