Regular readers of CWR are familiar with the work and writings of Reverend Peter M.J. Stravinskas. He is the editor of the The Catholic Response, and the author of over 500 articles for numerous Catholic publications, as well as several books, including The Catholic Church and the Bible and Understanding the Sacraments. He is also the director of new program available from the Catholic Education Foundation and Pontifex University. Fr. Stravinkas recently spoke with CWR about this new educational initiative.
CWR: The Catholic Education Foundation has embarked on a new program. What is the background to the program?
Fr. Stravinskas: The Master of Education in Catholic School Administration (with the possibility for a doctorate in education) is a program conceived by the Catholic Education Foundation in conversation with Pontifex University, and specifically geared toward current or aspiring Catholic school leaders; it is thoroughly professional in its demands, inclusive of all normal requirements, accredited, and unabashedly Catholic in its outlook. Course work is done on-line, in addition to one week of a summer session, so as not to ignore the invaluable dimension of the personal element in the pedagogical enterprise.
CWR: Aren’t there already a number of such programs?
Fr. Stravinskas: The rationale for this program is simple: The Church in the United States needs Catholic schools today more than ever. The indispensability of the school underlies the conviction of the Church Universal as enunciated in Gravissimum Educationis, various documents of the Congregation for Catholic Education, as well as in the statements of the Popes and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Our schools are highly regarded within the community of the Church and in society-at-large.
All that having been said, however, it is equally clear that in the foreseeable future, our schools will be run predominantly by laity, many of whom have not had a Catholic elementary and/or secondary school education themselves or who have had poor experiences of such; even many of the clergy and religious currently involved in the Catholic school apostolate fit into the same category.
Some programs in other institutions similar to this do exist, however, most of them merely offer a course or two that is explicitly Catholic, while the remaining courses merely mimic the educational vision of the government schools. This program, on the other hand, will give administrators the wherewithal to help their faculties permeate the curriculum with religious and moral values, providing their students with a Catholic worldview.
CWR: Is a thesis required?
Fr. Stravinskas: Yes – or a substantial research project. There is a research course which provides the framework for the required thesis or research project, which is intended to contribute to building up a body of literature designed to expand our scope of influence throughout Catholic education in the United States, and beyond. The master’s thesis can serve as the basis for the doctoral dissertation. The doctoral program is exclusively research-based.
CWR: What kinds of prerequisites are there?
CWR: Can you give us a sampling of the curriculum?
Fr. Stravinskas: Sure. Most courses carry three credits. Thirty credits are needed for the degree, with 28 of those credits comprising required courses; thus, a student will be able to choose from five or six courses for the one elective.
These are the required courses: Organization & Administration of Catholic Education; Philosophical Foundations of Education; Psychological Foundations of Education; Civil & Canonical Issues in Education; Finances for Catholic Schools; Curriculum Development & Evaluation in the Classical Mode; Formation of Catholic School Teachers; History of American Catholic Education; The Way of Beauty: The Catholic Cultural Heritage; Educational Research.
Some electives are Catechetics for the Catechist, The Spiritual Life of the Catholic School, and School Community Relations.
As you can see, this is a very comprehensive curriculum and very focused on the uniqueness of the Catholic school. In other words, we do not subscribe to the idea that a Catholic school is a government school with a crucifix and statue of the Blessed Mother in every classroom. The school’s identity is inseparable from its “Catholicity quotient.” Further, I am a firm believer in the adage that “personnel is policy,” therefore, the importance of a rigorous preparation of a school’s leadership.
CWR: Do you have teachers for such an extensive program?
Fr. Stravinskas: We have assembled a five-star faculty, I am proud to say.
I serve as the director of the program and am an instructor for a couple of the courses. Dr. Eduardo Bernot and Dr. Peter Redpath are well-known Thomist philosophers; Thomas Carroll is the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Boston; David Clayton is the provost of Pontifex University; Father Michael Davis is a veteran Catholic school administrator and pastor of several parishes with schools; Mary Pat Donoghue has led the way for the restoration of a classical approach to education and is the executive director of the Catholic schools office for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops; Monsignor Sal Pilato is a former principal and superintendent of high schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, and now pastor of a parish with a school; Kevin D. Kijewski, is the superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Detroit; Sebastian Mahfood is the Vice-President for External Affairs at Holy Apostles College & Seminary in Cromwell, CT; Monsignor Joseph Schaedel has served as principal, vicar general and currently pastor of a parish with a large, successful school; Father Nicholas Gregoris has taught in Catholic schools at every level and is the managing editor of The Catholic Response. Sister Elizabeth Anne Allen belongs to the Nashville Dominicans and heads the Center for Catholic Education at Aquinas College.
CWR: If so much of the work can be done at a distance, why require a week in the summer on-site?
Fr. Stravinskas: As I indicated earlier, following the mind of Cardinal Newman, we believe that what he called “personal influence” is essential. Coming together, even if only for a week, will help forge relationships that will extend long after. There is nothing like bringing people together from various parts of the country who share a common vocation; that experience is mutually enriching. I think we have learned from the Covid intrusion on education, painfully in some instances, that distance or virtual education just doesn’t “cut it.”
CWR: What are the admission requirements?
Fr. Stravinskas: Those interested in applying should contact David Clayton, the University Provost, for further information (email@example.com). For the moment, let me summarize: submission of all previous academic work completed; two letters of recommendation (one from a priest and another from a Catholic school administrator); an essay expressing what the applicant hopes to obtain from the program and what he/she can contribute to it.
CWR: When will courses begin?
Fr. Stravinskas: They are up and running right now. For the line-up, go to the Pontifex University site and click on “Academics.”
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