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Catholic Schools: Shaped by Communion and Community

To Teach as Jesus Did:

Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

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"Catholic Schools:   Shaped by Communion and Community"


Walk into any Catholic school, remain there for a half hour or a half day, and observe what community looks like.  Experience the feeling of family.  Step onto the grounds of Mount Mary University on the day of the Soles Walk for Catholic Education and know that you’re part of a community.  Experience the feeling of family. 


One of the Defining Characteristics of Catholic Schools, integral to the Catholic Schools Project that includes the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools, is Shaped by Communion and Community.  


For over two hundred years, Catholic schools have been unique and extraordinary educational communities that have integrated students’ faith formation into all their experiences of learning and living (To Teach as Jesus Did, 103).  Today more than ever, each aspect of our Catholic schools—from formal, daily religious instruction and prayer to the teaching of core academic subjects to co-curricular and extra-curricular activities—contributes to the holistic formation of young men and women as disciples of Jesus Christ.


Our Catholic school communities are, in themselves, “schools” that prepare students to be thriving members of wider social communities (Lay Catholics in Schools, 23, 24).  Our students at all levels, K – 16,  are formed spiritually, academically, and socially to become graduates capable of making a positive difference in countless areas of society.  It’s impossible to enumerate the number of Church and civic leaders, both in the past and the present, who trace their educational roots to Catholic schools.


It’s also impossible to overrate the dedication and importance of the teachers, leaders, and staff members in our Catholic schools who take seriously each day their responsibility to be role models of faith, competence, and character for the students in their care.  This exceptional bond between teachers and students is a primary factor that sets our Catholic schools apart and often remains one of the most powerful impacts of Catholic education on graduates throughout their lives.  Just as many of us remember our own teachers long after we have forgotten the specifics of what they taught, students in our Catholic schools today are formed and coached and counseled by women and men who come to know and love them like members of their own families.  This is the Catholic school difference.


Striving to be increasingly shaped by communion and community, I encourage all Catholic school leaders, teachers, and staff in the archdiocese to reflect on the following:

  • Would “See how they love one another” be a likely first response by a visitor to our school? 


  • How are we trying to ensure that each student, each teacher, and each member of our broader school community feel known, cared for, and called by name each day?


  • What are specific practices we might implement to foster greater unity in our school community, perhaps in light of events, decisions, or other circumstances that have been divisive?


  • In what ways—visible and invisible—do our faculty and staff clearly embody this year’s marketing theme, “We teach you like family?”


Have a blessed Feast of All Saints!


Kathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools

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