Welcome to the Good News About Catholic Schools

A Message from Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.

BISHOP DAVID M. O’CONNELL, C.M.

Catholic schools want our kids to have it all

“Back to School!” You see the signs everywhere reminding us that it’s that time again. Although they may protest a bit, kids are usually eager to see their friends again after a few months’ absence and get back into their familiar routines.  Parents are probably less inclined to “protest.” In so many ways, our society, including businesses, revolves around the notion of “the school year,” with September as the month for gearing up and moving forward.

In the Diocese of Trenton, we distribute posters and ads with the mantra “Catholic Schools Have it All.”  True enough. That’s what we believe.  In addition to the “three Rs” of education everywhere, a Catholic education provides a deeper grounding in faith that builds on the foundation of faith set in the Catholic family home. Like anything worthwhile, the effort to create a faith environment in the Catholic school takes its cue from the way faith is lived and practiced at home. Practiced … that’s the key word. For our Catholic faith to take root, it needs fertile soil. The plants are there and ready – aka, our kids – but the ground must be ready to receive them, too, as their faith is nurtured by good catechesis in the sunlight of the Gospel!

Catholic schools do a great job in educating the entire young person entrusted to their care. The studies and statistics clearly establish that as fact. The question I raise as Bishop, along with those who administer and teach in our Catholic schools is this: Why don’t more parents take advantage of the proven positive results of a Catholic education?

At a time when education, in general, is promoted and prized throughout American society, our Catholic schools are steadily declining in enrollments – that’s a sad fact. As a lifelong Catholic educator who now, as Bishop, is responsible for our system of Catholic education throughout the Diocese of Trenton, I am deeply concerned about the future of Catholic schools here. People say they want Catholic schools but the declining numbers in our schools just don’t support that. 

The issue is not one of quality. Our Catholic schools provide an excellent, well-rounded education as is evidenced by the number of “Blue Ribbon of Excellence Awards” our Catholic schools in the Diocese regularly receive from the US Department of Education. Quality is not the problem. The problem is one of quantity – numbers. With declining enrollments each year come declining revenues. There’s no other way to say it. Catholic education is wonderful but it’s not free.  With fewer kids “in the seats” and the annually escalating costs involved in educating them always before us, the challenge becomes one of sustainability. Many of our Catholic schools just can’t pay their bills and their continued operations are at risk. Despite the good they do, they have become insurmountable financial burdens on parishes already “squeezing every nickel” to meet their other needs and responsibilities. The Diocese has made valiant efforts to help out – most often without any fanfare or notice or acknowledgment– but it does not have infinite, unlimited resources. It, too, has other needs and responsibilities to fulfill in the Church.  For me and I am sure for many, when a decision is made to close any Catholic school, it is agonizing.  Unfortunately, some few such decisions are on the horizon.

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THE BUZZ

  • We are proud to be part of a school community. No priest ever wants to close a school. We try to do whatever we can to promote a Catholic environment … The school is part of a greater whole, and makes a strong parish. Families entrust their children to us, we educate the whole child.

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    Father Christopher Picollo
    Pastor, St. Katharine of Drexel Parish, Burlington
  • Most people believe in Catholic education, and we do not have a heavy burden here. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to lighten the burden for parents.

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    Msgr. Gregory D. Vaughan
    Pastor, St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel and former vicar general, moderator of the curia and director of vocations for the Diocese
  • A Catholic education provides a deeper grounding in faith that builds on the foundation of faith set in the Catholic family home.” 

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    Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M.
    Tenth Bishop of Trenton
  • “Catholic schools exist to teach students about God and to integrate the faith in all areas of the curriculum. The faith-life of students will be supported as enhanced curriculum guidelines immerse the teachings of the Gospel into all subjects providing resources for faculty implementation.”

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    JoAnn Tier
    Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Diocese of Trenton
  • “Just as challenges to healthy Catholic schools increase with each passing year, so, too, must the number of priests and parishes who are willing to champion them. ”

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    Rayanne Bennett
    Associate Publisher, The Monitor; Executive Director of Communications
  • “We educate the mind, body and spirit of our students,” she said. “The academic rigor, opportunity for Christian service and co-curricular activities are top notch. Receiving a Catholic education gives the student the whole package.”

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    Joanna Barlow
    Principal, Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceveille
  • “God calls us all, and creates destinies for some; what your vocation will be later, we don’t know yet. Your calling right now is to be students at St. Peter’s, to learn. Someday you will find out what your vocation is, and it will be your calling.”

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    Conventual Franciscan Father Richard Rossell
    Parochial vicar, St. Peter Parish, Point Pleasant Beach, speaking to students during the school's vocation day as part of Catholic Schools Week
  • “We gather with Catholic schools from from all over the country to celebrate the freedom we have to worship and to give thanks to God for the opportunity to learn in a community of faith.”

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    Dr. Edward Gere
    Principal, Donovan Catholic High School, Toms River
  • “Jesus Christ is the center of our Catholic educational program; Jesus is its heart, and Jesus is its enlightenment, knowledge and saving grace of the world that enables our students to truly make a difference.”

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    Father Gabriel J. Zeis
    Vicar for Catholic Education, Diocese of Trenton