“The mission of schools is to develop a sense of truth, of what is good and beautiful.” ~ Pope Francis
I am humbled and honored to welcome the new decade as the interim Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Venice in Florida. Like our 324 teachers and 4,638 students returning to their classrooms eager to continue their journey of faith, knowledge and fellowship, so too am I ready to join them on their path to academic success, professional enrichment and spiritual fulfillment.
Like every new year, 2020 offers each of us a fresh start. It’s a perfect time to reject bad habits, announce admirable goals and initiate innovative ideas. Although many people and organizations shun the inherent challenges of change, Catholic schools welcome them with open hearts and minds.
The 15 schools at the Diocese of Venice constantly seek ways to enhance their curriculum, improve their facilities and serve their communities in ways that develop the whole child—mind, body and spirit. This holistic approach to education requires collaboration far beyond our campuses. Cardinal Mooney High School in Sarasota, for example, recently raised $2 million in donations to renovate a classroom building and its media center and to upgrade its sports fields. The Mayor of Venice visited Epiphany Cathedral School to personally thank its students for collecting thousands of items to help the victims of Hurricane Dorian. St. John Neumann High School in Naples boasts nearly a dozen seniors who each received more than $100,000 in college scholarship offers, while St. Joseph Catholic School in Bradenton attracted hundreds of people to participate in its first ever 5K race that raised funds and awareness for the school while demonstrating the benefits of physical fitness.
These success stories stem from our schools’ ability and willingness to change. Gone are the days where dry textbooks, dusty chalkboards and rigid lectures dominated the classroom. In their place are tablets, smartboards and interactive lesson plans developed through cutting edge technology and dynamic teaching methods. These advancements provide a more seamless infusion of art, science, language and mathematics with our Catholic teachings.
The National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) offers a forum for America’s Catholic Schools to showcase their contribution to society: Catholic Schools Week. Beginning Sunday, Jan. 26, the Diocese of Venice will join more than 6,000 Catholic Schools across America in this annual, seven-day celebration of our Faith-based education. Our schools and parishes have been busy planning fun and dynamic events to commemorate the week with open houses, special masses and community engagements. Although themes and presentations vary, the focus of Catholic School Week never wavers: to promote the value of Catholic education for our youth, our communities and our nation.
Statistics support our bold claim. According to the NCEA, 99 percent of Catholic School students graduate from high school, and nearly 87 percent attend a four-year university. Approximately 40 percent of Catholic Schools are found in urban and rural communities, with the remainder residing in suburban and inner-city areas. Catholic Schools save the country more than $21 billion in public school funding, while Catholic school students and faculty enjoy a 12:1 student to staff ratio.
But numbers only tell part of the story. Although we champion change, we also proudly uphold the principles of Christ’s teachings laid out more than two millennia ago. As stated in Proverbs (22:6), “Start children off on the way they should go and even when they are old they will not turn from it.”
Our schools are dedicated to show every student the way. A way that leads them to the truth. A truth so good, so beautiful, so irrefutable, that it has inspired thousands of families to entrust the Diocese of Venice to provide their children a Catholic education. Visit the www.dioceseofvenice.org to learn more about Diocese of Venice Catholic Schools.
Ben Hopper can be reached at email@example.com.