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Catholic Identity

Faith in Tomorrow

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1. By 2013-14, all elementary schools will attain evident or highly evident ratings on 80 percent of the indicators within each of the dimensions presented in “Catholic Identity-Key Dimensions of Highly Effective Schools: A Blueprint for Success.” (Dimensions include: Mission; Vision and Culture; Faith Community; Religious Education and Formation; Leadership; Social Justice; Student Family; and Parish Support)
2. By 2013-14, all elementary schools will define and be guided by an authentic Christ-centered mission that fosters personal pride in, knowledge of and commitment to the Catholic faith.
3. By 2013-14, 80 percent of the schools will earn a score of 80 percent or higher on the diocesan Religion Assessment. (Schools performing below 80 percent will demonstrate an annual improvement by 10 percent on the diocesan Religion Assessment).

Catholic identity is the defining characteristic that sets our schools apart from all other educational choices available to our families and community members. It is this distinguishing feature that complements an outstanding academic experience with opportunities for developing a personal life-long relationship with Jesus Christ, where students understand and practice their Catholic faith and traditions, while respecting the faith traditions of others.

Our Catholic schools consistently provide the context for catechesis and its daily opportunities to:
• Appreciate the teachings of the Church and grow in faith and knowledge through religious instruction
• Learn from experiential instructional activities predicated on a sound and updated religion curriculum
• Develop an understanding and reverence for the Eucharistic Liturgy
• Participate in prayer and reflection on Scripture
• Form Christian conscience and virtues
• Proclaim and live the Gospel message and values as part of the Christian community
• Participate in Christian service
• Encounter adults who model strong Catholic faith and practice
• Value faith traditions of all members.

These opportunities enable our schools to pass on the faith to our children and youth, and help to prepare the future leaders of our Catholic Church. In partnership with parents, the primary educators of their children, our Catholic schools must be committed to cultivating and enriching a strong and distinctive Catholic identity where timeless Gospel teachings infuse every curricular and co-curricular program and human interaction.

Our continued task is to engage all adults in the school community to assume responsibility to be well educated in the faith and to support their roles as Christian disciples. To know and to practice their faith becomes a fruit of their labor. With love and passion, our schools develop each child as a beacon of hope, an instrument of peace and an ambassador for Christ.

Strategy 1.1
Engage each school in a process of comprehensive evaluation and action to discern and to strengthen the lived experience of Catholic identity for their entire faith community.
Action Plans:
• Review, assess and develop methods to improve each school’s level of effectiveness in relation to the Catholic Identity-Key Dimensions of Highly Effective Schools document.
• Develop methods to encourage pastors and canonical administrators to be actively engaged in the schools so that Catholic identity is strong and evident.
• Develop a program for parish and school leaders to reinforce the importance of school and parish partnerships for both school and parish vitality.
• Grow the connection between school families and the parishes to include a 10 percent increase in weekly Mass attendance by Catholic elementary school pupils and their parents.
• Develop a method to accurately measure families’ weekend Mass participation.
• Forge new partnerships and reach out to parish communities and church leaders to invite them to serve as school partners through leadership positions on boards/councils and invite them to school and community events.

Strategy 1.2
Assist schools in writing and adopting a mission statement, in partnership with parish stakeholders, which will be placed in classrooms and throughout the campus.
Action Plans:
• Require schools to clearly identify themselves as Catholic institutions in their mission statement and in school publications.
• Develop expectations whereby the leadership body will employ the mission statement in planning all aspects of the school’s programs.

Strategy 1.3
Engage all schools with the use of the diocesan Religion Assessment as a means to improve teaching and integration of the diocesan Elementary Religion Curriculum.
Action Plans:
• Assist with the implementation of the diocesan Elementary Religion Curriculum across all academic subjects through curriculum mapping activities.
• Require schools to adhere to the diocesan policy that all religion teachers and principals engage in a minimum of five hours of religious formation annually, and that all teachers are prepared academically and spiritually to serve as role models.
• Require religion classes to be taught by qualified catechists, to be scheduled for adequate contact hours and to utilize textbooks that are in conformity with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on the Catechism.
• Establish a model of excellence for teacher preparation, recruitment and retention.

Strategy 1.4
Empower each school to integrate Catholic values and the Church’s teachings into all curricular and extracurricular programs, while respecting the faith traditions of all.
Action Plans:
• At a minimum, provide formal and quarterly opportunities for student faith development (retreats, reconciliation, Stations of the Cross, Rosary, etc.) with consideration given to the liturgical calendar and local, national and/or world events.
• Revise the staff orientation program that identifies basic core Catholic values and Church teachings to inform teachers and adult leaders.
• Engage teachers to use the lenses of Scripture and tradition to help students think critically about the world that evolves around them.
• Design a module to develop teachers’ skills to lead theological reflection after a service experience.
• Adopt the seven principles of Catholic social teaching as an essential element of the realigned curriculum.
• Develop a model, according to developmental stages, whereby students will participate in Christian service outreach programs that include personal and theological reflection.
• Create a directory that outlines age-appropriate and worthwhile service opportunities.

Strategy 1.5
Organize opportunities, in partnership with parishes and the Diocese of Buffalo, to provide and/or support opportunities for adult faith formation using comprehensive modes of instruction, including digital tools, lectures, discussions and project-based learning.
Action Plans:
• Develop an annual retreat opportunity and other spiritual experiences for the faculty and staff.
• Coordinate and/or promote teacher and staff programs for adult faith formation (i.e. lectures, coursework, Scripture study, etc.) that are helpful for personal development and required for catechist formation.
• Organize opportunities, with support from diocesan offices and in partnership with parishes, for board and council members to grow in their faith.
• Establish and/or promote, in partnership with parishes and other diocesan offices, ongoing formation for parents, to help them grow in their faith and to aid them in their roles as primary educators of their children.
• Develop adult faith formation programs for principals in their role as catechetical leaders.