Education has been Archbishop Robert J. Carlson’s number-one
priority since his arrival here. In 2011, he unveiled a framework plan
for Catholic education. Called “Alive in Christ!” the mission
advancement initiative included 10 priorities focused on four goals:
catechesis/academic excellence, evangelization, social justice and
stewardship. Some of the fruits of the initiative include increased
collaboration among parishes and schools, the establishment of a
scholarship program and new approaches in marketing and enrollment for
“Our schools have to be healthy to be Alive in Christ,” he said.
his arrival in St. Louis, more than 88,000 young people have graduated
from Catholic grade schools, high schools and PSR programs (32,000
children just from Catholic elementary schools). The Archdiocese of St.
Louis is the 39th largest diocese in the United States, yet ranks
seventh in the nation for total number of students enrolled in Catholic
Looking toward the future, Archbishop Carlson noted a
partnership model of governance in the archdiocese, in which parishes
are cooperating with regional school systems to provide Catholic
education in the archdiocese. Examples include Holy Cross Academy, All
Saints Academy and South City Catholic Academy. The goal of this model
is to make Catholic education sustainable in the 21st century.
archbishop established the Roman Catholic Foundation of Eastern
Missouri, which in 2015 launched the Beyond Sunday campaign, initially
to raise more than $100 million to aid students from low- and
middle-income families and benefit programs at Catholic schools in the
Archdiocese of St. Louis. The campaign grew beyond the initial goal,
raising $110 million to date.
Additionally, the Today and
Tomorrow Educational Foundation, since its inception in 1991, has
provided more than $150 million in scholarship assistance to elementary
school-aged children to attend the faith-based school of their choice.
It is now the fourth largest scholarship organization in the United
States. In the last 13 years, the foundation has grown from providing
scholarships for 700 elementary school students to more than 4,500
students, and from a $500,000 organization to a $12 million
The percentage of St. Louis area families who choose
Catholic schools for their children is among the highest in the United
Kevin Short, board chair of the Today and Tomorrow
Educational Foundation, said the numbers speak to the archbishop’s
powerful legacy locally and across the country. “These numbers are
transformational, and represent the future of our leadership in the
Church and business community,” Short said.
The groundwork has
been laid, Short said, “and 10 years later, Archbishop Carlson’s
commitment has sustained the mission of Catholic schools as a pathway
out of poverty for our most vulnerable children. Thanks to Archbishop
Carlson’s leadership on behalf of the Today and Tomorrow Educational
Foundation, his Mission Advancement Initiative spearheaded a scholarship
program generated by all parishes throughout the archdiocese, providing
children need-based tuition assistance scholarships that follow them
from kindergarten through eighth grade.”
Since the Alive In Christ
Scholarship Program was introduced, more than $40 million has been
awarded to more than 5,000 families. Archbishop Carlson has also helped
the foundation raise more than $6 million for elementary school
scholarships at the annual Archbishop’s Gala each year.
that has been a focus for improvement is faith formation of Catholic
teens who attend public high schools. “If they don’t get some kind of
introduction, they’re more than likely than those in Catholic schools to
walk” away from the faith, the archbishop said in an interview upon his
10th anniversary of installation in St. Louis. The archdiocesan Office
of Catholic Education and Formation has taken measures to combine the
efforts of schools, PSR programs and youth ministry programs, so there
is more uniformity and better communication, he added.
National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) named Archbishop
Carlson as a 2017 recipient of its prestigious Seton Award, given
“annually to exemplary individuals whose support and service impacts
Catholic education and the well-being of our nation’s youth.”
Carlson, interviewed in conjunction with the award, said “Good Catholic
education will train the next generation of Catholic leaders, and, this
is more of social justice perspective, we help people through education
get out of poverty and open the doors for all kinds of opportunities.”
education and evangelization work hand in hand, he said. And he’s
stressed the importance of schools’ Catholic identity.
Beyond Sunday and parishes that have scholarships available, we help not
only the poor but the middle class, because today, they’re the ones who
are challenged,” said Archbishop Carlson, himself a shining example for
“I’ve been in Catholic schools from
kindergarten through graduate work; I’ve benefited,” said the
archbishop, who commended Catholic educators for showing him the way.
“The Dominican Sisters, the Sisters of St. Joseph (of Carondelet), the
Christian Brothers, diocesan priests and through graduate school with
dedicated Catholic laity professors and clergy.”
religious once made up the majority of Catholic educators in the U.S. at
parish schools, but a decline in vocations over the past half century
prompted them to turn over the operation of many schools to the laity.
However, in the archdiocese, clergy and religious fill key leadership
roles at the elementary and high school levels and are leading education
into the future. For instance, the English Tutoring Project helps
immigrant and refugee students in Catholic schools learn English
language skills. Founded 21 years ago by the St. Louis Area Women
Religious Collaborative Ministries, the program is paying dividends.