“Never, ever, ever, ever bet against…Catholic education”

That was the message former Catholic school administrator John James gave to an audience at St. Louis University on January 17, 2014:

John James“Never, ever, ever, ever bet against the Catholic Church or Catholic education. That is a fool’s bet. When the chips are the lowest, that is exactly when the game-changer happens.”

Demographic shifts, changing attitudes, leadership issues and finances are driving the struggles, he noted. However, James said, Catholic education has always faced these problems and has endured. He cited several instances.

In the early 1800s, Bishop Benedict Flaget of Bardstown, Ky., came to visit St. Louis and reported indifference among Catholics and a Church “in total disrepair.” Bishop Louis DuBourg arrived in St. Louis and cited an extreme personnel challenge. But he successfully recruited religious in Europe to come here and turned things around.

In the early 20th century, many of the women religious who staffed the schools had little or no training. But again, the challenge was met and they were trained. By 1972, a massive departure of religious orders from teaching was under way and even more predicted to leave in the next decade. Worries were expressed that lay teachers would not be able to fill the gap.

“Crisis is part of our DNA as Catholic schools,” James said. “While we do have some present challenges, we ought not be too afraid.”

Read the rest of the article at the St. Louis Review.


Deacon Nick

Nick Senger, founder and editor of Catholic School Chronicle, is an award-winning Catholic school teacher, vice principal and technology coordinator. He is a deacon for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane.

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