Friday, October 29, 2021
Photo IC / Linda Petersen
Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill., Delivers the opening address at the National Catholic Educational Association’s 2021 Catholic Leadership Summit, held at Juan Diego Catholic High School.
DRAPER – Catholic school superintendents from across the country gathered at Juan Diego Catholic High School on October 25-26 for the annual National Catholic Educational Association Leaders Summit, following a new two-day academy in school.
Participants also attended a Mass celebrated by Bishop Oscar A. Solis at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church on October 24. “We are delighted and honored to welcome Catholic leaders from across the country,” said Mark Longe, principal of the Utah Catholic School. before the summit. “We have been working with the National Catholic Educational Association to plan this event for several months. ”
Due to the pandemic, many sessions were broadcast live and there were fewer attendees than usual at the national event, Longe said. NCEA President Lincoln Snyder said about 50 superintendents came to Utah for this year’s summit; normally around 300 to 400 people attend.
Most Reverend Edward K. Braxton, Bishop of Belleville, Ill., Opened the summit with a keynote address on “Catholic Schools and the Racial Divide”.
“Catholic schools can play a necessary role in bridging the racial divide in the United States and in the Catholic Church in the United States,” he said.
Referring to the 1979 USCCB pastoral letter, Brothers and Sisters to Us, which condemns racism as a sin and a heresy that endures both in society and in the Catholic Church, Bishop Braxton lamented the few Catholics who have read it. He also spoke about the 2018 USCCB pastoral letter against racism, Open Wide Our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love, which “urged all Catholics to recognize the scourge of racism that still exists in our hearts, our hearts. words, our actions and our institutions. ”
The pastoral letter “stated that racism can be individual when Catholics do not recognize people of a particular race as created in the image of God in dignity,” the bishop said. Catholic schools exist for a reason, he said: “to inform, train and transform young people in Jesus Christ and guide them on the path of Christian wisdom. If we don’t, there is no hope of bridging the racial divide. Our schools are Christian schools whose primary purpose is to help our students achieve the joyful outlook on life that comes from Christian wisdom.
Although Bishop Braxton has stated that he does not believe that most Americans or most American Catholics are racist in the strict sense of overt hatred and wish evil on people of different racial backgrounds, he cautioned superintendents against the language they use in their schools, especially the use of the word “minority” to describe students of different ethnicities who are not white.
“It does not take a particularly critical analysis to recognize the fact that words like ‘minorities’ and ‘minority groups’ are used quite selectively in American society, and they are not applied consistently with reference to all. groups that constitute a statistically small number. citizens, ”he said. “The language of the majority / minority is not a neutral language; it controls the meaning and the way people see themselves in the social context.
He told a story that reflected the alienation African Americans and some other Catholics can feel in the Church, which primarily features Eurocentric art in its buildings. Many years ago, he said, he took a group of African-American Protestant children who were studying in a Catholic school to visit a Catholic church to explain the role of art in Catholic worship. After seeing all the artwork in the building, a child asked, “Does the Catholic Church believe that only whites are in Heaven?
“If the Catholic Church cannot take the small step of diversity in its iconography, it might be understandable that African Americans feel they do not matter to the Catholic Church,” Bishop Braxton said. “It is a fundamental truth as Christians that we believe all lives matter,” he said, referring to the Black Lives Matter movement. “All lives matter,” however, is sometimes used as a way to distract from the pressing concerns of African Americans. ”
Addressing another topical issue, he said Critical Race Theory is a college-level theory suitable for discussion in a graduate course on human sociology, politics, social justice, and human history. racism.
“There is no reason for Catholic educators to talk about critical race theory in the classrooms of elementary or secondary school students,” he said, adding that the term has become so loaded that any mention of racial prejudice, the civil rights movement or Black Lives Matter is often taken as a teaching of critical race theory.
“I hope that you, as school superintendents, will do all you can to adopt appropriate demeanor and speech when addressing race issues in our Catholic schools,” he concluded. “Our students spontaneously immerse themselves in the attitudes and vocabulary of the leaders around them.
In addition to hearing the opening speech, the superintendents attended various sessions to learn about innovations in Catholic schools. In one session, Longe and Associate Superintendent Nikki Ward shared the success of the Utah Catholic Schools and Juan Diego CHS in blended learning over the past eight years.