Catholic schools overcome challenges to provide academic excellence rooted in faith

Published on January 5, 2021
A 2020 file photo shows a student at a computer.

This column by Superintendent Dave Faber originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2021 issue of FAITH Grand Rapids magazine.

As we approach the halfway point of the school year, I continue to be impressed by the extraordinary dedication of Catholic school families, pastors, administrators, faculty and staff throughout the Diocese of Grand Rapids. Following their tremendous efforts responding to the COVID-19 pandemic’s arrival last spring, our school communities embarked on this school year with an inspiring commitment to the ministry of Catholic education, giving students an unparalleled experience of academic excellence and formation in the Catholic faith.

We are proud that last year’s record preschool class has become this year’s record kindergarten class, the largest in 11 years. And we are especially grateful to Bishop Walkowiak and the Diocese of Grand Rapids for making the generous COVID-19 tuition assistance funds available last summer to help keep our K-12 enrollment strong during these challenging times. More than 680 families received assistance to return to Catholic schools this year as a result of these funds.

Our alliance of Catholic schools values in-person instruction. We are grateful for the efforts throughout our school communities to follow the protocols that make in-person instruction possible. All the while, we have also been offering remote instruction in situations that require it. You can read more about our COVID-19 response in our return to school plan, “Living Our Mission in Today’s Reality,” available on CatholicSchools4U.org. This plan is being updated as circumstances require.

A new mission statement

This year, we have updated the mission statement for our alliance of Catholic schools: “We prepare students to seek and fulfill God’s plan for learning and life.” I am excited about how this mission statement describes our ministry so succinctly and places our students and God’s plan for their learning and lives at the core of our purpose.

Related article: New mission statement for our alliance of Catholic schools

We also introduced an updated theology curriculum framework for early childhood through 12th grade, developed by the diocese for Catholic schools and parish faith formation programs. Throughout students’ experiences in our Catholic schools, they are provided intentional moments to encounter Jesus Christ through activities such as participating in Mass, receiving the sacraments and performing acts of service. Students grow in their understanding of Church teaching in all subject areas, including a renewed rigor in their understanding of Catholic theology. They are also empowered to witness God’s love to the world. The three parts of this framework are not intended to be steps in a sequence, but rather an integrated whole throughout a student’s experience, rooted in the pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church that lead our students into a life of discipleship.

Additionally, we continue implementing inquiry strategies in our mathematics instruction. In collaboration with a math specialist, we are teaching students how to explore multiple methods for solving problems and how to evaluate different strategies and solutions. This supports creativity in problem-solving beyond mathematics, as well.

Thank you for supporting our mission to prepare students to seek and fulfill God’s plan for learning and life. Visit CatholicSchools4U.org to learn more about Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids, and contact our office with any questions you have regarding our schools at schooladmin@grcatholicschools.org or 616.246.0590.

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Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids are an alliance of 31 vibrant learning communities (26 elementary and five high schools) serving more than 6,000 preschool through 12th grade students throughout West Michigan. Our schools inspire young people to grow in Catholic faith and grace, achieve more in school and life, develop creativity and character, and feel welcomed and cherished for their unique gifts. We partner with parents to awaken the whole child to a world of light and life — that grows better and brighter when children reach their potential.

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