Diamonds in our own backyard


Bishop Ricken

Over the past two years, I have had the delightful opportunity to visit and share daily Mass with our Catholic grade schools and high schools. I have immensely enjoyed this time spent with the children and families of our Catholic schools and I am so grateful for our wonderful Catholic school teachers, staff volunteers and donors whose inspiring dedication and faith-filled hard work help to continue this great ministry.

Despite the snowstorm last Tuesday, Feb. 1, I was able to celebrate the Catholic School’s Week Mass at Most Precious Blood Grade School in New London. The entire student body sang the post-Communion meditation which was so beautiful it brought tears of joy and gratitude to my eyes!

I also celebrated Mass at Notre Dame Academy and heard two beautiful testimonies from students regarding what Catholic school formation and education mean to them. It was great to be with those 800 students in the academy and that Mass of Thanksgiving with them.

Of course, all of this brings back the beautiful memories from last fall when we celebrated the very large All School Gathering at the Resch Center. That event brought 10,000 students together from the Diocese of Green Bay to pray the Mass, along with so many of our priests and school leaders; what a blessing!

With all of these beautiful things to celebrate, we also have to keep in mind all of the challenges our Catholic schools and Catholic education face today. With this in mind, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the exciting initiatives that are being planned for our diocese.

Catholic schools are the diamonds in our own backyard. They are precious places of faith-based education within a very secular culture. They are places where students can learn and grow in their faith five days a week in every class, where they can pray openly and provide service to their local community based on the various works of mercy.

Recently I have learned that 60 percent of priests in the United States have a Catholic school background. Many of our deacons and religious sisters have also attended Catholic schools. Thus these schools have and continue to be great places for fostering vocations. This is just one of the many reasons I place a great importance on the continuation of our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Green Bay.

I am announcing today that I plan to launch, in the early part of this calendar year, an extensive analysis of all 57 schools in the diocese. In order to accomplish this, we will be contracting with a major, nationally known consulting firm that specializes in study and advisory for parishes and schools. This study will look at all aspects of school operation to determine areas of strength and areas that need further improvement. It will also study the local area to determine potential opportunities for growth as well as potential threats to our schools’ future.

A member of our staff will work directly with the project, provide the necessary data to the consulting firm and introduce the consultants to our parish and school personnel once the in-depth analysis begins this fall.

In order to do this effectively, the consulting firm will meet with local people who are closely associated with the schools within the Catholic community. They will also spend time with our Chamber of Commerce officials and business leaders. Once the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats are determined, priorities and strategies will be identified to create a strategic plan for the Department of Education. They will also provide recommendations for each school based on the comprehensive diocesan plan. This study also has the potential to involve a reorganization of the Diocese of Green Bay’s Department of Education to enable it to best serve our schools in the future.

This consultancy project will take between 12 and 18 months to complete and begin implementation. The necessary funding for this study will come from generous donors and resources outside of the Bishop’s Appeal and Cathedraticum.

This is a major initiative that I wanted to share with you; one that has become so very important to our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Green Bay. I ask you for your understanding, cooperation and support in participating in this process as it unfolds.

I look forward to continuing this column next week in my “Bishop’s Corner,” as I have a great deal more to share with all of you, who care as much as I do about our Catholic schools and formation in faith of our children and youth.