Helping young people develop a relationship with Jesus Christ is central to Catholic education, and so is making sure that Catholic educators have the formation to transmit the faith, according to Maureen DePriest, superintendent for elementary education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
A 30-plus-year veteran of Catholic education, DePriest and a team of seven region directors, along with a coordinator of preschool programs, provide guidance, training and support to 100 Catholic elementary schools serving children in preschool through eighth grade, and 115 Parish Schools of Religion.
The region directors not only serve as a connection between schools and PSR programs and the archdiocese, but also as a conduit to assist pastors, principals, and directors of religious education in developing a vision of “teaming in ministry” at the parish level, DePriest said.
“Teaming in ministry allows for a seamless holistic approach to faith formation,” she said.
The Office of Catholic Education and Formation has focused its efforts on resources and initiatives that address the entire K-12 paradigm, such as a newly implemented curriculum framework to assist schools in evaluating their curriculum against standards and benchmarks. It’s an example of a resource that aids in making Catholic education stronger together, DePriest said.
“The curriculum framework will assist schools with understanding and maintaining consistency with what children need to learn,” she said. “We’re not telling schools what to teach; we’re guiding and supporting them with what students need to know.”
Leading by example is critical for Catholic educators and administrators, DePriest noted. A pilot program was recently implemented for teacher evaluations, for example, which she described as an evolving tool focused on the continuous growth of the teacher and the principal as an instructional coach.
“Our faith shouldn’t just be something we talk about, but something that is exuded and lived,” DePriest said. “We really have to focus on why we do what we do, and who we have doing it. It’s so important that we have the leaders and teachers in place who are formed in faith and are excellent educators.”
Teachers have a new resource for catechetical training, via an online program offered through the University of Dayton. The education office also is developing a classroom training for teachers, working in collaboration with professors within the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
DePriest said she’s impressed working with so many mission-driven, faith-centered people within Catholic education, as well as being part of an essential vocation that helps young people develop a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Having the honor and responsibility to build the Church and work with our young people is incredible,” she said. With challenges that face the Church, including a growing number of young people becoming disaffiliated with their faith, she recognizes the deep responsibility guiding and forming young people to remain connected to Christ and to help them see that they are unconditionally loved.
“That’s what keeps me excited about Catholic education,” she said.
>> Catholic elementary education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis
The Archdiocese of St. Louis is the 41st largest diocese, and is the seventh largest for children in Catholic schools.
21,024 students in 100 Catholic elementary schools
13,581 Parish School of Religion students in 115 parishes
37% of Catholic elementary school age children are in a Catholic elementary school, compared to 13% nationally
86% of students are Catholic; 15% of students are minorities
4,012 children in Catholic preschools
The Office of Catholic Education and Formation recently launched a new website (archstlschools.org)
that includes profiles for Catholic schools and PSR programs in the
archdiocese, information on scholarships and other resources.
— Source: John Schwob, Dept. of Pastoral Planning