This week week we celebrate National Catholic Education Week, from January 30 through February 5. Although Valentine's Day is two weeks away, you might consider doing something special for someone in your life who works in the field of Catholic education, whether this be an elementary school, high school, college or university, or catechesis. Joanna Molloy in the New York Daily News reminded snow-bogged readers in the Big Apple not to forget those too-frequently unsung heroes who work in the educational vineyard:
It's nothing short of a miracle that Cardinal Hayes High School, in the poorest congressional district in America, has a 99% graduation rate.
And that fourth graders at East Harlem's Mt. Carmel-Holy Rosary School had a 100% passing rate on statewide math tests, while only 55% of public school kids in the same district passed.
And that all of the Mt. Carmel kids passed the English Language Arts exams, while only 43% of their public school peers passed.
So as Catholic Schools Week arrived, we search for the key to their academic successes and wonder if public schools will ever be able to unlock it?
The National Catholic Education Association (http://www.ncea.org/) (NCEA) has declared this year's slogan to be "CATHOLIC SCHOOLS--A+ for AMERICA". The NCEA noted that this week is also sponsored (http://catholicschoolsweek.ncea.org/) by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan recently wrote eloquently in support of Catholic education in America. Archbishop Dolan has been a national force in acknowledging and appreciating the hard work of Catholic educators and catechists.
Just several days ago in Washington, DC the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities concluded its 2011 Meeting in Washington, DC. This group, founded in 1899, is the collective voice of Catholic higher education in the United states—and through seminars, conferences, publications, research and consultation, strives to "foster a vibrant Catholic identity at member institutions, and supports cooperation among them for the greater good of society and the Church. At this conference this week they awarded the Father Theodore Hesburgh Award to Father James Heft, President, Institute for Advanced Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California; and the Monica Hellwig Award to Sister Amata Miller, Director of Myser Initiative on Catholic Identity at St. Catherine University.
A special thank you from me to all the Sisters of St. Joseph, who gave my father a great education at St. Patrick's Orphanage and Immaculate Heart of Mary High School in Watertown, New York, as he grew up in a world without his mother and father. If there is a Catholic educator in your life, consider celebrating Valentine's Day this week!
William Van Ornum