Luncheon Address by
Bishop Bernard J. Harrington
Chair, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops? Committee on Education
Sept. 14, 2005
CONFERENCE ON CATHOLIC EDUCATION
THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA
SEPTEMBER 14, 2005
Father O?Connell, I want to thank you for your kind invitation to speak about the Bishops? recent statement Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium. I am delighted that I am able to be with you today.
An additional word of thanks to Mr. Hanna and the Solidarity Association for sponsoring this symposium on Catholic education.
Finally a word of welcome to Archbishop Miller, Secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, who will address this gathering this afternoon.
In the spring of 2001, the Superintendents of the twelve dioceses with the largest number of Catholic school students submitted a proposal to the USCCB?s Committee on Education requesting that the Committee begin the process which would ultimately lead to the development of a new statement by the Bishops of the United States that would renew their commitment, as well as that of the entire Catholic community, to the availability, affordability, and accessibility of Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the third millennium.
The rationale for the proposal was based on a number of issues, which include, but were not limited to:
The Committee on Education considered the request, the issues to be covered, and the potential audience at its meetings in June 2001 and again in January and June of 2002. An action item to begin drafting a new statement was approved unanimously at both the September meeting of the USCCB?S Administrative Committee and the November General Assembly in 2002.
It is important to note that the Bishops made a clear recommendation that any new statement was to be ?brief and focused.?
Consultants, drawn from a variety of USCCB offices and from practitioners on both the elementary and secondary levels from around the country, were invited to meet and make recommendations on the structure and content of the statement.
The Committee reviewed a conceptual outline in June, 2003. A first draft was reviewed in January 2004. A second draft was reviewed in June 2004. A third draft was circulated to all bishops for comment and amendment in September 2004. In January 2005, the Committee reviewed all the suggested revisions submitted by the Bishops. At this same meeting the Committee approved an action item for the March Administrative Committee meeting asking approval to put the statement on the agenda of the June 2005 General Assembly in Chicago. All Bishops had the opportunity to submit additional amendments prior to the meeting in Chicago and again during that meeting.
After reviewing all the suggested revisions, the body of Bishops voted 224 to 10 to approve the publication of the statement on Friday, June 17, 2005.
In the statement the Bishops state that now is the time to ?revisit and re-affirm? their commitment to our Catholic elementary and secondary schools and call on the ?entire Catholic community to join in this critical endeavor.?
The Bishops review why these schools are important, what has happened since their last statement in 1990, and the continuing good news about these schools.
The Bishops then address four challenges that they believe need to be addressed and offer a number of specific recommendations in each of the following areas:
The Bishops then proceeded to suggest four future actions for themselves, their educational leaders, community leaders, leaders of colleges and universities, and the general Catholic community. These include:
The Bishops also suggest three actions for the USCCB?s Committee on Education and its staff. All of these are intended to assist the implementation of the statements on the local and national level and include:
The statement concludes with a reminder of the critical importance of these schools and how essential it is to ensure that these schools, despite many financial difficulties, are available to the ?poor and marginalized? because the mission of the Catholic school is vital to the future of all our young people, our nation, and our church.
Now the goal is strategizing how to make this statement a reality on both the local and national level.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on this important statement which has been such a major part of the Committee on Education?s agenda for some four years.