BALTIMORE—Catholic schools provide "lasting faith formation,vocations to the religious life and priesthood, high educational attainments,and communities of the New Evangelization," and should reach out to Latinocommunities and other underserved populations as part of the Church's missionto preach the Gospel, said two U.S. bishops in a presentation to the FallGeneral Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), November10. Archbishop George J. Lucas of Omaha, Nebraska, chairman of the USCCBCommittee on Catholic Education, and Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville,Texas, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Diversity in the Church, gave thepresentation.
"The New Evangelization calls us to open up an invitingspace where God's grace can take hold and bear fruit, to welcome the Spirit inways that support conversion, touch the heart, and inspire," said ArchbishopLucas. He added that Catholic schools operate as communities rather thanbureaucracies and that the results are higher levels of student engagement andachievement. He noted that 99 percent of students who attend Catholic highschool graduate, that 87 percent of Catholic high school graduates go on toattend a four-year college and that, according to the National Assessment ofEducational Progress, Latino and African American students attending a Catholicschool are more likely to graduate from high school and college.
"Welcoming more children from diverse populations in ourCatholic Schools, and particularly making an effort to reach out to underservedcommunities, is important for the future of Catholic schools and of ourChurch," said Bishop Flores. He said reaching out to families in diversecommunities is in keeping with the call of Pope Francis in his apostolicexhortation, EvangeliiGaudium.
Bishop Flores noted there is no parish school system in LatinAmerica and that Catholic schools "are usually private, and often unaffordable"to most families. "Parents do not know how to access the system, think theycost a lot of money and, without much further consideration, discard even thethought of inquiring," he said. He encouraged bilingual staff and othercultural training to bridge the gap and build relationships with Latinocommunities.
Bishop Flores cited a 2014 Boston College study, which found thatthe larger the number of Latino parishioners, the less likely that communityhad a responsibility for a school. It also found that Catholic schools are lessavailable in areas where the Catholic population has grown the most, mostlythanks to Latinos, in the South and the West. Major initiatives by bishops,superintendents, pastors and principals to provide consistent culturalcompetency training and financial investments have produced positive results.The percentage of Latino children enrolled in Catholic schools in the UnitedStates has grown from 12.8 percent to 15 percent over the last four years. "Theneedle is moving in the right direction, even if slowly," Bishop Flores said.
Keywords: Fall General Assembly, November meeting, U.S. Conference of CatholicBishops, USCCB, Baltimore, Cultural Diversity in the Church, CatholicEducation, Archbishop George J. Lucas, Bishop Daniel E. Flores, bilingual,underserved communities, Latinos, enrollment, Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium
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