Brick by brick in Marquette

Good things are happening in a Michigan Diocese, Marquette.

Don’t confuse it with Jesuit-run Marquette University.

First, they were blessed with n0w-Archbishop Sample.  He issued a statement on sacred music.  HERE Then they advanced the cause of Ven. Frederic Baraga.  Then the new Bishop, John Doerfler, issued particular law for the diocese building on Sample’s letter. HERE  And… regular reader and commentator here Fr. Tim Ferguson was ordained for the diocese.

Now I read that Bp. Doerfler has decided that the diocesan schools will use a classic curriculum rather than Common Core.

This comes via the Cardinal Newman Society, which keeps watch on Catholic education in these USA.  HERE  See them daily on my right side-bar!

Mich. Diocese Shifts to Classical Curriculum, Avoids Common Core

Educators and parents are increasingly dissatisfied with secular standards that neglect to emphasize virtuous development in K-12 academics, but one diocese in Michigan has responded by making the bold decision to implement a classical, liberal arts curriculum for all diocesan schools. And the diocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools, Mark Salisbury, told The Cardinal Newman Society that the program has been widely well-received by teachers and students and is improving education for the entire diocese.
“We are enthusiastic about our early successes,” Salisbury shared. “Teachers are happy with the results as well. We have improved our ability to teach students how to write well, students are learning and memorizing more poetry” and the curriculum’s integration of Latin studies “has helped students with English grammar, vocabulary and critical thinking skills.” A recent satisfaction survey of more than 440 parents for the 2015-16 school year revealed that 76 percent of parents were highly satisfied with the academic programs.


The team focused extensively on the goals for Catholic education articulated in Archbishop John Michael Miller’s The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools. According to Archbishop Miller, Catholic schools should be recognized by five essential principles. Catholic schools are: “inspired by a supernatural vision,” “founded on Christian anthropology,” “animated by communion and community,” “imbued with the Catholic worldview throughout the curriculum,” and “sustained by the Gospel witness of the teachers and staff.”
Keeping these principles in mind, it quickly became clear that a Catholic liberal arts curriculum was the best way forward in Marquette, especially since such a curriculum has been “the perennial and consistent curriculum framework applied throughout history in Catholic schools,” said Salisbury.
Moreover, the liberal arts are “founded on a Christian anthropology and imbued with a Catholic worldview because we are constantly looking for the good, true and beautiful in each subject we teach.” From there, students are prepared “to ‘see’ God, who is the Good, the True and the Beautiful — and the source of all goodness, truth and beauty.” This preparation facilitates students’ understanding of scripture and participation in the liturgy.
Diocesan educators then set about crafting a foundations document for the new curriculum, which Salisbury shared with the Newman Society.
We began our curriculum foundations document with the supernatural vision — that is, with the end in mind — namely, that our students will develop friendships with Christ because this is the foundation of true happiness in this life and the next,” said Salisbury. From that vision, the foundations document integrated opportunities for students to learn how to live virtuously and work towards the perfection of character.
The greatest happiness a person can attain is communion with Jesus Christ,” the document begins. “Therefore, the core of our curriculum is the person of Jesus Christ. We hope to graduate students who have ‘encountered the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth’ (cf. Spe Salvi, 4).” The curriculum also “seeks to form our graduate’s character, aiming as high as its perfection.”


Brick by brick.

Fr. Z kudos.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Brick by Brick, Our Catholic Identity and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    There are some really, really interesting things going on in Marquette.

  2. Phil_NL says:

    Good for them.

    I just hope that they toss in some extra Maths, physics, chemistry, biology and so on in as well. “We have improved our ability to teach students how to write well, students are learning and memorizing more poetry” and the curriculum’s integration of Latin studies “has helped students with English grammar, vocabulary and critical thinking skills.” is all very nice, but there’s more in this world than language skills. I hope they’re not forgetting that.

    To put it bluntly: it’s swell to be able to express yourself well, but you first need to understand what you want to express in the first place.
    With a lot of biotech in the pipeline, most likely in a way that will both transform society and have major moral implications, that’s going to be critical.

  3. I would throw in a good dose of philosophy and logic. One of today’s most critical problems, as Phil_NL hints, is that most people don’t even subscribe to a coherent philosophy of life. They just like and do whatever feels good at the moment. The crux of many of today’s problems is illogic, and more specifically the notion that a proposition can both be true and false at the same time, or that truth can be different things to different people. Consequently one cannot have any sort of logical systems, because logic at its heart always depends upon propositions that everyone can accept. Today, we have essentially illiterate people arguing propositions such as “Human life is sacred.” When we can’t make such statements as postulates (as we called them in geometry, which has had a huge influence on my way of thinking simply because it makes sense), anything goes.

    As for Latin, one big advantage is that if students are already trained in that language before they hit the seminaries, the time there can more profitably be spent on areas more specific to priests and the rector of the seminary doesn’t have to cross his fingers behind his back when he says to the bishop that his transitional deacons are properly trained for the priesthood. That applies likewise to logic and philosophy. We would get lots better priests if they didn’t need remedial Latin, logic, and philosophy before they could start more advanced studies, or if we didn’t simply discount those areas altogether and just say that all one needs to be a good priest is a love of God and a love of people (the typically stated requirements for catechists these days).

    We need lots more saints, and, sad to say, martyrs these days, but if anything goes, what sort of principles will anyone find worth sacrificing one’s life to uphold? It starts with logical thinking, which should be taught strenuously in schools from day one, even if people get offended when a teacher actually makes some sort of assertion other than, “We must not be intolerant.”

  4. VeritasVereVincet says:

    Verum, Bonum, Pulchrum.

    Would that all schools lived by that motto.

  5. JARay says:

    When I was a boy the school I attended, named after St. Bede, had as its motto “Ora et Labora”.

  6. lmgilbert says:

    Here’s hoping Archbishop Sample takes a cue from his successor in Marquette and implements the same program here in the Archdiocese of Portland. There are already several Christian and secular schools in the area that are implementing a classical curriculum, among them:

    Veritas School
    Trinity Academy
    St. Stephen’s Academy
    Classical Conversations ( a supplementary program for homeschoolers which my grandchildren attend))

    Not quite classical, but close: Micha-el School (Waldorf)

    Nothing would surprise me less than for these schools to yield many converts to the faith over the years, to say nothing of vocations to consecrated life.

  7. pberginjr says:

    I’d seriously entertain the notion of Catholic schools for my children of this sort of thing we’re offered where I live.

  8. Kathleen10 says:

    An Emory student needed counseling the other day because he (or she) ran across something written in chalk on the campus. TRUMP 2016. Hurry Marquette! Anyway, I like the change.

  9. joan ellen says:

    I live in MI & am hoping His Excellency has his episcopal brothers follow his lead.

    The Latin studies will certainly be a help in the science studies, as well as in helping the students communication processes.

    One can only hope that we will learn that His Excellency has decided that the Baltimore Catechisms will be the students 1st catechisms.

  10. gracie says:

    This year for the first time the students I was teaching told me they couldn’t read my handwriting. Thinking I had been too sloppy, I erased and wrote again. They still couldn’t read it. Flummoxed, I asked them if they wanted the words to be written larger and received the answer that they couldn’t read cursive – the reason being that they aren’t being taught it. I discovered their town is using the Common Core curriculum and – get this – since CC doesn’t mandate cursive, the Board of Education has decided not to teach it anymore. So now we are getting a generation of kids who not only can’t write cursive, they can’t read it. This will mean that they can’t read historical documents (Declaration of Independence, anyone?), or family letters, or notes from people who write to them, or memos from their bosses. A friend told me that her son doesn’t even know how to sign his name.

    Please teach cursive to any child who comes your way. I have been doing so with the students in extra moments (it’s a CCD class) and they are finding it a lot of fun. However, what are the chances they’re going to keep it up – rote practice is essential. It’s also nuts, for people will not always have a computer at hand to communicate with and printing out each letter gets tiresome after awhile (also it takes longer). It is mind-boggling how it only takes a few philistines to pull out yet another brick from the edifice of Western civilization. Note, btw, that the Chinese/Japanese/Koreans are continuing to teach hieroglyphics to their youngsters despite their own use of computers, for they know that writing systems are a cultural norm that bind people to each other in the present as well as to the people of the past. It is an aesthetically pleasing skill as well, allowing the writer to express his individuality along with his thoughts. It’s depressing to see how we discard our culture while they honor theirs. One guess as to who is going to outlast whom.

  11. Elizabeth D says:

    I also learned my catechism students could not read cursive, however I would never take class time to teach something like that. We don’t have near enough time to teach the essential knowledge of the Faith and to form them in that Faith. I try to make the most of every minute.

  12. KnightOfTruth says:

    Thanks for this great news. Our prayers for the Diocese of Marquette and the success of the Catholic schools there.

    I have been blessed with the job of helping to start a Classical (in the Catholic Tradition) high school in Williamsburg, Virginia. Some insights on the state of Catholic Education in the United States.
    * First my thanks and prayers for all of the excellent Catholic Educators fighting the good fight in public, private and even Catholic schools that are lost in the evolving, Godless, model of teach to the test education. They are heroes in an often thankless job.
    * Over 80% of our Dioceses use their States” standard curriculum. This means that our Catholic schools are teaching the same curriculum that the public schools teach… and are often providing this secular based education much better than their local school counterparts.
    * A Classical Curriculum does not mean students miss out on the maths and sciences. Some Classical schools lean towards being “Great Books” schools and are heavily focused on the liberal arts. Recently the new Classical Schools have adopted this as the core of a curriculum and added an emphasis in the Maths and Sciences – giving students the option of moving in any career direction upon graduation. Graduates from these schools are going into science and engineering programs at almost twice the rate of their counterparts graduating from state curriculum schools.
    *By 7th or 8th grade, students educated with the States’ Standard Curriculum have been secularized and do not agree with Church teaching on the secular issues of the day. This is very disturbing and should alarm all Diocesan schools who use the government curriculum (remember over 80% of them).
    *In most Catholic schools you may only hire certified teachers. This means you can not hire a teacher with a degree (BS, Masters, PhD) in Chemistry to teach chemistry, a degree in: Philosophy, Latin, Math… even a degree in Theology from a school like Christendom, Thomas Aquinas or Franciscan – to teach Theology.
    *I could go on … but must move on to the highlight of my week – Sunday Mass.

  13. gracie says:


    Well pin a rose on you. Instructing the ignorant is a corporal work of mercy, dontcha know, and the kids seeing a Catholic woman take time to help them with a skill they need to know is the most “essential” lesson in the faith they may ever get from a CCD teacher. As someone once said, “If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing . . .” These kids have gotten the message loud and clear that I care about them and as a result they trust that what I tell them is true. For Christ to take hold of their hearts they have to see Him in us and that will only happen if we teachers walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

  14. Tim in Dixie says:

    Our Carholic HS in Georgia has instituted the Common Core standard of electronic textbooks. My child hates this medium of education. In order to use your “textbook” you have to be online. When my child is not he bus going to a game, no textbook because there is no internet. And if you have a software or hardware failure, again no textbook. And these are not Kindle or Nook books that are download and used offline. And if the textbook is worthwhile, there is no way to keep it for future reference or build a library.

  15. Tim in Dixie says:

    Our Carholic HS in Georgia has instituted the Common Core standard of electronic textbooks. My child hates this medium of education. In order to use your “textbook” you have to be online. When my child is on the team bus or visiting venue, no textbook because there is no internet. And if you have a software or hardware failure, again no textbook. And these are not Kindle or Nook books that are download and used offline. And if the textbook is worthwhile, there is no way to keep it for future reference or build a library.

  16. djc says:

    We vacation in the UP and have always been impressed with the vibrancy of the Church there. It seems to be in very good shape with full and liturgically sound masses. We’ll be sure to check out the Cathedral In Marquette on our next visit.

    It will be interesting to see if vocations, which seem to be in pretty good shape there, increase even more after the full implementation of the bishop’s letter.

  17. Elizabeth D says:

    Gracie, maybe the parents where you are bring the kids every year so the presentation of the Faith can be at a more relaxed pace. Where I am all my students are from Latino families where the parents don’t typically don’t know their faith really well, the parents bring the kids for 2 years because it’s the minimum to “get” their sacraments then most don’t come back the following year. If the kids don’t hear about the basics of the Faith from me they are in some danger of never having it taught and explained to them. Today we learned about the Year of Mercy and what an indulgence is and walked through the Doors of Mercy, learned about St Faustina and the Feast of Divine Mercy and saw the Divine Mercy image in the church and learned what it means, prayed in front of the tabernacle and learned that Jesus Himself IS Divine Mercy and also that He is the ONLY thing that can fully satisfy the deepest desires of our soul, and learned about the spiritual and corporal works of mercy as ways of living out the mission of Charity we have as the Body of Christ. Also we had cupcakes and candy. There are different ways to convey to kids that you love them. If I had lots of time or had kids of my own I would teach cursive!

  18. frsbr says:

    The finest Catholic elementary school in the Houston area is St Theresa’s in Sugar Land, TX. It follows a classical curriculum with a heavy emphasis on the arts. Math scores are among the highest in the region. See:

  19. Fatherof7 says:

    Bishop Doerflor was the Vicar General in Green Bay before heading to the UP. I am excited to say that we have our own classical school, St. John Paul II, opening this fall. Some of my kids are too old to attend, but those that can will be attending.

    Bishop Ricken has been a huge proponent of classical education and rejected common core for our diocesan schools a few years ago.

  20. Matt Robare says:

    I must have been part of the last generation of kids who were taught cursive in school. We were told “You need to know this bercause you’ll need it in high school and college. They’ll expect you to write essays in it.” Well, by the time I got to high school all writing assignments had to be typed. None of my teachers in high school or college used cursive. Not teaching it is perhaps the least problematic aspect of Common Core.

  21. Giuseppe says:

    I graduated from a Jesuit high school in the 1980s. I had 4 years of Latin. We never learned one iota of the Latin mass. We did use church pronunciation in years 1/2 (taught by a priest), but used classical pronunciation in years 3/4. I’d have sacrificed a few chapters of Caesar and much of Aeneid Book V to study the following. Some of this could have also been done in theology class, as most of what we learned there was Vatican II social justice stuff.

    I think everyone should know in Latin by memory:
    1) Common prayers – Sign of the Cross, Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be
    2) Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei
    3) Adeste Fideles (it’s embarrassing for someone who knows Latin to not be able to sing this at Christmas)

    I think everyone should study and be able to read each word of the following
    1) Key elements of the order of the Mass, especially the opening prayers, the confuter, the canon, and the final gospel
    2) Dies Irae and other propers of the Requiem Mass (they have such historical, literary, and musical significance)
    3) Stabat Mater (also important literary and musical significance)
    4) Tantum Ergo and Pange Lingua (and learn how to sing them, ideally from memory)

  22. Giuseppe says:

    Whoops – confiteor.

  23. SaintJude6 says:

    It’s nice to see the Catholic schools catching up to the Catholic homeschoolers.

  24. MouseTemplar says:

    Cursive side note: I taught my son cursive last summer using the book Cursive Logic by Linda Shrewsbury. Painless and fun; now my 9yr old has the dignity of a real signature.

  25. Imrahil says:

    Dear Giuseppe

    as to I 4 : How many stanzas?

    Normally, as far as “not being embarrassed” goes, there’s only one stanza sung in Latin and the rest in the vernacular…

    Fun note about cursive: when I was at primary school, we used to get marks for “beautifulness of handwriting” which, in my case, was a sort of fiasco. Well, I finished primary with a “satisfactory”, but noone really knows because in all certificates but the last one, including the one about the qualification to grammar school, I had “sufficient”.

    Now the fun about it: I have now, more than once, been praised about what a readible handwriting I have. Thing is, it’s (with a couple of changes and, perhaps, a bit more sloppiness of course) still the same as in primary school.

  26. Imrahil says:

    Dear Phil_NL,

    I beg to disagree.

    We are facing much that has to do with technology, and – if you suffer the quip – that may even be precisely why, if we don’t have the choice to have a thorough technological education (and we haven’t, for school students), less is more and an uneducated overview may be better than half-education. As Chesterton said in a similar vein, “wanted: an unpractical man”. (I’m not going to quote his whole article here…)

    Precisely what does help then to have a view to express, not only to express a view, is a neatly fostered language skill. Not so much, perhaps, than a ground-course in neoscholasticism and the philosophia perennis, but that, sort of, never seems to be part of the debate.

    I don’t, of course, just mean speaking in some foreign tongue, but also constructing it grammar-wise, training your memory vocabulary-wise, and so on. Learning languages does that, learning a rather more logical language such as Latin does so perhaps especially. Also, the language which is called Math may be a very fine instrument much too neglected in school and, especially, much too confused for a mere tool to calculate things which most students fail at. Math is a language.

    Precisely what also helps people to have a view to express is a thorough reading and thinking-through of the classics, be they the Latin ones, Greek ones, Shakespeare and so on. Preferably with a Catechism to measure them, but even the literats alone come probably third place, after “literats plus catechism” and “catechism alone”. And the catechism somehow never seems to be part of the discussion.

    I used this example previously, but how did Heisenberg become Heisenberg? His father was professor for Byzantinistics. He was a boy scout. He went to a grammar school that thought him Latin and Greek thoroughly plus some mathematics, his mother tongue, and probably a bit of English or French, rather probably not both of them. Some few lessons per week on Newtonian physics may have been part of the timetable. The main focus of his school, though, was knowledge of the Ancient Languages.

  27. Giuseppe says:

    Dear Imrahil,
    One stanza in Latin will suffice.

  28. Imrahil says:

    Thanks! all right so I should be fine…

Comments are closed.