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Program develops leaders for Catholic schools in U.S. mission dioceses

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Program develops leaders for Catholic schools in U.S. mission dioceses

(CNS) — At a time when many Catholic schools are struggling with enrollment,
fighting to survive and at times shutting their doors, Catholic Extension and Loyola
Marymount University have teamed up to strengthen Catholic schools in some of
the nation’s poorest communities.

have launched the Catholic School Leadership Development Initiative to develop
a pipeline of educated Catholic school leaders in dioceses with limited
resources and staff.

complete courses online to receive a graduate-level certificate in Catholic school
administration from Loyola Marymount. Upon completion of the program, participants
are asked to commit a minimum of two years of service to a Catholic school in
their diocese. In the past five years, 68 leaders from 23 dioceses have earned
the certificate.

Extension is a Chicago-based papal society that works to build up Catholic
faith communities in the poorest regions of the United States. Loyola Marymount
is located in Los Angeles.

program has been the most valuable educational experience of my professional
career,” said Michelle Buhs, who completed the program in 2017. She is the
instructional support coordinator for Catholic schools in the Diocese of
Tucson, Arizona.

by Catholic Extension, the initiative gives promising teachers the
graduate-level training they need to eventually become Catholic school
principals or superintendents. Five of the first 14 teachers to participate
have since become school principals, and one principal has become a diocesan

architect of the certificate program was the late Anthony Sabatino, an
associate professor at Loyola Marymount, who died last May. He described the
program’s “overarching theme” as “the integration of faith and professional
practice in Catholic school administration.”

principals new to a Catholic environment, the program teaches them to connect
with their school’s faith-based mission.

I joined the program, I had been an administrator for almost eight years, but
most of my administrative training was secular,” said Brianne Thoreson,
principal of Bishop Manogue Catholic High School in the Diocese of Reno,
Nevada. “This was the first opportunity that I had to be part of a program
that developed Catholic leaders specifically, and the first opportunity to
receive training in how to really be a Catholic school principal.”

participants come from schools in poverty-stricken areas of the United States
that are dealing with drug abuse, alcoholism, violence and other community
issues. Such realities often leave teachers and administrators disillusioned
and overwhelmed.

sharing these experiences with peers who come from similar circumstances, they say
they feel a sense of solidarity and support.

the program’s core is the desire to build prayerful, faith-imbued, faith-driven
leaders who will affect the future of Catholic education through reflective
practice,” said Jane Walker, academic dean at Knoxville Catholic High School in
Knoxville, Tennessee.

a school leader in a region that is only 2 percent Catholic, I have appreciated
the opportunity to form an invaluable network of innovative thinkers who face
the same triumphs and tribulations,” Walker added.

Trujillo, a recent alumnus of the program, credits the initiative’s communal
and spiritual elements with helping him to overcome a feeling of being “burned
out” and restoring a Catholic identity to his school.

is principal of St. Joseph Mission School, which serves a largely Native
American population in rural San Fidel, New Mexico, in the Gallup Diocese.
Under his leadership, the school’s enrollment has grown from 12 to 60 students.

program renewed my heart and made me ready to go back into the ministry of
education,” Trujillo said. “It was very helpful in making us see that our work
is a ministry to bring our children and their families to Jesus.”

initiative continues to expand its reach. This year’s participants hail from 10
dioceses, including Alaska, Puerto Rico and Guam.

Nicole Miller, the new principal of Holy Name Catholic School in Ketchikan,
Alaska — located on an island and the only Catholic school in the Diocese of
Juneau — the program has been an essential antidote to isolation.

the past, we have had to look outside of our community and state to hire
someone who is qualified to lead our school,” she said. “Now we can not only
equip someone like myself who is already rooted in this community, but we can
also connect our entire school staff to literally hundreds of educators around
the country who are also passionate about the ministry of education.”

next cohort of Catholic school leaders will begin the program in July. Catholic
Extension is currently raising funds to support them at http://www.catholicextension.org/teacher.

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Note: During Catholic Schools Week, Catholic Extension is encouraging others to
share their stories of Catholic teachers, principals, staff and mentors who
inspired them by posting on social media using the hashtag #CSWStory.


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