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The Most Rev. David L. Ricken is the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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Administrators’ Day

By Bishop David Ricken | September 11, 2013

Event generates ideas for closer cooperation between schools, religious education programs

Many good ideas for closer collaboration between our Catholic schools and parish religious education (R.E.) programs came out of last year’s Administrators’ Day event, held in September 2012 at the Rock Garden in Green Bay.

This gathering drew about 200 leaders from our diocesan schools, R.E. and youth ministry programs, and Department of Education. Participants suggested a host of ways in which they can cooperate more fully in our crucial work of teaching the Catholic faith to our young people.

Dr. Joe Bound, director of the Department of Education, addressed the group, explaining how there can sometimes be divisions between school and R.E. efforts — divisions he likened to the “Berlin Wall.”

We all need to play a part in chipping away that wall and realizing that we’re on the same team, he stressed. It’s not a matter of “them and us.” Dr. Bound noted that the new strategic plans which have been developed for our Catholic schools, R.E. and youth ministry programs all call for such cooperation.

These strategic plans are a very positive outgrowth of my June 2011 pastoral letter, “Diocese of Green Bay Parishes: Called To Be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive.” The underlying goal of this letter was to ensure that Catholic education in our diocese will continue well into the future, based on a vibrant faith, highly-qualified staff, efficient use of resources and a solid financial footing.        The ideas and suggestions from the Administrators’ Day gathering are a key step toward that goal. Although these ideas were far too numerous to mention here, I’ll give you a glimpse into their creativity!

Some ideas were as simple as establishing pen-pal friendships between Catholic school and religious education program students. Or having students write congratulations cards between programs for those receiving first reconciliation, first Communion and confirmation. Another idea involved joint student participation in Sunday Masses and “Living Rosary” sessions.

Other suggestions related to teaching resources — such as sharing decision-making on purchases and selection of materials and technology. Someone mentioned that we might “unify” our textbooks and curriculum, for consistency.

Another idea was to share classroom speakers.

Our educational leaders also had thoughts of how personnel, students and parents from various programs could become better acquainted. This could include everything from joint student and parent retreats to joint beginning-of-the-year meetings between school teachers and R.E. instructors. Along this same line, youth ministers could meet together more often or come to lunch at a high school now and then.

There were also many practical ideas to help school and R.E. personnel and students reach out to each other in a welcoming manner. A classroom teacher could write a welcome letter to the R.E. instructor who would be using the same room. R.E. teachers could be responsible for carrying supplies to the classrooms they would use. There could be framed photos posted in a classroom of both the school and R.E. students who would use the space. School students could make a welcome sign to greet R.E. students on the first day of classes.

All of these ideas point to the spirit of love and cooperation which is so important among our Catholic education programs at all levels. After all, we are all part of the same one, holy, Catholic and apostolic church, with the same vital goal of educating our students as they prepare to become strong leaders for tomorrow.

At this year’s Administrators’ Day, John Reetz, our superintendent of schools, distributed the list of ideas generated at last year’s Administrators’ Day to the principals asking them to select one activity in conjunction with the religious education administrator and implement it in their parish.  He will be asking his principals to report to him later this year as to what they selected and implemented.

Needless to say, I look forward to watching many of these innovative ideas become reality across our diocese.

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