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Why Catholic? Meet Bishop Edward C. Malesic
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Pastors, principals, business managers share thoughts at Keeping the Faith listening session

News of the Diocese

November 24, 2021

Pastors, principals, business managers share thoughts at Keeping the Faith listening session
Pastors, principals, business managers share thoughts at Keeping the Faith listening session
Pastors, principals, business managers share thoughts at Keeping the Faith listening session
Pastors, principals, business managers share thoughts at Keeping the Faith listening session
Pastors, principals, business managers share thoughts at Keeping the Faith listening session
Pastors, principals, business managers share thoughts at Keeping the Faith listening session

Nearly 300 pastors, principals and business managers from across the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland participated in a listening session Nov. 23 as part of Keeping the Faith. The initiative, launched by Bishop Edward Malesic during Catholic Schools Week in February, is charged with creating a strategic plan for the future of Catholic elementary schools. The task force includes Father John Betters, pastor of SS. Robert and William and St. John of the Cross parishes in Euclid; Frank O’Linn, superintendent of schools; members of the bishop’s senior staff and experts in the field of education.

The listening sessions, which will gather input from a variety of constituencies across the diocese, are a major step in the process. Once the six sessions end in late January, input will be compiled, reviewed and analyzed so a strategic plan can be developed and given to the bishop in mid-2022. He will review the plan, which he said he hopes to approve so it can be implemented.

Father Don Oleksiak, led the group in prayer before Bishop Malesic shared his thoughts on the process.

“Catholic education is probably the most comprehensive and complex ministry we undertake,” the bishop said. While moving forward to create the vision and strategy for the future of the local Catholic schools, “We must balance the consideration of other ministries and demands on our resources that remain priorities alongside our commitment to Catholic education,” he added.

There are 87 Catholic elementary schools and 20 Catholic high schools that educate more than 37,000 students in grades K-12 throughout the diocese.

“Without a doubt, educating our children in a Catholic environment is one of the most important things we do as Catholics. And you are all doing this amid rising costs, staffing issues, constant changing regulations and the division and anger that is permeating society. This is a true witness to the faith and perseverance of all of you. For that, I am personally most grateful,” Bishop Malesic told the gathering.

There have been many accomplishments to celebrate in the diocesan schools and there is a solid foundation upon which to build he said, but acknowledged there also are challenges, including limited resources, aging infrastructure, smaller family sizes, high rates of disaffiliation, quality public schools with newer facilities and the need to attend to other pastoral ministries. As a path to the future is charted for the schools, the bishop said, “We must be open to new and bold approaches to respond to the challenges of this time.”

But there also are opportunities, including a powerful legacy growing availability of public financing, increasing lay leadership, committed parents, enterprising leaders at the local and diocesan level and a powerful commitment in the diocese to preserving and renewing Catholic education. “We have many assets and reasons for hope,” he added.

The bishop said the following four principles should be part of the plan:

  • The schools are essential centers of evangelization and means of forming missionary disciples.
  • The schools are the responsibility of the entire Catholic community.
  • Diocesan leaders must lead with zeal and without fear, being proactive and strategic, embracing transparency, communication and support,
  • We are one body in Christ with a diversity of gifts and talents.

The goal is to create a vibrant Catholic school system that is affordable and accessible to every family in the diocese who desires a Catholic education for their children. The ideas presented at the listening session focus on strong mission, multiple models, subsidiarity, parish and diocesan support, parental choice and innovation.

“The time is now for us to rise to the challenge ahead and together create a path forward that will not only strengthen our schools, but revitalize our parishes and diocesan Church, as well. I have every confidence that we can do this under the guidance of our Lord, Jesus Christ,” the bishop said, adding that the Catholic schools “are a treasure. Never lose sight of this.”

O’Linn said schools in the diocese mirror those across the country, with a decline in enrollment overall. Enrollment this year is nearly identical to last year, he added, noting that is a sign of hope.

Father Betters said there is much energy behind the initiative and he urged the group to look at it strategically, emphasizing that the points being shared at the meeting are only proposals at this point and their input is needed to recognize the challenges and benefits of the ideas.

In previous meetings, each of the committees presented a few suggested change ideas, which were shared and discussed during the listening session. The committees are Catholic identity and quality; academic quality; finance; governance; leadership and talent; data systems and marketing and communications.

There will be additional in-person listening sessions for vowed religious, parish finance and parish councils, teachers, parents and parishioners, as well as a virtual session.

In closing, Bishop Malesic said he “trusts in the Holy Spirit to continue to guide us, lead us and give us courage to form our own hearts to bring us closer to your Son.”

Click here for more information on Keeping the Faith.

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