Things fall apart

From Sr. Mary Ann Walsh at the USCCB HQ:

American Girl Catholic School Uniform

Catholic schools are in vogue. Proof: You can buy a Catholic school uniform for an American Girl doll. In your favorite plaid. You can find them for Barbie too. All the best dressed dolls are sporting them. They’re $25-$30 online.

However, though the dolls are going traditional, the Catholic schools are not. Catholic Schools are in transition mode.

[Isn’t it interesting that when even liberals want to sell something or raise money, they use more traditional imagery? Market forces!]

National Catholic Educational Association’s latest statistics for the 2011-2012 academic year note that nationwide there are 6,841 Catholic Schools: 5,636 elementary/middle and 1,205 secondary. More than 26 percent of them, 1,822 Catholic schools, have waiting lists for admission. Total school student enrollment is 2,031,455, with 1,440,572 in elementary/middle schools and 590,883 in secondary schools. Most students are Catholic, but more than 15 percent are not.


Today, school backers know that the common elements of a successful Catholic school include a strong Catholic identity, clear doctrinal teaching and sacramental focus, mission driven decision-making, a strong, vision-oriented administrator and faculty, active parent involvement, focused academic curriculum and an emphasis on community involvement. Soon another measure of success will be how schools provide Catholic education for the Hispanic community and otherwise support the nation’s new families and immigrants.


Read the rest there.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Scott W. says:

    Isn’t it interesting that when even liberals want to sell something or raise money, they use more traditional imagery? Market forces!

    Indeed. It’s a negative witness to truth.

    Imagine almost every single movie you have ever seen with a scene in a Catholic church. It’s always traditional architecture full of saint statues and candles and grand marble altars. It’s never your typical “burlap and butterflies” modern eyesore. Filmmakers know what a church is supposed to look like. What’s our problem?

  2. Gail F says:

    I know people are going to start writing in about how crappy and non-Catholic supposedly Catholic schools are. That is true in many cases. But what people who complain don’t realize is that market forces matter to Catholic schools too, and for a long time parents were NOT concerned about the Catholic identity of schools. I have spoken to numerous Catholic school administrators about this — some of them are having a hard time believing that a lot of parents now DO care about it, because they have hard and long experience otherwise. The school-age population is going down, all schools are competing for students, Catholic school is expensive, and for a long time the main people who sent their kids to Catholic schools were the religious folks and people who wanted top academics and were willing to pay for them. Administrators learned the hard way that the latter were growing, the former were not, and what the latter cared about had little or nothing to do with theology, Mass, prayer, etc. Catholic schools have to learn to adapt to the new, more theologically aware, more (for lack of a better word) orthodox parents who are coming to schools and suddenly demanding things that were either not important or actually detrimental (in terms of spending) before. They don’t all believe it, just as the people who run Catholic colleges seem incredulous that anyone would expect them to teach Catholicism, and a lot of priests seem surprised that anyone is interested in devotions or other traditional Catholic stuff. The push from the laity is a surprise to those in charge, and you also have to remember that there are a lot of people who like the status quo, and another huge group of people who don’t care one way or the other. It’s complicated!

  3. DisturbedMary says:

    “….Soon another measure of success will be how schools provide Catholic education for the Hispanic community and otherwise support the nation’s new families and immigrants….”

    If only we could count on the Catholic schools to be entirely Church centered with the real “life” that we all seek, no matter what country we live in. If Catholicism shaped everything, we would not lose these new families to the spiritual darkness of the “American dream”, i.e., one, maybe two children. The rest end up in the abortion industry trash pile.

  4. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    What’s killing Catholic schools (by which we mean mostly primary schools, and most high schools) is, more than all the other factors combined, the US Supreme Court.

  5. a catechist says:

    My kids are in Catholic schools. And for all the hard-working priests who might read this, please come to the schools! Celebrating Mass for the kids is great. Please come at other times, too! I can’t tell you how much it means to my son to have a priest come to his religion class.

  6. Austin Catholics says:

    Is there supposed to be something ironic about the title of this post that I am not getting? “Things Fall Apart” The article says schools are “in transition mode” but it is not a pessimistic take on things. And what is the comment about “when liberals want to sell something”? Are you saying Catholic schools are liberal or run by liberals? (I’m not saying they aren’t; just wondering.)

  7. Katheryn says:

    My children are currently at a VERY expensive Waldorf school because it was as close to a trivium education that I could find. We wanted to send them to our (very traditional) parish school, but I found it lacked energy, enthusiasm, and put academic rigor secondary to meeting state requirements for testing. To me, it seemed like a public school with uniforms, and occasional Mass and Rosary- in effect, I could give them a much better Catholic education homeschooling them. The new age aspect of Waldorf does concern me, but I think the educational method is excellent and my children LOVE school. We looked at the Catholic school in the neighboring town, though and were much happier with their academics, but not being a parishioner, it is much more expensive. The only trivium school within 30 miles is Protestant (I know right?! How does that even work?) . So now we wait and pray to see where God wants our children.
    So now that my ramble is over, I guess the conclusion is that I think if Catholic schools were more faithful to its Classical roots, I would be much more inclined to send my children to one. I just hesitate because it seems for the most part, that they are only marginally better than a free public education.

  8. Bob B. says:

    The current accreditation process now used by primary and secondary schools has too much inbuilt nonsense that it has become rather automatic to have a good “Catholic Identity.” For example, no one is asked what really goes on (or more appropriately, what doesn’t) in the school. How students can go from attending Mass once a week in primary school to once a month in a secondary school should also say something. Pastors who never visit the school (even during Vocation Awareness Week), principals who are inept (heard the one about a principal who closed a school because she had no idea what it is to be Catholic and the parents knew it, but was rewarded with another school by the diocese?), teachers who aren’t Catholic, a touchy-feely curriculum, etc, etc. Things need to change, but things only do when “politics” are brought into the equation (and often not for the better).

    Heard and seen at a Catholic high school….”God, our Mother,” a priest saying Mass with just a stole over his clericals, and the term Jesuit-Catholics, a priest apologizing for the Gospel reading and a staff showing their distaste for our religion by making faces and pantomimes of distain. The majority of the staff are not Catholic and they are not afraid to show their dislike for our religion because there is no consequences (but there are if one tries to defend Catholicism). Why is it, too, that the majority of the teachers come from a Jesuit university and all the encumbrances that institution brings (which the archbishop has also failed to reign in)?
    It’s enough to make one cry!

  9. Long-Skirts says:

    Sr. Mary Ann Walsh at the USCCB HQ:

    “…that stresses not just the three Rs plus religion, but also respect for the human person and the goal of eternity.”

    The Whole Catholic Faith teaches not only the 3 “Rs” but respect for the human person’s mind, body and SOUL so one can know, love and serve God here and FOR eternity!!


    And where are the schools
    The daily Mass
    Lines to confess
    A uniformed lass?

    And where are the schools
    The Latin class
    Cassocked priest
    Candles in brass?

    And where are the schools
    To strengthen souls
    Shape their wills
    Set the goals?

    And where are the schools
    The altar boy
    Assisting priest
    Like Christ their joy?

    And where are the schools
    Oh, time you lied
    Two generations
    Have gone and died.

    And where are the schools
    Which don’t derive
    That two plus two
    Are sometimes five?

    They’re found in large
    Where struggling families
    Let priest take charge

    For the good of the whole
    Priests’ lives are laid
    So many may come
    Not be afraid.

    And win the Faith
    From Christ-like hand…
    True Mass – true class
    Two and two are grand!!

  10. Theodore says:

    @Austin Catholics. I think the “Things Fall Apart” is a back reference to Fr Z.’s previous post about his Monday reading group studying Yeats.

  11. moon1234 says:

    I think the point is that the liberals who are selling “Catholic Uniforms” for barbie are behaving more in line with traditional Catholic Values than the actual Catholic schools are.

    How many Catholic Schools still have nuns that run or teach at the School? Does ANYONE know of a school that has any nuns at all outside of a religious community?

    When my oldest daughter (12) was in primary school we had three nuns who ran and taught in the school. They were of the liberal bent, but there was no escaping that they were still Catholic.

    My younger children no longer attend that school due to the poor liturgy and other aspects surrounding Mass (pushing girls to serve Mass, etc.). The new school has ZERO nuns, LOTS of people who get salaries (I know they need to make money, but nuns did it as part of their vocation) and the only religious at School is the priests who teach religion.

    I don’t know HOW people can afford Catholic school either. It is HARD for us. We have 7 going on 8 children and tuition last year for three children in school was almost $6000. That is WITH more than 50% tuition assistance. It we would have had to face the full amount it would have been over $15,000. I am 100% positive that many people look at the full boat tuition and just can NOT fathom how they will pay for it. The kids wind up in public school or home school.

    In all honesty we are considering home schooling our younger children due to the cost and the lack of what I would call “Catholic” virtue by most of the educators. (Meaning Catholic is secondary after thought.)

  12. Matt R says:

    When Modernists are put in charge:
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

  13. Supertradmum says:

    When any Catholic school takes money from the government, the curriculum is compromised. NAPCIS schools are the only ones I know which are faithful to the Teaching Magisterium, which is why I have a Master’s Teacher Certificate from NAPCIS.

    Long ago, the rot set in. Parents who contracept do not want talks in marriage and family classes against contraception. Priests who hate the Blessed Virgin Mary do not want the rosary taught.

    I personally experienced such in a Catholic high school in the late 1990s. The religion teachers were being forced by the priest president to soft pedal teaching on homosexulity and such. Imagine our surprise when his best friend had to resign as a bishop for being a sexual predator.

    Where there compromise, there is a lack of Catholic identity and truth.

    The same is true in England. Parents lament the lack of real Catholic education, but support compromise.

    Only truly independent schools supported by real Catholic parents are Catholic in identity and teaching. Support NAPCIS schools in your area, please.

    Barbie dolls would blush for modesty in those schools.

  14. Bob B. says:

    Supertradmum is right in many ways because the post-VII bishops have let Catholic schools become less of a priority, they assume things are being taught that aren’t or they really don’t care if the schools fail (as a pastor of one school told me because it is such a financial drain).
    I’ve heard a principal say we “worship” Mary too much and a pastor suggest that perhaps I wasn’t happy because I was traditional in my Catholicism! It mattered not that my students were scoring better than ever in religion, math and science, it was more that the principal and the pastor felt uncomfortable.

  15. Minnesotan from Florida says:

    No one in this thread asks why there should be parochial schools at all. Was the late 19th century Council of Baltimore perhaps wrong in desiring Catholic schools? (I know that was a much more anti-Catholic era, in the old sense of anti-Catholic.) By having parochial schools in so many parishes, we give up a huge opportunity for “presence” and witness. In my hometown in Florida, in 5th grade in 1946-1947, I, a Methodist, was much blessed by a girl Catholic classmate’s giving information about various things Catholic. I am glad that the Catholic Church in that town at that time had no school! In my present parish in Saint Paul every financial report makes it clear how great an expense to the parish the school is. (I realize that it may attract young parents to the parish, and I realize that the school may attract some non-Catholic pupils to the Church at some point in their lives.)

  16. Katheryn says:

    Catholic schools wouldn’t have to be so expensive if the curriculum focused on the treasures that we have already inherited. Instead of dumping money into tablets and computers for every breathing being in the school, TEACH kids stuff! Chalk is far less expensive than some fancy computer projection unit. As cool as it may be, no elementary school needs a kiln. As fun as a playground is, trees and gardens are better. All of these things tech and expensive things are unnecessary to promote Catholic culture. I’m much more comfortable with my kids cracking books than being cracked out on “research” on Google. That is another reason we chose Waldorf education over parochial.

  17. Laura98 says:

    Oh the stories I could tell… so similar to what has been already been said. :(

    However, I am grateful for our Parish Pre-School and Kindergarten school. They were wonderful, and I hope they still are. We had wonderful teachers and Father Pat visited the classrooms quite often (I think he did it to get away from all the other parish problems … :) ) I am also so very grateful for the first couple of years our daughter attended another Catholic School – she had two wonderful teachers and her school experience was fantastic. After that… well… it’s a whole other story.

    Suffice to say, we are enjoying homeschooling, using traditional Catholic books where we can, along with other traditional curriculum.

  18. Katheryn says:

    Laura, I envy your ability to homeschool. I just don’t think I’m cut out for it… And yeah, I’m even a teacher!

  19. LisaP. says:


    I’ll see you and raise you! I’d ask why we have to have school “systems” that house the majority of our children in the first place. There are thousands of good ways to educate children, why do we use, essentially, one model?

    Orestes Brownson wrote this article in 1870 on the emerging public school system and the question of religious schooling and Catholics.

  20. PostCatholic says:

    I guess I didn’t realize until now that Mattel Inc. was run by “liberals.” But you’re right, the CEO does give money to moderate Democrats.

  21. OrthodoxChick says:

    American Girl used to be a supporter of planned parenthood. Don’t know if they still are, but it wouldn’t surprise me if their use of the Catholic school uniform is to serve the dual purpose of poking their thumb in the eye of pro-life Catholics, while marketing irony to the pro-choice catholics.

  22. Norah says:

    Celebrating Mass for the kids is great.

    acatechist, when I used to attend daily Mass I would dread it when the school children came. The level of noise in the church was akin to a pre-football match and the reception of Holy Communion was a joke; children coming back from HC and poking out their tongues, with the Host on it, to their friends etc etc I stopped attending Mass on the weekday d when the school kids came.

  23. A.D. says:

    Speaking of Catholic schools and uniforms, please, please, encourage them to work on teaching modesty along with the three Rs. I am embarrassed to see girls who are entering young womanhood wearing uniform skirts that are half way up the thighs or in some cases even higher. I have seen developing young ladies with skirts so tight that their PLs show they are wearing bikini briefs. I have seen young ladies unable to bow or even curtsy before the Blessed Sacrament because to do so would show all.
    Is this so difficult to understand? Does anyone else care?

  24. lydia says:

    I’m pleased with the Catholic schools my grandchildren are attending and have attended. The teachers are dedicated and the priests are wonderful. Last week at the children’s Mass my grandaughter’s 4k class did the singing and presented the gifts. She presented the bread. All the grade school kids behaved beautifully. Driving home she told me Grandma it looks like bread and tastes like bread but it’s really Jesus. I think we are recovering from the Weakland years of destruction.

  25. jflare says:

    “Sr. Mary Ann Walsh at the USCCB HQ:

    “…that stresses not just the three Rs plus religion, but also respect for the human person and the goal of eternity.””

    I spotted this comment too, and honestly, this bothers me quite a little. Keeping in mind that I’m not a parent–not even married, nor likely to be so within the next year–I don’t get why Sr feels such a need to state things this way. I have seen “respect for the human person” in particular being used so many times to promote..stuff that’s almost completely irrelevant, I’m inclined to be suspicious when this comes up. [I don’t think there is anything suspicious in her statement. I am pretty sure she is talking about respect for the unborn and for the elderly and ill. This has more to do with the right to be born and the right to a natural death.]

    If they don’t learn to respect each other as human beings from reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, and prayer (and the theology and catechesis that goes with it), I can’t imagine that they’ll learn it from..whatever they’re replacing these subjects WITH.

    I would comment though that computers and other technology CAN be used to great impact in the classroom. It WOULD be expensive to purchase computers, software, and projectors, but it might allow the students to better comprehend what the teacher meant to teach. I had trouble now and then with comprehending a teacher’s handwritten scrawl on an overhead projector. It would’ve been much easier to read a type-written PowerPoint slide.
    (Yes, I’ve had my fair share of experience with death by PowerPoint; being legible doesn’t make it inherently interesting. Even so, if you can read it in the first place, it’s much easier to learn it.)

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