By Megan Walsh
The Catholic Telegraph
Educators from across the United States met at the University of Dayton (UD) in southwestern Ohio on July 12 for an all-day conference on urban Catholic education.
This year’s summit focused on meeting the needs of all learners in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Dr. Kevin Kelly, Dean of the School of Education and Health Sciences, and Susan Ferguson, Executive Director of the Center for Catholic Education at UD, welcomed about 150 teachers, administrators, counselors and graduate students and many more who virtually attended online.
“We’re here to learn and to be inspired for Christian education,” said Ferguson.
Brother Raymond Fitz, UD’s longest-serving, former president and now Fr. Ferree Professor of Social Justice, began with a challenge to all attendees: “What does the Catholic community need to learn to create a vital evangelizing and educational presence in the center city?”
Throughout the day of five presentation options for each of the five sessions, presenters offered a wealth of experience and knowledge to help answer that question.
Before the first round of presentations began, Dorothy Mensah-Aggrey, Adult Catechesis Coordinator for the Institute for Pastoral Initiatives (IPI), led morning prayer with a story called, “That Hour with Jesus.”
Setting the tone for the day, attendees were asked to reflect on the story and share their thoughts with those around them.
Presenters were mostly from UD and the archdiocese and came from all kinds of different backgrounds.
Presenters who offered insight on funding and financial considerations for urban Catholic schools included State representative Matt Huffman, Governor Bob Taft, Director of Educational Services and Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the archdiocese, Dr. Jim Rigg, and Executive Director of International Education Foundation, Christine Healey.
Dr. Erik Goldschmidt, Director of the Church in the 21st Century Center at Boston College, offered a presentation on emerging governance models in urban Catholic elementary schools.
Father Satish Joseph, associate pastor at Immaculate Conception and St. Helen parishes in Dayton, spoke about embracing diversity and considering it as a value instead of a disadvantage threatening the classroom.
“Diversity mirrors the plentitude of God in that He is a Trinitarian God,” said Fr. Joseph. “Our faith is based upon the diversity of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
Dr. Louise “Toni” Moore, Director of the St. Remy Initiative and the Catholic Leadership Institute Project at UD, joined by Alana Campion, Principle of Mary Queen of Peace in Dayton, and Dr. David Dolph, Department Chair of Educational Leadership at UD, spoke about leadership skills and the importance of training and nurturing for Catholic school leaders.
“We don’t wear the clothes like the religious do,” said Dr. David Dolph. “We have to find other ways to symbolize our faith…we have to show it through our actions.”
Jenny Holzmer, masters student and seventh grade teacher at St. Patrick’s in Troy, offered a presentation on technology in the class, specifically iPads. As technology continues to impact society as a whole, children are learning with electronic devices in the classroom more than ever before.
Informing their attendees about the archdiocese’s Latino Outreach initiative and their partnership with UD’s Urban Child Development Resource Center (UCDRC) were Michelle Sherman, Family Advocate in UCDRC, and Karyn Hecker, Principal of Immaculate Conception School.
In one of the last sessions of the day, Sister Angela Ann Zukowski, Director of the IPI and Professor of Religious Studies at UD, shared her passion for living a beatitude life while navigating through a new world filled with technological advancements.
Other presentations discussed religious education for non-Catholic students in Catholic schools, the rich history of urban Catholic schools in Cincinnati, methodologies for excellence, systems to minimize non-academic barriers to learning, and family engagement.
Even though most of the presenters live and work in southwest Ohio, attendees traveled from all over the country from Los Angeles and Arizona to Chicago and Philadelphia to meet in Dayton for the education summit.
Veteran schoolteachers and administrators shared ideas and dialogue with graduate students and first year teachers. Each learned as much from the presenter as the person sitting next to them.
Schoolteachers from a Loyola Chicago program, Anna Faist and Jonathan Priest, traveled with a group of peers to attend the summit at UD.
“I really appreciated the variety of topics that were offered throughout the day,” said Faist. “They were all very helpful and useful especially for diversity and working with the Latino population.”
“I learned there are a variety of options for use in the classroom and that will help me feel more comfortable,” said Priest.
A resounding message throughout most presentations reflected a need and desire to advocate for the Catholic educational system and its far-reaching impacts.
“We need to show how our schools are outstanding,” said Goldschmidt.
“We have all the great ingredients for Catholic education to thrive in Cincinnati with Archbishop Schnurr making education a priority and with 45,000 students, 135 elementary schools and 23 high schools,” said Dr. Rigg.
This year’s summit was the second annual Catholic Education Summit hosted by the Center for Catholic Education at UD. The Center was established in 1996 to promote, enhance, energize and support Catholic schools.
Other programs supported by the Center for Catholic Education are the Lalanne Program, St. Remy Initiative and Urban Child Development Resource Center. All are focused on helping Catholic education continue to grow and thrive.