Thursday, January 31, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 31

1. The USCCB Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development has endorsed the principles of a national campaign to end the practice of sentencing people under the age of 18 to life in prison without the possibility of parole. "While there is no question that violent and dangerous youth need to be confined for their safety and that of society, the USCCB does not support provisions that treat children as though they are equal to adults in their moral and cognitive development," said Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, California, chairman of the committee. "Life sentences without parole eliminate the opportunity for rehabilitation or second chances."

2. Everyone's talking about the Super Bowl this week.  USSCB Social Media Specialist Matt Palmer used to cover the Ravens. He blogs about how Catholic education prepared him for the NFL and working in the Catholic Church.

3. One of the major problems facing cities that host Super Bowls is human trafficking. Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans is taking a lead role in addressing the problem this week. In a new public service announcement, he says, "Human trafficking really is a modern day slavery and it is a power evil."

Watch the PSA now:

4.  Sports and God continue to intersect in popular culture. A Public Religion Research Institute study found that "nearly 3-in-10 Americans" think God plays a role in the outcome of a game. New Orleans Saints fans should be thinking they have the inside track every year with a name like that.

5. God loves you.

Catholic schools provide ‘Super’ journey

Around the country, the Catholic Church is celebrating Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27-Feb. 2. During the week, the USCCB blog will feature entries from people who reflect on how their lives were and are impacted by Catholic education. Today, USSCB Social Media Specialist Matt Palmer shares how Catholic schools prepared him for covering the NFL and now working in the Catholic Church.

Matt Palmer interviews former Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick

By Matt Palmer

Super Bowl Sunday coincides with Catholic Schools Week. For many people, they might not seem to have anything to do with one another. 

For me, it makes perfect sense. This Sunday, the Baltimore Ravens will take on the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL’s championship game. Five years ago, I walked away from my job as a reporter covering the Ravens to consider other career opportunities. Told as an early teen I was too small to play the game, I decided at 14 to become a journalist instead. It became my singular focus to be an NFL reporter and, by 2006, my dream was realized.

With the newspaper I was working for in flux, I decided to walk away and, at the age of 30, was unsure of where to turn. Throughout my career, I had pushed the boundaries with Internet reporting and blogs. My mother encouraged me to try something new: writing for Baltimore’s diocesan newspaper.

I grew up in a home where the Catholic newspaper was a staple.  I’d flip to Catholic News Service’s movie reviews, while my mom kept up with the latest from the archdiocese. Our family was connected to our parish almost every day of the week. My siblings and I attended its school and I was an altar server. Yet it never occurred to me that one day I would work in or around the Church.

During my years at the Catholic Review in Baltimore, I found the transition relatively easy. So much of what I learned in Catholic schools aided in my reporting. I took a nearly rabid interest in social media while there and became convinced that using tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and audio players were crucial in sharing the message and growing audiences.

What has become apparent to me during my career in secular newspapers, Catholic newspapers and, now, social media is that my Catholic school experience paved the way for everything. Even though I grew up in the pre-Internet 1980s and early 1990s, my teachers at St. Jerome and DeMatha Catholic High School helped sculpt the whole person. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at St. Jerome empowered us to share our Catholic faith in the world and to care for our neighbor. The Trinitarians at all-boys DeMatha taught us to be “gentlemen and scholars.”

There was one thread through it all: we were raised with discipline, strength, conviction and in the values of the Catholic faith. Those orders taught us to accept change and grow as people.  

One image remains with me more than any other from the spring 1996 day I graduated from DeMatha. As I walked down the aisle clutching my diploma, I locked eyes with my mother and waved enthusiastically. Her eyes were were wet with tears. It hit home how much the moment meant to her, as she was also a product of Catholic schools. Mom worked as many as three jobs during my high school days. She’d often come home after midnight exhausted. Seven hours later, she’d get up again and take us to school. 

She went to extraordinary lengths to send us to Catholic schools because she believed we would be better people for it.

When I graduated from DeMatha in 1996, my classmates voted me the most likely to return and teach. I  laughed, but they were right in a way. Even though I haven’t returned there as a teacher, I’m in teaching, through the media that informs and can influence for good. Working with church media has the added benefit of letting me spread the faith in the marketplace of ideas and even to people who might not get to church when they should.   

As the Ravens take the field for Super Bowl Sunday, it’ll be impossible not to think about my former life covering them and my professional journey since then, all enabled by my Catholic school education.

And, as a Catholic school graduate I’ll also do something else I was schooled in – pray for safety and good sportsmanship on the field.

Matt Palmer joined the USCCB staff in 2012 as its social media specialist.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 30

1. Yesterday January 29 the U.S. Bishops on January 29 filed amicus briefs in the United States Supreme Court in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California's Proposition 8, both of which confirm the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. At the heart of their argument, "there is no fundamental right to marry a person of the same sex." The brief also states that "as defined by courts 'sexual orientation' is not a classification that should trigger heightened scrutiny," such as race or ethnicity would.

2. It's Catholic Schools Week and  Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, chairman of the USCCB's Committee said Catholic schools continue to play an important role in society. "Catholic schools are centers for the New Evangelization for families of a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and diverse cultures," said Bishop McFadden of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "The unique atmosphere of our Catholic schools is a space and place where the New Evangelization can reach out to parents and children in a way that is respectful of the human person, presents the teachings of the Church, and supports family life." 

3. Speaking of Catholic Schools Week: During the week, the USCCB blog is featuring entries from people who reflect on how their lives were and are impacted by Catholic education. Today, Jim Rigg, Ph.D of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati says Catholic schools are on the rise.

4. With Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent just two weeks away, the U.S. Bishops are promoting participation among Catholics in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There has been increased focus around the country in preaching about the gift of forgiveness and thousands of people have found the confessional light is still on for them.

5. God loves you.

Catholic School Expansion in the Year of Faith

Around the country, the Catholic Church is celebrating Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27-Feb. 2. During the week, the USCCB blog will feature entries from people who reflect on how their lives were and are impacted by Catholic education. Today, Jim Rigg, Ph.D of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati says Catholic schools are on the rise.

By Jim Rigg, Ph.D.

Catholic schools are thriving as we embrace Pope Benedict’s declaration of the “Year of Faith” and instill new energy and passion into Catholic schools. As superintendent, I  recognize many challenges that have faced our schools over the last decades. Nationally, enrollment has declined and many schools have shut their doors. In spite of this, I see a new momentum behind Catholic education and a willingness to innovate and think strategically for the future.
In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, this year we unveiled a comprehensive strategic plan entitled “Lighting the Way: A Vision for Catholic Schools.” This Vision introduces dozens of initiatives designed to provide new support and accountability in the areas of Catholic identity, academic excellence, leadership, finances, marketing and governance. Most importantly, this Vision represents a renewal of support for Catholic schools and a commitment to provide a top-notch, authentically Catholic education for all who wish to come.
Our plan is not unique. Countrywide, schools, dioceses, universities and other groups are working similarly. Their efforts vary in design but are replete with energy, inspiration and innovation. I see the church embracing our schools like never before and making certain that they remain central to the wider mission of evangelization.
Several examples of this phenomenon stand out. Last year, the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools was released. The document, which emerged from the work of educators from primary settings to higher education, conveys clear, aggressive expectations for successful Catholic schools. They encompass such areas as Catholic identity, academics and operational success. Simultaneously, an effort has begun to integrate Catholic identity with the emerging Common Core standards, a national movement to infuse our teaching with new rigor.
U.S. Catholic schools are experimenting with new models of instruction, such as blended learning or STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, and Medicine). One successful school in Cincinnati stands as a global magnet school, where students take multiple foreign languages, travel overseas as part of their education and experience global awareness in every class.
Catholic schools continue to fully embrace a mission to the underprivileged. In many cities, urban Catholic school enrollment is growing exponentially. The number of Latino students is increasing. Success rates in serving the poor, as measured by religious and academic data, remains far above other schools. We are breaking the cycle of poverty.
Most significantly, we are experiencing a renewal of the evangelizing mission of Catholic education. Our schools must live and breathe the Catholic faith, no matter the school population.  We are commissioned to spread the Good News of Christ to the next generation, and our schools are finding new ways to engage students in a changing world.
Nevertheless, Catholic schools are not without substantial challenges. The economics of running a Catholic school are complex. However, there is growing support for Catholic education, punctuated by innovative and forward-thinking efforts by educators, parents and supporters. Catholic school education has always been blessed by God. As we move toward a new future, I know God will continue to bless our endeavors as we build schools filled with faith.
Jim Rigg, Ph.D. is Director of Educational Services and Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 29.

1. The Pope will have a full schedule with Holy Week and Easter liturgies, according to Catholic News Service. A little more than two weeks after Easter Sunday, on April 16, he will turn 86.

2.  We continue our Catholic Schools Week blog series with an entry by Sister Dale McDonald, PBVM, PhD, who explains the "why" of Catholic schools. She says, "Catholic schools make a significant contribution to society by educating millions of students who will advance the nation’s fundamental goal of developing a “good society” that values the worth and dignity of the human person.

3. Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, chairman of the USSCB's Committee on Migration, welcomed principles set forth by a group of eight U.S. Senators as a blueprint for reform of our nation's immigration system. The Church has been a leader in pushing for bi-partisan immigration reform.
 "A reformed system can protect human dignity and the homeland at the same time," Archbishop Gomez said.

4. The annual Collection to Aid the Church in Central and Eastern Europe will be held in most parishes February 13, Ash Wednesday. The collection supports pastoral, educational and construction projects in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia formerly under Soviet control.

5. God loves you.

The Why of Catholic Schools

Around the country, the Catholic Church is celebrating Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27-Feb. 2. During the week, the USCCB blog will feature entries from people who reflect on how their lives were and are impacted by Catholic education. Today, Sister Dale McDonald, PBVM, PhD explains the "why" of Catholic schools.

By Sister Dale McDonald, PBVM, PhD

Three essential reasons underscore the why of Catholic schools.

The first is family. Catholic schools collaborate with parents, who are the primary educators of their children. The schools focus on faith and values as families struggle to raise their children in the diverse and often immoral context of modern society.  Within the school, students can nurture spiritual and moral values not only in religion classes but also throughout the entire curriculum and within extracurricular activities.

Catholic schools offer a broad-based curriculum with outstanding academics, community service, and the opportunity to foster personal human growth and development in an atmosphere where faith and culture are integrated into the school climate and culture. The schools foster community, an understanding of the importance of service to others, and a commitment to living one’s faith each day.

Catholic schools work with parents to develop students’ self- awareness of their value and the contributions their personal gifts make to creating a more just society.  The schools help parents realize their aspirations for their children: to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary for success in higher education, fulfilling careers and a meaningful life.

The second is Church. Catholic schools are integral to the Church’s mission of evangelization, spreading the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Pope Benedict XVI during his meeting with Catholic educators at The Catholic University of America during his 2008 visit to the United States stated clearly: “First and foremost, every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth."

The Catholic school is essential for the future of the church.  A 2005 study by CARA (Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate) found that Catholic education makes a difference.  The survey demonstrated that Catholic school graduates are notably different from Catholic children not in parochial schools in four important areas: 1) fidelity to Sunday Mass and a keener sense of prayer; 2) maintaining pro-life attitudes, especially on the pivotal topic of abortion; 3) the personal consideration of a religious vocation and 4) continued support for the local church and community, both financially and through service projects, for the balance of their adult lives.

Today’s youth must prepare to be a source of energy and leadership in the church.  Where better can that happen than in a Catholic school where on a daily basis students live their faith and grow in their responsibilities as Christians?

The third is society. Catholic schools challenge students to improve the world by sharing Gospel values and living Christ’s message so as to foster the common good of the nation. 

Catholic schools offer a community environment in which students experience and live the values upon which their education is based. They are encouraged to contribute to society and to assume leadership roles in shaping public attitudes and public policies and contribute their time and talent to promoting social justice.

Catholic schools make a significant contribution to society by educating millions of students who will advance the nation’s fundamental goal of developing a “good society” that values the worth and dignity of the human person.
Sister Dale McDonald, PBVM, PhD is director of public policy and educational research at the National Catholic Educational Association.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Five Things To Remember On Jan. 28

1. Around the country, the Catholic Church is celebrating Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27-Feb. 2. During the week, the USCCB blog will feature entries from people who reflect on how their lives were, and continue to be, impacted by Catholic education. Today, Fran and Betty Contino share why they invest in Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, Maryland.

2. Some media outlets have estimated that more than 500,000 people participated in the annual March for Life in Washington Jan. 25. It was, once again, a reflection of a passion for life among young people, despite snow and freezing temperatures. The increasing power of social media was on display again as #marchforlife was trending on Twitter and photos filled social network feeds throughout the weekend.

3. Speaking of technology: Have you downloaded The Pope App?  The brand new app has photos, videos, events and even webcams. Download it on your iPhone and iPad today.

4. This week brings the conclusion of Poverty Awareness Month. Today, the USCCB is encouraging people to pray for an issue they are concerned about. People can use the prayers from the U.S. bishops on topics like work, peace, immigration, and care for creation.

5. God loves you.

Why We Support Catholic Education

Around the country, the Catholic Church is celebrating Catholic Schools Week Jan. 27-Feb. 2. During the week, the USCCB blog will feature entries from people who reflect on how their lives were and are impacted by Catholic education. Today, Fran and Betty Contino share why they invest in Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, Maryland.

By Fran and Betty Contino

Fran: As a student of Our Lady of Pompei Parish School in Baltimore City’s Highlandtown community, I found inclusion and protection within the Catholic school. It gave me a sense of security that was enhanced at Calvert Hall College High School, where my life was permanently transformed academically and spiritually by the Christian Brothers. Knowing what I received from my Catholic education prompted me to become a backer of Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a new Catholic college prep high school educating boys and girls from some of Baltimore City’s most challenged neighborhoods. The school  is part of the Cristo Rey Network, comprised of 25 Catholic high schools across the country that prepare low-income, urban students for success in college through a rigorous program of high-quality academics and real-world work experience. We all need the sense of security that can be rooted in solid elementary and secondary school education. I wanted to help others find the secure comfort I found in Catholic schools.
            Betty: I attended a Catholic elementary school and pretty much sailed through my public  high school with good grades. I turned out okay, but the benefits of Catholic education became apparent only a few years ago when I became involved with children who had no way out of troubled environments. I saw what happened when they received a quality education in a protected atmosphere where they could focus and not sit tensely waiting for another bad shoe to drop. They found a sense of peace and accomplishment. From working with homeless people for about 15 years I came to realize the best way to assist children was through education, which seems like the only place kids can obtain an almost-level playing field.
            Together:  Our support for Catholic schools also comes from our belief in the power of God’s love. In the Catholic schools we find that God is not only acknowledged by the school but that children are encouraged to include Him in their lives. They learn beyond what the secular world offers— there are moral standards. The Ten Commandments are real, not fiction. This immeasurable benefit can provide a child with hope in times of uncertainty, a hope that lasts. Being surrounded with teachers and administrators who can freely reference the Bible and how it applies to daily life supports a child’s behavioral development. It is no secret that children want rules and boundaries. They need them to feel safe. 
            Catholic education holds out high standards for teachers and students; Catholic education goes way beyond the three R’s. It is transformational with change that begins in kindergarten. Catholic schools set youth on a path to become morally and spiritually strong, to respect others, to be of service and to become the best that they can be academically. They also help them to become role models of responsible and accountable citizens and ultimately, productive and contributing members of their local community and the world at large. This kind of formation occurs best in a Catholic school, especially for youth from disadvantaged and financially strapped communities. Cristo Rey schools help students to cope, strive and compete in the world about them. As we looked for ways to make a difference, contributing to a Catholic school became an obvious choice for us.
Fran and Betty Contino are members of the Catholic Community of St. Francis Xavier in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Fran serves on the board of trustees of Baltimore’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, and Betty is the leadership chair of Women’s Education Alliance, which provides scholarships to Catholic schools for disadvantaged children in Baltimore City.