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Catholic Schools and the "Red Sea"

To Teach as Jesus Did:

Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

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"Catholic Schools and the “Red Sea”"


Some time ago, a visitor to the Cousins Center and her daughter-in-law asked me about our philosophy of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.   They also inquired about reference materials and resources they could access to learn more about why we do what we do in our schools.  Although tempted to turn over various Church documents from my shelves or send them to our website, I stated simply, “We prepare students to be successful in life and to become saints.”  The woman responded graciously, “Thank you.  Truth is almost always that simple.”  I’ve never forgotten that brief but profound conversation.


For the past six years, we’ve celebrated the vibrant ministry of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee through the annual Soles for Catholic Education Walk.  One of my favorite moments each year occurs when I stand on the stage at beautiful Mount Mary University and look out over the massive crowd of parents, students, grandparents, alumni, pastors, principals, teachers, friends, supporters, (and even pets) from every corner of the Archdiocese who come together as one community for several hours that day.  Rain or shine, in cold or heat, we gather to give thanks for the unique and timeless blessings that a Catholic education provides.  Some have characterized this party of red T-shirted friends as a giant family picnic; I think it’s also a very special “homecoming” of believers.


One high school president described waiting and watching for the walk to actually begin from his school’s tent on the Menomonee River Parkway.  “At first it was a trickle,” he said, “and then the red tsunami hit!” 


“Why ‘red’ for the event?” some have asked.  In many ways, it seems like the perfect color to symbolize the renaissance of whole-heartedness, identity, and hope we’re experiencing across the landscape of our Catholic schools at this time in our history.    


Supporters of Catholic education travel to Mount Mary University for this walk from rural areas and from suburbs, from just across 92nd Street and from the heart of Milwaukee, from Sheboygan and Delavan, from Beaver Dam, Fond du Lac, and Racine.  We will be again, on October 20, a microcosm of both our world and our Church, proudly perpetuating the 175-year-old mission of Catholic education in this area of Wisconsin.


Although the “red sea” of people who will gather, walk, laugh, and share stories in suburban Milwaukee on October 20 will look quite different from those who traveled to Catholic schools in the towns and on the hilltops of southeastern Wisconsin in the mid-1800’s, our group that day will be celebrating the fact that the core values and impact of Catholic education have not changed over the past 175 years.  We remain profoundly committed to forming students in the ways of holiness and are immensely grateful for all the saintly men and women who prepared us for this task.   


One of these years, perhaps a band will play “When the Saints go Marching In” as the lead-off tune for the event.  Until then, thanks to everyone who will walk, donate, pledge, pray, volunteer, or support this year’s Soles for Catholic Education Walk in any way. 


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

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