Bishop Edward Malesic is announcing the start of a new initiative to ensure that high quality, vibrant Catholic elementary schools will be accessible and as affordable as possible to all. The announcement coincides with the celebration of Catholic Schools Week, Jan. 31 to Feb. 7.
“Keeping the Faith: The Future of Catholic Elementary Schools” evolved from a think tank created in 2019 by former Cleveland bishop and now Philadelphia Archbishop Nelson Perez to examine and recommend was to strengthen all aspects of youth ministry.
“Since coming to the Diocese of Cleveland this past fall, I have come to see that one of our greatest treasures is our Catholic school system,” Bishop Malesic said. There are 87 elementary schools and 20 high schools that educate more than 37,000 students throughout the eight-county diocese.
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Bishop Malesic said it is important to focus on the diocesan Catholic schools. “Without a doubt, this is a very important youth ministry of our diocese,” he said.
Aware of shifting demographics, enrollment challenges and a desire for a renewed vision for Catholic education here, Archbishop Perez convened the think tank, which emphasized the need for a plan for Catholic schools in the diocese as well as the need to address several areas of concern ranging from governance and finance to efforts to offer high quality, vibrant Catholic schools accessible to all.
Although the pandemic and Archbishop Perez’s transfer caused a slowdown in the process, Bishop Malesic said the strategic planning process, “Keeping the Faith,” is moving forward once again.
He created a task force consisting of about 50 members that is charged with creating a plan with objectives, strategies and tactics to keep elementary schools in the diocese grounded in the Catholic faith, academically excellent and as widely available and affordable as possible. Task force members represent a cross section of the diocese: clergy, school staff, diocesan staff, members of the business community and experts in education.
“The hope is that this plan will serve as a model that can be used to strengthen our Catholic high school system and guide our Parish Schools of Religion, Youth Ministry and Adult Faith Formation programs,” Bishop Malesic said. “The education and Christian formation of our youth is the responsibility of all of us, and this also must include our common support of our Catholic schools.”
He said the initiative is not about closing schools, merging them or suggesting major reconfiguration throughout the diocese, but acknowledged some of these thigs may happen naturally as part of the process.
“I believe that we can create something that allows Catholic schools to be viable, accessible and vibrant for those who want them to be the best option for their children’s education and Christian formation,” the bishop added. He said the task force would use the guiding principles of strong mission, multiple models, subsidiarity, parish and diocesan support, parental choice and innovation in creating the plan. Among the topics to be examined – and recommendations made to strengthen – are quality and Catholicity, leadership, data systems, finances, governance, marketing and communications.
“We will work to create an atmosphere within the Diocese of Cleveland that emphasizes the relationship of our Catholic elementary schools to each other rather than one that encourages unhealthy competition among them,” Bishop Malesic said.
“Considering this treasured heritage and shifting context, I, and leaders of Catholic schools in the diocese believe it is the right time to reflect deeply and creatively on the vision, strategy and operational norms of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Cleveland, to deepen and renew the commitment to our mission and to chart a course for the future of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Cleveland,” the bishop said. “We look forward to sharing with you in the coming months and years our plans to ‘Keep the Faith’ with a secure and strong future for our Catholic schools.”
The task force will present the bishop with a strategic plan for Catholic elementary schools by May 2022. After reviewing the plan with additional consultation, he hopes to implement the plan in the 2022-2023 school year.