April 17, 2009

Catholic Education Outreach / Kathy Mears and Rob Rash

Mission possible: History and mission of Catholic education

Kathy Mears and Rob RashWho should our Catholic schools serve? Do we teach children because they are Catholic or do we teach them because we are Catholic?

These are some of the questions that archdiocesan educators discuss in “Education 400: History and Mission of Catholic Education,” a college course offered by the archdiocese in a collegial relationship with Marian College in Indianapolis.

The course is designed to assist educators in examining their own mission in Catholic education, and to help them understand the rich educational history of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

“Education 400” provides an avenue for the archdiocese to give teachers and principals a better understanding of the archdiocesan mission of education and evangelization.

Did you know that in 1937, 17 years before the Brown v. Board of Education case that integrated public schools, Bishop Elmer Ritter integrated our Catholic schools in Indianapolis? Were you aware that in 1953 the archdiocese established a special education ministry 21 years before the passing of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act?

Educators who study the history of the archdiocese’s commitment to educational excellence learn about these and other areas in which the archdiocese has been a national leader.

These historical facts point to the educational innovation and excellence that have been hallmarks of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. This knowledge provides our Catholic educators with a source of pride in the work that they continue, and the understanding that others who have gone before them also faced difficulties and were successful.

Educators from our suburban, urban and rural Catholic schools come together to contemplate who our schools serve and to assess the needs of their students. They exchange ideas about the students they teach and various approaches to bring them to a closer relationship with Christ. The educators also grapple with school finances, how the Church supports its Catholic schools, and how the gift of Catholic education is offered throughout the archdiocese.

“Education 400” requires a reflective paper about the educator’s mission in a Catholic school. In addition to writing a personal mission statement, the teachers and principals must explain why they choose to work in our Catholic schools. Their reasons vary, yet common themes emerge.

A desire to provide the best learning environment for their students is significant to our teachers and principals. But even more importantly, after taking “Education 400,” the participants understand that they must continue our legacy of evangelization and educational excellence.

They have a better appreciation that they are serving God by bringing their students to him and by assisting them in developing their own God-given talents. The articulation of the educators’ mission inevitably supports the educational mission of the Church, which is to teach as Jesus did.

“Education 400: History and Mission of Catholic Education” provides an avenue for Catholic educators to learn about their archdiocesan faith community and colleagues. Through the class, educators are affirmed in their decision to teach in a Catholic school and they realize what a privilege it is to teach for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

(Kathy Mears is associate director of Schools, Learning Resources, and Rob Rash is associate director of Schools, Administrative Personnel and Professional Development for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education.)

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