Educating for eternity

In photo above, Katie Perata visits with students at Holy Spirit School in Fairfield. Bridgette Chestnut photo

As the school year commenced, we were greeted with a profound sense of purpose, united by a shared mission and inspired by the overarching theme of Educating for Eternity: Illuminating Faith, Inspiring Minds. Within the halls of our Catholic schools, we find ourselves engaged in the profound work of cultivating souls and moulding the future.

In the classrooms, corridors, and playgrounds of our schools, our dedicated school administrators, faculty, and staff are not merely educators; they are faith-bearers and torchbearers of knowledge. Their mission is to impart the truth of our faith while kindling an enduring love for learning in the hearts of our children. Our schools seek to transform each interaction with a family into an opportunity to shape the hearts and minds of children, empowering them to confront life's challenges with unwavering conviction.

While touring our schools across the diocese, one cannot help but notice a common thread weaving through them, despite their differences in size, demographic, and structure. This common thread is the unwavering commitment to fostering environments of intellectual curiosity. In these authentically Catholic spaces, questions are encouraged, critical thinking is celebrated, and the thirst for knowledge is perpetually quenched. Regardless of the subject or discipline, the overarching goal remains consistent – to guide our students in discovering their purpose within God's divine plan.

Education in Virtue

To truly graduate as disciples of Christ and uphold the theme, Educating for Eternity, we emphasize programs that instill virtues in our students, preparing them to lead lives with purpose and meaning that respond to the needs of our world.

Many of our school communities are at the forefront of revitalizing parish life and Mass attendance. Through direct ministry support across the diocese, students are actively involved in parish ministries, including Mensa Cristi, St. Vincent de Paul Walk for the Poor campaigns, and clothing drives to assist those in need. A student ministry at St. Catherine of Siena in Vallejo offers a beacon of hope, touching lives by working alongside parish ministry leaders. Deacon Juan Moreno shared, "SCS students collaborated with the parish ministry, 'Mensa Christi' by assisting in helping prepare items to feed the homeless throughout the city. Through the students' involvement, they are able to help Mensa Christi feed over 1,200 homeless individuals each week.”

Accreditation and Catholic identity

Our schools have implemented the new National Standards and Benchmarks of Excellent Catholic Schools (NSBECS) accreditation protocol according to the Western Catholic Education Association (WCEA). The four NSBECS domains include Mission and Catholic Identity, Governance and Leadership, Academic Excellence, and Operational Vitality, emphasizing our Catholic faith and identity in all aspects of the accreditation process. The new evaluation process not only identifies what is working well within the school community but also what areas of growth are necessary to continue fulfilling the spiritual and academic needs of our students and their families. The NSBECS provides a detailed roadmap for sustaining the operational vitality of our mission into the future.

SRG report cards

We have been preparing our teachers since 2018 on standards-referenced grading, the practice of aligning graded tasks with clearly stated learning targets drawn from the academic standards and proficiency scales. This approach not only highlights skill achievement but also emphasizes growth. Moreover, it provides a unique opportunity to promote the exercise of virtues in the classroom, reinforcing our commitment to nurturing character and knowledge in tandem.

Educating for eternity – A sustainable world

Our schools are taking an active role in addressing environmental concerns and preparing students for the challenges of the modern world. Initiatives related to the care of creation and urban farming have been integrated into the curriculum at many of our school sites. Students in the Solano area support the annual Coastal Clean-Up events in September. Science fair curriculum for middle schools addresses community solutions, and high school students are partnering with local non-profits on sustainability in gardens and bee-keeping on school property. Furthermore, Kairos retreats, middle school retreats, adoration and rosary clubs offer valuable experiences for spiritual reflection and growth in addition to regular school liturgies. We have witnessed an increase in alumni returning as teachers and school staff leaders demonstrating a commitment to community and experience within our Catholic schools.

Strategic planning – Beyond the school year

Our schools are making significant strides in the area of advancement and strategic planning. With diocesan-wide professional development, hiring and knowledge sharing, we enable mentoring and cluster level collaboration which benefits all of our schools as a partner system. This approach to advancement, which began a few years ago, now encompasses a wide range of factors, including enrollment numbers, operational vitality, and regularly scheduled advancement forums.

Through close partnerships with parents and the parishes we serve, we have the privilege of shaping not only the future of our students but also the very fabric of society. Together, we can guide our students to embrace the virtues of compassion, integrity, and justice. Our Catholic schools are still inspiring religious vocations. Seminarian Ralph Tronci shared his story with us and said, “After studying at St. Mel School for eight years, and working as a teacher's aide for one, I'm grateful for their emphasis on integrating the Catholic faith into education. Without the faculty and staff, I would not be where I am today, discerning God's will for my life.”

As St. Thomas Aquinas so eloquently reminds us, "Love takes up where knowledge leaves off." Our role as educators, catechists, and parents extends beyond the mere imparting of knowledge. It involves nurturing a profound love for God, for others, and for oneself. It is through love that our students will come to understand the Spirit of God in our lives and the transformative power of education and faith. Our Catholic schools exist for this noble mission, dedicated to Educating for Eternity, where faith and knowledge converge to illuminate the path forward.