In an exclusive Catholic World Report interview, Bishop Robert Vasa, of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, speaks with Carl Olson about his decision to require all diocesan school teachers to sign an addendum to their contracts acknowledging that they are entrusted with the formation of souls and reject modern errors that offend human dignity.
Speaking with Olson, Bishop Vasa commented on what he sees as the particular challenges in Catholic parochial education. Said Vasa:
There is a challenge in coming to a clearer recognition and declaration of what is the purpose—the "Why?"—of our schools. Why are we here? What is our purpose? And since there are many schools out there competing with one another for things such as grants and gifts, "educational excellence" becomes the major banner. And it's not a bad banner, but it becomes the one that trumps everything else. So we want educational excellence, but how do we get to the central goal of wanting faith excellence? And Catholicism excellence? And that is not in contradiction to educational excellence. We have the means and mechanisms to do an excellent job on academics and education. Why can we not exert significant additional energies on the spiritual, catechetical, doctrinal, moral formation of youth in this context? Why can we not have Catholicism excellence, with the banner right there on the same level as educational excellence? We've sort of lost our purpose. And what I told the Catholic high schools last year at graduation was that there are a number of measures of the success of a Catholic school. We can look at how many students go on the college, how many receive scholarships, how many receive various communal awards—those are all wonderful measures, if you will, of the abilities of a school.
But is that a good measure for us as Catholics to use in looking at a Catholic school, asking "Is this Catholic schoolbeing effective"? What is the criteria? Perhaps the criteria could be how many vocations to the priesthood and the religious life have come out of this religious institution in the last twenty years? How many students leave from here and devote two or three years of their lives to the Jesuit Volunteer Corps or some other evangelizing mission? That is a very good thing. I've seen Catholic colleges that post how many graduates are now priests and religious sisters. That to me is a measure of the success of a Catholic institution. Not the only measure, but an important measure.
Asks Olson: It brings to mind the saying, which is funny and yet not funny at all, "If you want your children to lose their Catholic faith, send them to a Catholic school."
Responds Bishop Vasa:
I want parents to have a passionate concern for the spiritual, dogmatic, moral formation of their youth, and I'm presuming that is why parents send their children to a Catholic school. And since I operate with that presumption, that imposes a responsibility upon me to make sure that the Catholic formation in that school is consistent with what the Catechism and the Holy Father proclaim to be the teachings of the Church. A failure to do that is an abdication of my responsibility.
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