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New Models for a Timeless Mission

To Teach as Jesus Did:

Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

August 26, 2015




“New Models for a Timeless Mission”

For over 170 years, the mission of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been to successfully prepare students for this life and for eternity.  For most of that history, the structure of Catholic elementary schools, here and elsewhere, was a single parish – single school model.  The commitment of religious Sisters, who served Catholic schools for almost no recompense, largely accounted for the feasibility and effectiveness of these parochial schools into the mid-1960’s. 

Since that time, shifting demographics and the escalating school-related costs resulting from fewer religious serving in Catholic schools have prompted leaders in Catholic education to explore new ways of sustaining the important ministry of Catholic education nationwide.  In our archdiocese, more than twenty years ago, thought-pioneers in such geographic areas as Fond du Lac, Beaver Dam, and Waukesha reimagined Catholic schooling and created new systemic structures to support its essential components while also producing efficiencies and the responsible stewardship of resources through intentional collaboration.

Similarly, over the years since then, a number of other Catholic school consolidations and mergers throughout the archdiocese were created.  In fact, of our 97 elementary schools today, 24 are the result of some type of merger or consolidation.

Forecasting into the future, we anticipate that some, if not many, single or “stand alone” parochial schools may continue to thrive, particularly in areas of strong population growth.  In general, however, rising costs and stronger collaborative efforts are leading parishes and schools in many areas of the archdiocese to ask, “How might we do this better?”

In recent weeks we have announced two important and exciting initiatives directly related to Catholic schools’ collaboration and systematization.  First, the pastors of all the Catholic parishes in Racine and the Racine Dominicans have unanimously agreed to work together to form a PreK – 12 Catholic school system for that region that will include St. Catherine High School.   Their commitment, the outcome of extensive study, discussion, and planning, is intended to ensure that Catholic education in Racine is affordable, accessible, and viable for future generations.  

Likewise, we have been meeting over the summer with various groups from the Milwaukee urban Catholic educational community, beginning with pastors and principals, to provide details about Seton Catholic Schools.  This undertaking, led by archdiocesan and local leaders, will create, over the next four years, an elementary Catholic school system for 26 schools in the city of Milwaukee aimed at improving both the quality and the efficiency of those schools. 

It’s important to note that, in both Racine and Milwaukee, the new models of Catholic education are intended to preserve the individual identity, history, and uniqueness of each school, while maximizing the impact of collective strength. 

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, in both situations we’re committed to a vision of transforming urban education in such a way that families, neighborhoods, and cities are better for the presence, the outreach, and the faith-based values of our Catholic schools. 

If not this, what should we all be about?

Have a blessed school year!

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

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