Strengthening Catholic Identity in Catholic Schools

Strengthening Catholic Identity in Catholic Schools

St. Mary Catholic School, Joplin by Dean Curtis

Come, And You Will See Column written by Bishop Edward M. Rice

On Mon., Sept. 5, we celebrate the civil holiday of Labor Day, the traditional ending of the summer season. Those with children will be back to following the school calendar and getting into the daily routine of study and homework. With that in mind, I recently had the opportunity to speak to the pastors and principals of our diocesan Catholic schools, and then to all of the teachers in the Springfield Catholic Schools System. I would like to share with you some of my thoughts.

On Jan. 25, 2022, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued a 20- page document discussing the identity of Catholic schools, “The Identity of Catholic Schools for a Culture of Dialogue.” No doubt, every bishop is concerned that the schools under his jurisdiction be authentically Catholic, and the document gives some good guiding principles to achieve that goal. There should always be “a clear awareness and consistency of the Catholic identity of the Church’s educational institutions.” Without a clear identity, we cannot have a clear discussion.

Just as a mother gives life, teaches and guides, so, too, does “Holy Mother Church.” A Catholic school should reflect the family dynamic, and like any mother, moms are concerned about the lives of their children in all the details. Therefore, a Catholic education should offer a holistic approach, offering faith formation, values, and knowledge. True education has the goal of the formation of the human person, collaborating with the parents. It is not just about the transmission of information. Catholic formation within the school should address the whole of life that can be imbued with the spirit of Christ.

Paragraph 18 says “a Catholic school lives in the flow of human history.” In other words, we are not immune to the issues in our culture. We do not live in a bubble. And therefore, we must “adopt new teaching methods while remaining faithful to our own identity.” For example, that principle is behind our “Theology of the Body, [TOB]” curriculum—TOB addresses the issues of science and faith and sex. That principle is the lens through which we prepare for the sacraments, utilize technology and other social issues. Our rich faith has something beautiful to say to these rather “new” issues in our culture.

Paragraph 23 in the document states, “In the Catholic school… There is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring knowledge and growing in wisdom.” Everything in the school setting is about formation. The teachers in our Catholic schools should be “teachers of learning and of life, to be a reflection, although imperfect, of the one Teacher,” Jesus Christ.

The document goes on to remind us that “the whole school community is responsible for implementing the school’s Catholic identity: students, parents, teachers, nonteaching personnel, and the school administration.” All of them form the educational community and become responsible for evangelization— it must be at the heart of all that they do. Paragraph 47 makes a powerful statement, “Teachers must be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life.” So, if a teacher does not accept the call to holiness and is not on their own journey of faith, the principal or administration must have a conversation to see if it’s actually a good fit for them to be instructing in the Catholic school. Teachers in our Catholic schools are not employees, or even professionals, but rather living out their personal vocation within the Catholic school community.

I thank our administrators, principals, staff, and teachers. Each one of you is an extension of my work. You collaborate with me; you represent me in the classroom and in the administration of our 23 elementary and three high schools. I cannot do the work without you. Let’s make this our best year ever.


On Sat., Sept. 17, at Notre Dame Regional High School, Cape Girardeau, and on Sat., Nov. 5, at Holy Trinity Parish, Springfield, the diocesan Office of Worship will offer a “Diocesan Liturgical Conference” on Sacred Music and Ministries for the Mass. The keynote address will focus on music and the Sacred Liturgy, including selecting music for Mass, weddings, funerals, etc. This workshop is open for all music leaders, choir members, musicians, readers, server trainers, liturgical coordinators, sacristans, and extraordinary ministers. This is the first time such a conference has been offered since I have been in the diocese—and I think it is a great opportunity for us during this three-year Eucharistic Revival—to learn more about what is at the very heart of the Church, the Eucharist. I thank Fr. David Dohogne, Director of the Office of Worship along with Katie Newton, for organizing this event. Please plan to attend.

Are You Spiritually Fit & Bound for Heaven?

Are You Spiritually Fit & Bound for Heaven?


The readings from this reflection: Is 66:18-21; Ps 117:1,2; Heb 12:5-7,11-13; Lk 13:22-30


At some point in time, most of us will be asked the question: “Have you been saved?” This question may be asked of us by a friend, a family member, a neighbor or coworker, or even by a stranger on the street. So what exactly does this question mean: What answer does the question really seek? The person posing this question basically wants to know if you have accepted Jesus into your life as your personal Lord and Savior and that if you died at this moment, you have the assurance and certainty of going directly to heaven.

In today’s Gospel, someone asks Jesus: “Will only a few people be saved”? It’s interesting that this question is asked of Jesus. He offers a powerful response: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” There seems to be a growing assumption among many people today that EVERYONE will go to Heaven. Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel passage prove this to be untrue.

Safety for Our Children and Youth Remains a Priority

Safety for Our Children and Youth Remains a Priority

Photo of Bishop Edward M. Rice with students from St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School

“Based on the results of our recent site audit of the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau, the diocese has been found compliant with all audited Articles within the ‘Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People’ for the audit period of July 1, 2019 through March 31, 2022.”

That is the opening of the compliance letter from Stonebridge Business Partners, a company that specializes in compliance auditing and fraud and forensics services for government agencies, contractors, and institutions such as Catholic dioceses. As I’ve stated many times, it is imperative, not just an obligation, that all the (arch)dioceses of the United States must comply to what is commonly referred to as the “Dallas Charter,” “The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” established by the USCCB in June 2002 to address allegations of sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy. Over the course of the past two decades, however, allegations have also come to light in other religious denominations, in schools, scouts, in the world of sports, Olympic and university athletic programs, and in the entertainment industry. USA Today recently did an investigation of a Branson-based evangelical sports camp with rampant abuse. This serves as a reminder of why this work is so important for all of us in all facets of society.

While we were found to be compliant, the management letter that accompanied the compliance letter offered suggestions as to stay the course and improve, such as the implementation of a policy for renewing safe environment training for all volunteers, the implementation of a formal process to conduct in-person visits to all parish and school locations to review documentation, and to enhance the procedures for the monitoring and relocation of accused clergy for residence.