The Bishop’s Role in Discerning Catholic Identity

A bishop’s oversight of Catholic education within his diocese—including schools, home schools, and colleges—is indispensable. His support and encouragement are also invaluable.

That’s the experience of President Stephen Minnis, who has led an exciting renewal of faithful education and formation over the last two decades at Benedictine College in Atchison, Kan. Minnis says Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City “has always been available to help me as the College faces significant issues, and his advice has been invaluable as we chart the course of the College.” He says it was the Archbishop’s request that Benedictine review its compliance with Church teaching on Catholic education, create a culture of evangelization on campus, and give special attention to family and life issues.

It has always been so: the success of Catholic education depends on the active leadership of bishops. The bishops at the First (1852) and Second (1866) Plenary Councils of Baltimore deemed Catholic elementary schools vital to the protection of children from “the seeds of error or vice” and required every parish to erect a Catholic school. Decades earlier in 1789, Bishop John Carroll established Georgetown University as the first institution of Catholic higher education in the United States.

Magdalen College’s Mass of the Holy Spirit. From left to right: Mr. John Klucinec, Dr. Mary Mumbach, Fr. Stephen Rocker, Bishop Peter Libasci, Deacon Karl Cooper, Dr. Ryan Messmore (president of Magdalen College), Dr. Erik van Versendaal.

The bishops’ responsibility to oversee Catholic schools and colleges is noted in many Vatican documents, and it is most clearly defined in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, St. John Paul II’s Ex corde Ecclesiae (1990), and The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue (2022).

Catholic education is an apostolate of the Catholic Church founded by Christ to make disciples and to teach all that He commanded. In the formation of young people, the Church is a necessary partner with parents, who are a child’s primary educators and require their bishops’ guidance in matters of faith and morals. Especially in the last two centuries, the Church has assisted families by providing Catholic schools and colleges under the oversight of the local bishop and oftentimes religious orders. Ex corde Ecclesiae requires that Catholic college leaders report to their bishops: “Every Catholic University, without ceasing to be a University, has a relationship to the Church that is essential to its institutional identity” (27). And in The Identity of the Catholic School we read, “Indeed, the ‘ecclesial nature of Catholic schools, which is inscribed in the very heart of their identity as schools, is the reason for the institutional link they keep with the Church hierarchy’” (50).

It is the bishop’s responsibility “to promote and assist” in the preservation and strengthening of Catholic identity in education. The American bishops typically leave the day-to-day oversight of parochial and diocesan schools to a superintendent or other administrator, but The Identity of the Catholic School reiterates the duty and responsibility of the bishop for this oversight, describing in detail specific procedures and actions he must do to protect Catholic teaching.

A bishop should visit all the Catholic schools in his diocese “at least every five years, personally or, if he is legitimately impeded, through the coadjutor Bishop or the auxiliary or the Vicar general or episcopal Vicar… or some other presbyter,” the Vatican says. The document does not contemplate delegating this to a lay person or religious organization.


The success of Catholic education depends on the active leadership of bishops.


The bishop can “appoint or at least approve teachers of religion for his diocese,” and he can also remove them or require they be removed, “if reasons of religion or morals require it.” Since all teachers in diocesan schools are required to infuse the Catholic faith into their subjects, the bishop has authority to remove any of them “if conditions for his or her appointment are no longer met.” This generally means following the moral teachings of the Catholic Church and not creating public scandal. This is because teachers hold an “ecclesiastical munus and office,” which means “any post which by divine or ecclesiastical disposition is established in a stable manner to further a spiritual purpose” (Can. 145 §1).

The bishop also has the right and duty to intervene at the college level, if he believes the character of a Catholic college is compromised. Catholic theology professors—whether or not at a Catholic institution—are required to obtain the mandatum from their local bishop, acknowledging that they are teaching in full communion with the Catholic Church. Ex corde Ecclesiae requires a periodic review of a Catholic college’s program and communication with the bishop, which for many of the Newman Guide colleges has resulted in a very productive relationship. President Ryan Messmore of Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, N.H., tells us that each year the bishop comes “to celebrate our Mass of the Holy Spirit on the first day of classes and to hear the faculty and the president take the Oath of Fidelity to the Catholic Church.”

Schools operating independently from the diocese require a formal recognition by their bishop that the school can use the Catholic label. Even a school or college holding canonical status (a religious institute or juridic person) must request this approval from the local bishop, should they desire to open a school or college in a particular diocese, according to the Vatican’s 2022 document on Catholic identity.


Father, Shepherd, and Teacher

by Most Rev. Thomas A. Daly

The seasonal return to the sound of school bells ringing signals that another academic year is underway. This is a sound that stirs any number of feelings – joy, excitement, even a small bit of dread. But it’s the undeniable herald calling Catholic educators back to their mission to form the students that God has providentially placed in their care in the wisdom and virtue that is their inheritance. As a former Catholic high school president, this mission remains of foremost importance to me, and as a bishop, that importance has only grown.

In any gathering of bishops, it doesn’t take long for the conversation to turn to our Catholic schools. We know that our schools are essential to the exercise of our own episcopal ministry: to proclaim salvation in Jesus Christ and to invite souls to embrace this. More than a century ago, our predecessors envisioned a Catholic school at every parish; while this dream was not fully realized, the first half of the 20th century saw a boom in the construction of Catholic schools.

It’s worth spending a bit of time contemplating why the Church has placed such a priority on Catholic schools. Certainly, the passing on of the faith is of primary concern, along with the development of intellectual capacities. Recent decades and the growth of disaffiliation might cast some doubt on how successfully we have done this. In another sense, the crisis of faith may be an opportunity for us to peel back layers of attempted reform and consider the fundamental question: what is Catholic education?


Good bishops assess threats to the flock, such as the rise of gender ideology and the encroachment of secularism, which threaten the souls of our children.


At its heart, Catholic education should be a process of integral formation that transmits what Pope St. John Paul II called a “convincing and coherent vision of life in the conviction that the truths contained in that vision liberate students in the most profound meaning of human freedom.” The school’s task includes evangelization and catechesis, but before it can accomplish these, it must form the hearts and minds of its students with a Catholic imagination that allows the great catechetical truths to be welcomed and to take root.

It’s also worth noting that this mission has a priority for the marginalized and the “least of these.” Not all children are born into families that are fully capable of educating and forming them; but as children of God, they are entitled to it, and the Church embraces them and welcomes them into this place of formation, animated by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

So, what role has a bishop to play in all of this? Not surprisingly, our role is quite critical. We are tasked with ensuring that Catholic schools are faithful and effective places of formation. Last year, the then-Congregation on Catholic Education issued an instruction on the nature of Catholic identity, The Identity of a Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue. The document was something of a “preemptive strike” in encouraging resolutions of disputes surrounding schools, and it worked to achieve this by reiterating the nature of schools and the responsibilities of those overseeing them.

There are three images of bishops that speak to our role in ensuring the mission of our Catholic schools. They are: father, shepherd, and teacher.

The Bishop as Father

In the Identity of a Catholic School document, the rights, responsibilities, and authority of the local bishop are articulated well, citing canon law and tradition. The Holy See recognizes the paternal nature of the office of bishop and says: “The Bishop is the father and pastor of the particular Church in its entirety. It is his task to discern and respect individual charisms, and to promote and coordinate them” [68].

The two words that jump out here are two important aspects of fatherhood: to discern and to respect. Good fathers exercise spiritual leadership by discerning the will of God in their families; so too bishops with regard to their dioceses, which includes the Catholic schools and the charisms associated with them. The natural fruit of the discernment of God’s will is respect. This competence to organize the various charisms in the Church translates, among other things, into certain specific actions.

Of course, the work of a father is never just found in thought and prayer. In fact, thoughtful prayer should be reflected in the action of the bishop: taking the time to get to know his schools and those who teach and lead there and supporting the formation of Catholic school teachers, who hold a munus in the Church, by providing leadership and resources.

The Bishop as Shepherd

The pastoral work of a bishop is manifested in the ongoing responsibility to watch over the schools in his care in the same way that a shepherd is vigilant in tending the flock. Good bishops assess threats to the flock, such as the rise of gender ideology and the encroachment of secularism, which threaten the souls of our children. When a threat is detected, a bishop must act forthrightly. He will often be condemned for this by a world that values tolerance over truth, but it remains his sacred responsibility.

As a young priest teaching high school, I had a Wire Fox Terrier named Rascal. Whenever my nieces and nephews would visit, they always played on the football field. Rascal would criss-cross the field, never getting too close to them. However, when one of them ventured off from the rest, Rascal would run toward them, barking as she leaped in the air. It was her way of alerting them that they needed to come back. This approach was in sharp contrast to a college friend’s Border Collie, Jake. He had to be kept away from young kids because he would herd them in a circle, frequently bumping against them as if they were sheep.

As bishops, we must keep our eyes on the flock, without being overbearing and aggressive, which often leads to being hurtful. But when there is danger, we should not hesitate to sound the alarm in the strongest terms.

The Bishop as Teacher

The office of bishop is threefold: as priest, prophet, and king. These roles correspond to three missions: to teach, to sanctify, and to govern. As a teacher, the bishop assumes chief responsibility for the teaching of the faith in his diocese. All those who teach in Catholic schools do so as an extension of the teaching authority of the bishop.

As Chief Teacher, it is our responsibility to educate our own people about the nature of a Catholic school. Like all good teachers, we must guide them in their own understanding of the nature of a Catholic school. In our world today, we see two fundamental errors at either extreme: the belief that a Catholic school is essentially a seminary and should serve only those whose sense of the faith has reached a particular level. On the other end, we have some who believe that Catholic schools are social service agencies, seeking only to deliver a service with no regard for the faith. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton provides some needed guidance here: “Our dear Savior was never in extremes.”

May Our Lord Jesus Christ bless and keep our Catholic schools in this 2023-2024 school year!


Most Rev. Thomas A. Daly
Bishop of the Diocese of Spokane, WA., and chairman of the USCCB
Committee on Catholic Education


Priests Are Needed in Faithful Catholic Education

by Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas

It seems that most priests either do not know or fail to comprehend the critical importance of Catholic schools in the life of the Church, particularly as a vehicle of the new evangelization. At a bishops’ meeting nearly a decade ago, Archbishop George Lucas and Bishop Daniel Flores lamented the fact that too many clerics over the past three decades have grown weary of the struggle to keep our schools viable, appealing, and accessible. “As Bishops, we must make every effort to assign pastors to parishes with schools who are champions of Catholic schools,” Bishop Flores said.

At the Catholic Education Foundation (, we have responded with an annual seminar to help seminarians, priests, and bishops be a powerful and energizing presence and influence in our schools. We also recently launched the Priestly Society of Christ Priest and Teacher, for priests engaged with Catholic high schools. In support of the effort, Mary Pat Donoghue, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Secretariat of Catholic Education, said, “In this apostolic age, our schools must vibrantly witness to the teachings of Christ in every aspect of the school’s mission, from its curriculum and pedagogy to its culture and social elements. The guidance provided by a priest—an alter Christus—is critically important to this effort.”

In this work, I have found that the majority of the “junior clergy” are most supportive of Catholic schools, but they do not know exactly what they can or should be doing to advance the cause. This is either because they did not attend Catholic schools themselves, or they went to Catholic schools in an era when clerical involvement was low or even non-existent.

In fact, a very interesting study surfaced in 2019 on the attitudes of seminarians toward our schools. It was both encouraging and disturbing: encouraging, in that—unlike the older generation of priests—they are quite supportive of Catholic schools; disturbing, in that they say they have been given no tools in the seminary to prepare them for any role in the schools.

More Important than Ever

In one of St. John Henry Newman’s lectures which became his famous Idea of a University, he makes the point that, without the presence of the “institutional” Church in the life of a Catholic university, the project is bound to lose its moorings. That is equally true of Catholic education at the elementary and secondary levels.

With the absence of priests, orthodoxy and Catholic identity waned in many places, leading to a further crisis in the schools. The mass exodus of women religious from the schools is yet another reason why the presence of priests is more important than ever.

The involvement of a priest, however, is not simply or even primarily that of a watchdog. His involvement is needed to provide pastoral support for faculty and administration; to teach religion or other subjects according to his abilities; to be part of the lives of the students on the playground, in the cafeteria, and at social and athletic events; and, of course, for sacramental/liturgical services.

Not a few bishops—precipitously and very foolishly, in my opinion—withdrew priests from high school work, yet the presence of priests there provided one of the most effective “recruitment” devices we ever had for priestly vocations. Dioceses that have kept priests there—or which are putting them back—know that.

A priest is faced with many challenges as he navigates the waters of the school apostolate. The first is that of regularly reminding his people that the Catholic school is an essential element of Catholic life—whether or not there is a parish school, whether or not individuals have children of school age—and, therefore, deserving wholehearted support, as the Code of Canon Law reminds us.

Second, he must say some potentially unpopular things. For instance, families need to be told that attendance at the government schools (the so-called “public” schools) places the souls of children in jeopardy—a point highlighted in a study five years ago, which documented that Catholic children in the state schools most often lose their faith in God and the Church as early as fourth grade, due to the type of science classes they experience. And when we begin to consider topics related to marriage, family, and sexuality, the need for Catholic schools becomes more obvious than ever before. The aggressive promotion of “gender theory” and “critical race theory” in government schools across our nation should give any intelligent parent reason to make the local Catholic school the educational home for one’s children.

Third, the priest must ensure that no child is ever denied a Catholic education for want of financial resources.

Fourth, and this is often a very neuralgic piece of the whole project, he must help parents establish clear priorities: Is a winter vacation more important than a Catholic education for one’s children?


Priest Challenges:

  • Remind people that the Catholic school is an essential element of Catholic life.

  • Be prepared to say things unpopular regarding the threats of public school.

  • Ensure no child is ever denied a Catholic education for want of financial resources.

  • Help parents clearly prioritize a Catholic education.


A Saintly Example

John Henry Newman was a newly minted Cardinal in 1879, when he was asked by Archbishop Roger Bede Vaughan of Sydney to lend his voice to the defense of Catholic schools in Australia. With great eloquence and insight, he wrote:

It is indeed the gravest of questions whether our people are to commence life with or without adequate instruction in those all-important truths which ought to colour all thought and to direct all action;—whether they are or are not to accept this visible world for their God and their all, its teaching as their only truth, and its prizes as their highest aims;—for, if they do not gain, when young, that sacred knowledge which comes to us from Revelation, when will they acquire it?

Indeed, if not “when young… when?”

Reflecting on his involvement in the early years of his Oratory School in an 1862 letter to the President of St. Patrick’s Seminary in Ireland, Newman acknowledges:

I am overworked with various kinds of mental labour, and I cannot do as much as I once could. Yet it would be most ungrateful to complain, even if I were seriously incommoded, for my present overwork arises from the very success of a school which I began here shortly after I retired from the [Irish] University. When we began it was a simple experiment, and lookers-on seemed to be surprised when they found we had in half a year a dozen; but at the end of our third year we now have seventy… As all other schools are increasing in number, it is a pleasant proof of the extension of Catholic education.

An “Old Boy” of the Oratory School, Arthur Hungerford Pollen, recalled:

At the Oratory we saw a good deal of the Cardinal. Nothing pleased him more than making friends with the boys, and the many opportunities we had of personal contact with him made the friendship a real one. Of course, to us he was the greatest of heroes. . . . In the Latin plays which he had prepared for the boys to act he always took the keenest interest, insisting on the careful rendering of favourite passages, and himself giving hints in cases of histrionic difficulty. In the school chapel he from time to time appeared, giving a short address, and assisting at the afternoon service. It is curious that it should have been in connexion with these two widely different occupations that we should have seen most of him. It is, perhaps, characteristic of his disposition, in which playfulness and piety were so sweetly combined. (Cited in Wilfrid Meynell, Cardinal Newman, 86f.)

In 1879, a representative of the Oratory School Society observed in a letter to Newman:

Just twenty years ago you generously founded the Oratory School, and you have always cheerfully shared in the burden of toil and self-sacrifice which that act has entailed. We, on our part, gratefully acknowledge the benefits derived from the privilege of your personal influence and guidance after the wise and gentle way of St. Philip.

To which, Newman responded with a most priestly heart, placing the role of the priest in a Catholic school directly within one’s pastoral ministry and giving it preeminence: “No other department of the pastoral office requires such sustained attention and such unwearied services.”

St. John Henry, pray that our priests may imitate your selfless love and sacrifice on behalf of our beloved Catholic schools.


Rev. Peter M.J. Stravinskas
is president of the Catholic Education Foundation, which strives to preserve and expand Catholic elementary and secondary schools. He has served as an advisor to The Cardinal Newman Society and co-edited Newman’s Idea of a University: The American Response (Pine Beach, NJ: Newman House Press, 2002), a compilation of papers presented at a CNS conference in 2001.


Case Study I (North Carolina); Transforming a Parish School

“Don’t give up on your parish schools. Schools are great challenges, but don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions,” urges Father Lucas Rossi, who serves as pastor of St. Michael’s Catholic Church and School in Gastonia, N.C.

“It’s worth it to go through the difficult times,” Fr. Rossi continues. “Remind yourself that it’s Jesus’s school. If He wants it to succeed, it will. In the varying challenges that come from year to year, keep your eyes fixed on Christ.”

Fr. Rossi has seen his fair share of challenging times at St. Michael’s and other Catholic schools that he has been affiliated with, yet he still loves being involved with the schools. “As long as Jesus Christ remains the center of everything we do, I’m confident that the blessings will be rich and abundant.” 

A ‘clarification of mission’

Fr. Rossi was ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Charlotte in 2010. He has served at Catholic churches in Winston-Salem, Charlotte, and Salisbury, N.C., and spent a brief time discerning a monastic vocation with the monks at Belmont Abbey College, which is recognized in The Newman Guide. Since 2018, he has served as pastor of St. Michael’s Catholic Church and Parish in Gastonia, N.C., which has a PK-8 parish school.

St. Katharine Drexel was a generous benefactor of the school, and the Sisters of Mercy staffed it for many years. Initially started in a parishioner’s five-bedroom home, the school moved to its permanent campus in 1952. In 2018, the school received a large private donation and a grant from the Diocese of Charlotte to undergo a major renovation of its facilities. 

But the physical renovation wasn’t the only change that the school was undergoing. There was also a deeper revitalization that was beginning to take place.

Fr. Rossi and a group of committed parents—many affiliated with Belmont Abbey College—set-out to clarify the mission of St. Michael’s Catholic School. He strongly desired for students to experience “wonder” and be “shaped by encountering the true, good, and beautiful” through an integrated curriculum. He believed that “every subject ought to point to God.”

“The school needed a clarification of mission. What do we offer? Was saying ‘We are a Catholic school’ enough to set us apart from other schools in our area? Not really,” said Fr. Rossi.

And so began a three-year transition of the school’s curriculum and training of its teachers to strengthen the school’s academics and Catholic identity. Unfortunately, the first year of the transition happened to coincide with the COVID pandemic in 2020. The school’s enrollment took a hit and dropped to about 85 students, from about 140 the prior year. Still, the efforts moved forward. 

Putting first things first

Despite initial low enrollment numbers, Fr. Rossi still felt the support of much of his staff and many Catholic families who desired strong Catholic education.

Together with the academic revival, Fr. Rossi embarked on a sacramental revitalization as well. He added both Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament six times each week. Ahead of the 2022 academic year, he announced that the school day would begin with a daily 8:00 a.m. Mass. 

Families from all over the Charlotte area began to hear about the changes happening at St. Michael’s, and many were drawn to it. For some families, the addition of daily Mass was the final sign they needed to enroll at St. Michael’s. In the 2022-23 school year, enrollment was impressively up to about 165 students. 

“Jesus is our Master Teacher, and so He gets the first class of the day,” Fr. Rossi smiled. “It’s not about losing time; we’re gaining the best ever at the feet of Christ. It feels right. I hope more Catholic schools do this.”

Now, after a year of daily Masses to begin the school day, Fr. Rossi believes there’s been a big impact on the culture of the school. The daily Mass has been “unbelievably transformative,” he stated. 

Fr. Rossi believes he has a much better relationship with students because he sees them at least at Mass every day. He also loves seeing many parents staying for Mass and attending with their children.

Building strong families

“What we do at the school needs to be reinforced by the parents at home, otherwise our efforts are nearly pointless,” says Fr. Rossi. “Our mission is to ‘build strong families,’ and that’s why we’re here.”

One devotion encouraged among St. Michael’s families is the First Friday devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. On the first Friday of each month, homeschoolers are welcome to join the school community for Mass and Adoration, catechetical activities, and athletic activities led by student-athletes from Belmont Abbey College. Students are split into “households” named after Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, so that they can enjoy the day with students of different ages and families and “compete” against other households in friendly competitions.

Fr. Rossi enjoys being involved in First Friday activities, greeting the children on the playground, reading books in the classroom, and even bringing his “Sacristy Road Show” into the classroom.

The students—and the responsibility he feels as a spiritual father—have kept Fr. Rossi committed to the school, despite the challenges of the past three years. He’s excited to help St. Michael’s in continuing to “strive to be the best classical, Catholic school that St. Michael’s can be.”

“I don’t think any saint would have ever said they’re holy enough,” he says. “You have to keep adapting year after year. You have to keep enhancing what you’re doing well and what you can do better.”

Another bright light for St. Michael’s was the addition of a new headmaster in 2023: Jacob Nolan, who previously served as assistant principal of Lumen Verum Academy in Boston and earned his master’s in Theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, which is recognized in The Newman Guide. 

“We’re very excited about the leadership he’s bringing to the school,” said Fr. Rossi, who sees the relationship between pastor and headmaster as a “key piece” in building up a faithful school. Nolan and Fr. Rossi will meet and pray together weekly, and both will strive to set an example of “living the faith on and off campus” as “spiritual leaders” for the community.

“The ultimate goal is Heaven,” Fr. Rossi says. “We’re not just here to impart knowledge and to give facts, but to help students encounter Christ through their education, their teachers.”

Second Annual ‘Newman Guide Virtual College Fair’ Invites High School Students, Parents, Educators

CNS is grateful for the sponsorship of the St. Robert Bellarmine Fund.

High school students, their parents, and Catholic educators are invited to register now for The Cardinal Newman Society’s Newman Guide Virtual College Fair, which will take place on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. “Live” sessions will run from 10:00 a.m.—12:00 p.m. ET, as well as 7:00 p.m.—9:00 pm ET. Registration is free and available now but is required to attend the event.

The Cardinal Newman Society is grateful to the St. Robert Bellarmine Fund, which offers annual scholarships of $8,000, renewable for four years, to ten students who are attending a Newman Guide college, Kolbe Academy, a Catholic classical homeschool program, and Hallow, a Catholic prayer app, for their sponsorship of the Virtual Newman Guide College Fair. The first 1,000 registrants to the Newman Guide Virtual College Fair will receive a free 3-month trial subscription to the Hallow app, and three registrants will be randomly selected for a free year of Hallow. 

CNS is grateful for the sponsorship of Kolbe Academy.

Last year, The Cardinal Newman Society held its first Virtual College Fair, with great success. “I enjoyed the virtual college fair—thank you for this opportunity! I liked how I could easily chat with people from different colleges about my questions, see info and videos from the college on each college’s section, and attend presentations,” one student said.

CNS is grateful for the sponsorship of the Hallow app.

Overall, a follow-up survey showed that among those who took the survey, 93 percent of participants said they would consider attending or encourage someone else to attend a Newman Guide Virtual College Fair.

This year, students, parents, and educators will have the opportunity to visit the virtual booths of the colleges recognized in The Newman Guide, “chat” with admissions representatives, learn about unique scholarship opportunities, and attend “live” presentations.

The “live” presentations include:

10:30 am ET: “How to Make a Good Campus Visit” with Tom McFadden, Vice President for Enrollment & Student Success at Christendom College in Front Royal, Va.;

11:30 am ET: “Preparing for a STEM and Other Careers at a Faithful Catholic College” with representatives from several Newman Guide colleges;

7:00 pm ET: “‘Newman Center’ or Newman Guide College?” with Patrick Reilly, President of The Cardinal Newman Society; and

8:00 pm ET: “You’re Not Choosing a College – You’re Choosing a Formation” with Dr. Andrew and Sarah Swafford, Newman Guide college graduates who found Jesus Christ in a powerful way during college.

Homeschooled students, parents, high school classes, and educators are invited to log-in for the daytime session, as well as the evening session of the Newman Guide Virtual College Fair. Catholic families are encouraged to spread the word about the virtual event with friends and family, as well as their local Catholic high school and parish youth group.


Catholic College Graduate Helps Women Understand ‘God-Given Dignity’

A graduate of a faithful Catholic college relies on the formation she received to help educate other Catholic women on the nature and dignity God has given them.

Laura (Billeci) Zambrana serves as Director of Content for Endow (Educating on the Nature and Dignity of Women), which is an international apostolate founded in 2003 that reaches more than 40,000 women across the globe.

“I know I was created for a purpose and that I have my mission—to love God and make Him known—first in my vocation to marriage and family life, and then let this overflow into my work on the Endow team and with our faithful hardworking generous hosts around the world,” explains Zambrana, who graduated from Thomas Aquinas College (TAC), which is recognized in The Newman Guide, in 2009.

James and Laura Zambrana, and their children Peter, Jane, Brigid and Helen. James is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville and Laura is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College, both of which are recognized in The Newman Guide.

“TAC prepared me for my role at Endow as I navigate which topics to cover, how they should be covered, and most importantly how to curate the material such that the discussion is the focus and the fruit of the experience,” says Zambrana. Endow offers studies on Mulieris Dignitatem (St. John Paul II’s letter on the dignity and vocation of women); on the writings of female saints such as St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Hildegard and St. Edith Stein; and other writings of the Church like Catholic Social Teaching, St. John Paul II’s Letter on the Rosary and his Letter on the Christian Meaning of Suffering.

“We want to make the truth beautiful and interesting,” Zambrana continued. “How do we help women on their journey? Not everyone had an education at TAC or a faithful college and all women deserve to know their dignity. We focus on making the riches of our inheritance accessible.”

Going back to when Zambrana was deciding on which college to attend, she explained, “I was a naturally dissatisfied student with textbooks at age 14… When I heard about this school that had no textbooks, it intrigued me.” Zambrana attended the TAC summer program, and it was there that she was able to meet “people like me who also wanted to know the answers the hows and the whys. I became excited to learn after attending the summer program.”

Zambrana says that education, prayer, and friendship are what she values most from attending TAC. “TAC opened my eyes to new horizons. Study for study’s sake, for my humanity, to feed my soul. I am a better wife, mother, friend, and employee because of this unique course of study.”

“I had never experienced the unity of faith and life until I went to TAC. Things like being surrounded by students who make it a point to pray every day, didn’t eat meat on Fridays, and the seamlessness of my teachers and my friends going to class and then to Mass” made a deep impact on her life.

Zambrana also described the “amount of spontaneity and fun that arises at a place where you are all studying for studying sake and praying because that was what we were created to do… a wholeness and not studying just to get a job. The fun and comradery builds bonds of friendship to last a lifetime.”

Now in her work with Endow, “we call women together to study the documents of the Church and the lives of the saints. It is text-based like TAC. The text is the teacher—not the Endow host. The commentary is on the text. It is so similar to my undergraduate experience.”

“Questions for the discussion are an important part of the study guide,” she continued. “The friendships that emerge from Endow hinge on these questions, which are based on the text in the same way that TAC tutors were there to ask the deeper questions.”

Zambrana wants Catholic women across the globe to get a taste of what she experienced during her undergraduate years, through her work with Endow. “We really want to create a culture where women are reclaiming the time for study, prayer, and friendship.”

Publisher of Newman Guide Releases 2023-24 Edition of College Search Handbook

The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) is thrilled to release the 2023-24 edition of My Future, My Faith, a full-color, 40-page handbook to help Catholic families navigate the search for faithful Catholic colleges. It includes advice on how to make a good campus visit, how to pay for college, and so much more!

First published in 2012, My Future, My Faith is a helpful companion to The Newman Guide online, where families can find full profiles on all the colleges and schools recommended by The Cardinal Newman Society for their fidelity and strong Catholic formation.

Featured on the cover of this year’s My Future, My Faith are joyful students from Holy Spirit Academy in Monticello, Minn., an outstanding Catholic high school recognized in The Newman Guide.

My Future, My Faith makes the case for a truly Catholic education that is faithful to Catholic doctrine, morals, and practices in all that it does, integrates the insights of Catholic teaching in every discipline, and forms young adults in virtue and Catholic living. The handbook also features the Catholic colleges that generously sponsored printing and distribution.

This year, 50,000 copies of My Future, My Faith will be provided free of charge to Catholic high school students at schools recognized by The Cardinal Newman Society for strong Catholic identity, at events hosted by Catholic speaker Jason Evert on the virtue of chastity, and in dioceses and youth groups across the country.

Last year, CNS released a 7-minute video version of My Future, My Faith, which can be found online here. A trailer version of the video has received more than 40,000 plays on social media.

Catholic families are encouraged to share a pdf version, e-book version, or hard copy (with limited copies remaining) of My Future, My Faith. All versions can be accessed or requested here:


Conservative Leader Prepared at Faithful Catholic College

“When you look at society today, it is a direct result of secularism being taught as a religion,” says L. Brent Bozell III, who is founder and president of the Media Research Center, the largest media watchdog organization in the United States.

“And I think that if everyone were taught in a genuine Catholic school, all of the world’s problems would go away,” Bozell continued.

The Cardinal Newman Society recently caught up with Bozell, who formerly served on the CNS board of directors, to discuss the impact of the education he received at the University of Dallas in Irving, Tex., which is recognized in The Newman Guide for its strong Catholic identity.

“Had it not been for the University of Dallas, I don’t know if I would have been able to pursue my career as I did. The closer you can be to understanding black and white, you are better prepared for life. It’s the secular grey area that can make life very confusing,” said Bozell.

L. Brent Bozell III

CNS: Why did you choose to attend the University of Dallas? What was your experience like? 

Mr. Bozell: It was because of a long family association with Dr. Frederick (“Fritz”) Wilhelmsen, who was the director of theology at the university. He was a family friend, but also an editor at Triumph magazine, which my father started.

CNS: How did your education prepare you for your career and vocation?

Mr. Bozell: Fritz Wilhelmsen’s daughter, Alexandra Wilhelmsen, was my advisor when I declared my history major. I remember her asking me what I intended to do with it. I remember telling her I had no idea, at which point she burst out laughing and told me I would make a fine history major; the point being, unless you’re going to teach it, or write about it, you really can’t apply it, other than giving you a broad cultural understanding of the world.

CNS: How did attending a faithful Catholic college help you grow in your faith? How did it help you grow as a person?

Mr. Bozell: I don’t know that I was the most faithful Catholic in college, but I suspect that’s what 99 percent of Catholics in college would tell you. But you were surrounded by Catholicism at the University of Dallas, and they gave it—along with my family’s structure—great direction as I embarked on my career.

CNS: How has the education you received influenced your work?

Mr. Bozell: Had it not been for the University of Dallas, I don’t know if I would have been able to pursue my career as I did. The closer you can be to understanding black and white, you are better prepared for life. It’s the secular grey area that can make life very confusing.

CNS: From the classes to dorm life to student activities, what had the most impact on you during college?

Mr. Bozell: The friendships I made that I still have to this day. And that’s 50 years later (since I began at the University of Dallas). And that includes my wife—I still have her, too!

CNS: How were you formed mentally, spiritually, and physically by your faithful Catholic college? 

Mr. Bozell: Mentally: the education was second to none; I wish only that I had taken greater advantage of it. Spiritually: Catholicism was not just taught; it was lived, which distinguishes it from most Catholic colleges. Physically, I broke every bone in my body due to bad luck growing up, so that didn’t help!

CNS: Why do you think faithful Catholic education is important? 

Mr. Bozell: When you look at society today, it is a direct result of secularism being taught as a religion. And I think that if everyone were taught in a genuine Catholic school, all of the world’s problems would go away.

CNS: Do you think the liberal arts are valuable? Was studying the liberal arts helpful to you after graduation? 

Mr. Bozell: I think it’s tragic when I hear of colleges cutting them back or cutting them out—they say that “it is not a career path!” The liberal arts may not train you how to use a wrench, but they train you how to use your mind.

CNS: Do you have any special memories from college?

Mr. Bozell: Yes, but I can’t tell you any of them! You know, they would revolve around times spent with fellow students who would become lifelong friends. But also, time spent with professors who were truly iconic—not just at the University of Dallas, but in their fields! You knew in their company that so many of them were genuine Catholic educators both inside and outside of the classroom.

CNS: After studying the liberal arts in college, how did you make the transition to employment?

Mr. Bozell: Well, I went from college directly into the career path I am now; I went directly into politics. My first job was working for a fellow who was a deeply spiritual Catholic, a conservative Catholic.

CNS: What have been some of the most exciting projects to be a part of at your current job?

Mr. Bozell: The Media Research Center is alone in the field of public policy, in that it is the only organization in the entirety of the conservative movement that is focused entirely on what I believe to be the greatest enemy of the conservative movement: the Left within the news media. This has been an exciting time over the last 35 years.

CNS: What advice would you give to students who are navigating the college search? 

Mr. Bozell: Follow the Newman Guide is what I would say! There are Catholic colleges that are Catholic in name only, but a few that live their Catholicism. And Newman Guide colleges are where every Catholic should consider going. This is not to say that only Catholic schools offer a good education; however, when you have a school like the University of Dallas, you can’t go wrong.

CNS: What do you think was key to helping form you into the leader you are today? 

Mr. Bozell: I think, a well-rounded understanding of the world. And also, focusing more on conviction than on consensus.

Celebrating Every Kind of Catholic Education

Classical schools… Great Books colleges… homeschool programs… trade schools…

What are we to make of the wide and growing variety of Catholic education options?

As Catholic education keeps getting better, The Cardinal Newman Society (CNS) believes that we need to celebrate the very best, regardless of form. Exemplary educators deserve to know how much they are appreciated by Catholic families, and others need models to follow. Catholic families should know where to get the best formation. These are all reasons for The Newman Guide.

But is it all “Catholic education”?

Many in the Church today think of Catholic education as the equivalent of parochial schools. And to be sure, parochial schools have held pride of place in the United States for many decades and continue to do so. CNS works extensively to aid parish and diocesan schools and their leaders, whose commitment to fidelity and strong formation is crucial to evangelization in America.

But Catholic education is not a method or institution; it can be served well or poorly by various methods and institutions, just like healthcare or assistance to the poor. Catholic education is an art, a vocation, and a ministry. It cultivates the intellect by the aid of grace and the truth of Catholic doctrine, within an integral human formation that is ordered to full communion with God.

While its mission should remain constant, Catholic education’s response to various family circumstances and student needs has required several methods and school structures including homeschooling, parish schools, monastery schools, boarding schools, trade schools, residential colleges, research universities, online programs, and variations on these. Catholic education simply cannot be limited to any particular method or institution, without unjustly excluding portions of Catholics who were promised formation in the faith as a right of Baptism.

Catholic education also cannot be limited to any age group, as if the opportunity to know God and His creation expires at a certain age. Of course, formation of the mind and character is especially important for young people.

That’s why we are so excited to expand our Newman Guide recognition to include a wide variety of elementary and secondary schools, colleges, and graduate programs—and soon homeschool programs as well. And it’s why CNS eagerly assists and promotes all kinds of educational programs that faithfully serve the Church’s mission of evangelization.

Independent schools

One new and growing segment of Catholic education is independent schools, not affiliated with any parish, religious order, or other Church entity. And the longest-operating independent school is Holy Angels Academy in Louisville, Ky., faithful to Catholic teaching and authority and devoted to the true mission of Catholic education.

In June, marking Holy Angels’ 50th anniversary and more than five decades of independent Catholic schools, CNS President Patrick Reilly and Vice President of Educator Resources and Evaluation, Dr. Denise Donohue, were among the featured speakers at a large celebration in Louisville. Reilly presented a commemorative plaque to Academy headmaster Michael Swearingen and longtime leader Joe Norton announcing to more than 600 educators, parents, and alumni the Academy’s recognition in The Newman Guide. Participants included representatives of other independent schools nationwide and the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education.

Donohue had a dual role at the event, representing both CNS and the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools (NAPCIS). Donohue and our senior fellow Dr. Dan Guernsey are both long-time board members of NAPCIS and founding leaders of independent Catholic schools in Texas and Florida, respectively. Donohue addressed the Holy Angels celebration with a message from Dr. Eileen Cubanski, whose leadership of NAPCIS has been instrumental to the growing independent school movement.

Donohue also researched and authored a special report on the importance and history of independent Catholic schools, which is available on the Society’s website. The report is being shared with dioceses, schools, and Catholic media to promote better understanding of their unique contributions to Catholic education.

Historically, Catholic schools have been affiliated with religious orders, parishes, dioceses, and other Church entities. But independent schools arose in the late 1960s and 1970s, when many religious orders abandoned parochial schools and the schools lost focus of their mission. Since then, the Church has embraced lay vocations in teaching and administration, and today more than 97 percent of parochial school employees are laypeople.

Therefore, parents should be applauded for developing new schools when needed to ensure the sound formation of their children in fidelity to the Church. According to NAPCIS, the first known independent school was Holy Innocents Academy in Kinnelon, N.J., founded in 1967 by Dr. William Marra. That school eventually closed, and thus Holy Angels Academy in Louisville—founded in 1973 by a Dominican nun in partnership with Catholic families—is the longest-operating independent school today.

The Academy has a student body of 101 students in grades PreK-12 and used a classical approach even before it gained its current popularity. The school’s motto, ad majorem Dei gloriam (for the greater glory of God), is evident in its religious practices. Students attend daily Mass and recite the Morning Offering, with prayers to St. Michael and their guardian angels.

Today, according to Donohue’s report, there are 82 member schools in NAPCIS, including 20 that joined since 2010. About an equal number of independent schools have been launched but closed their doors due to financial struggles. Starting and maintaining a school without parish support can be difficult, but it’s all the more reason CNS promotes these schools and helps them develop strong policies and protect against ideological threats.



Newman Guide Education Is So Much More

Today in secular public education, there is a “back to basics” movement among exacerbated parents seeking to protect their children from harmful ideological cultural forces in education. But the answer is not as simple as “just” teaching reading, writing, and math. There is ultimately no “neutral education.” There is only education in the truth or its opposite; and there is much more to learn than phonics and sums.

Meanwhile in higher education, critics increasingly doubt the value of liberal arts programs, corrupted by political and ideological bias. The solution, however, is not to jettison valuable disciplines for simple career preparation. Again, education either teaches truth or opposes it.

Schools and colleges recognized in The Newman Guide know this. Not a single one was established to “just” teach kids how to read, write, and cipher or train for a job. None of them would sell their students that short, for they know that the young people in their care are of infinite value. They are sons and daughters of Christ the King, with eternal destinies.

A Newman Guide school or college does not just have a better academic curriculum. It also has a better understanding of the human person and is guided by faith and reason. It is thus itself a better guide on the path to complete human flourishing.

A Newman Guide institution is also upfront in acknowledging that a fundamental purpose of education is the generational transmission of culture—understood as the values, traditions, and mores of a community, including the Catholic faith and community. All schools, public and private, perpetuate and form culture; they should be upfront about their intentions and influences. But Newman Guide schools understand the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education’s warning that:

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are now facing with what might accurately be called an educational crisis, especially in the field of affectivity and in many places, curricula are being planned and implemented which “allegedly convey a neutral conception of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason.” The disorientation regarding anthropology which is a widespread feature of our cultural landscape has undoubtedly helped to destabilize the family as an institution, bringing with it a tendency to cancel out the differences between men and women, presenting them instead as merely the product of historical and cultural conditioning. (Male and Female He Created Them, 2019)

Forming the whole person

Additionally, because faithful Catholic schools and colleges understand that their students are a unity of mind, body, and spirit with an eternal destiny, they know that there is no effective and compelling way to reach and teach young people other than as they come before them every moment: as complex, unified unrepeatable body/mind/spirit miracles. They are never just teaching a mind. A consequence of this unity it that there simply is no way to remove culture, valuing, complex human relationships, God, and notions of good and evil from a child’s development and schooling. Catholic educators occasionally focus their formational efforts on one part of the triad more than the other, but they never fail to consider the totality of unified young person before them.

This is why, for example, schools in The Newman Guide know that they are not “just” teaching writing. Sure, for younger kids much time is spent on grammar, spelling, and punctuation. What we are really teaching through writing is thinking and eloquence. Good writing is good thinking. It is “showing your work” and allowing and inviting others to probe and correct assumptions and conceptions. It is demonstrating powers of reasoning, personal insight, and creativity. It is difficult and demanding to do well, but as in many human activities, the question is not about how well you wield a tool but the end toward which you wield it. That students can write is useful; what they think and write about is what matters.

Similarly, the best Catholic schools don’t have older students read books “just” because they need more practice in the mechanics of reading (vocabulary, phonics etc.). They have students read books, because books carry culture. They teach students how to “read” not only the words in the text but also the world of the text and ultimately the world around them. They teach how to value and ascribe meaning to things. The suspect and corrupt books pushed on many kids by public schools today are also being used toward this end—just with a different effect.

Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes puts it this way:

Literature and the arts are also, in their own way, of great importance to the life of the Church. They strive to make known the proper nature of man, his problems and his experiences in trying to know and perfect both himself and the world. They have much to do with revealing man’s place in history and in the world; with illustrating the miseries and joys, the needs and strengths of man and with foreshadowing a better life for him. Thus, they are able to elevate human life, expressed in multifold forms according to various times and regions. (#62)

This is why Catholic educators and parents must ensure that students are surrounded by good books when young and “the great books” when older. The Cardinal Newman Society has produced its Guide for the Catholic Reader: Selected Reading List, Rubric, and Rationale for Catholic Education to help parents and educators toward this end.

Fighting for humanity

Newman Guide-recognized schools and colleges are focused on a broader array of goods than just the traditional “3 R’s” of reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic. Both inside and outside of the classroom, in academics and athletics and the arts, Catholic educators follow the Congregation for Catholic Education’s vision that Catholic education is a tour de force of complete Christian human formation:

Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption. The older students can gradually come to a more mature understanding of all that is implied in the concept of “person”: intelligence and will, freedom and feelings, the capacity to be an active and creative agent; a being endowed with both rights and duties, capable of interpersonal relationships, called to a specific mission in the world. (The Religious Dimension of Education in the Catholic School, 55)

And to put a finer point on it: The central challenge before us now is that man has forgotten who he is; or, more sinisterly, man is up to his old tricks of making himself God and worshipping his own will and pleasures. This has dramatically impacted how schools today are conducting themselves and what they are teaching. Again, Newman Guide institutions recall what the Congregation for Catholic Education has told us:

Each type of education, moreover, is influenced by a particular concept of what it means to be a human person. In today’s pluralistic world, the Catholic educator must consciously inspire his or her activity with the Christian concept of the person, in communion with the Magisterium of the Church. It is a concept which includes a defense of human rights, but also attributes to the human person the dignity of a child of God; it attributes the fullest liberty, freed from sin itself by Christ, the most exalted destiny, which is the definitive and total possession of God Himself, through love. It establishes the strictest possible relationship of solidarity among all persons; through mutual love and an ecclesial community. It calls for the fullest development of all that is human, because we have been made masters of the world by its Creator. Finally, it proposes Christ, Incarnate Son of God, and perfect Man, as both model and means; to imitate Him, is, for all men and women, the inexhaustible source of personal and communal perfection. Thus, Catholic educators can be certain that they make human beings more human. (Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 18)

Years ago, perhaps public schools were safe enough for Catholic families, but there has been a seismic shift. Cultural revolutionists have subverted traditional American values and, more importantly, Christ and His Church. Religion, morality, and faith are not extras added to a curriculum but rather core elements that public schools have attempted to remove. In actuality, they have just supplanted what is important. The worldview of Western Christendom has been chewed up and ripped out of our children’s formation and replaced by another worldview/religion that is materialist, Marxist, and relativistic. An orthodoxy is being presented, but it’s now an un-Christian orthodoxy.

It’s not that “Hannibal is at the gates,” the warning used by ancient Romans to instill anxiety at the prospect of losing their once great culture. Hannibal has now long been in control of our common culture.

In a noble but doomed-to-fail effort, some classical charter schools are trying to revive a sense of Western culture, and they fan some Christian fumes towards the kids. But even if their secular classical view achieves its goals of cultivating virtue and patriotism, in the end it will not solve the problems facing our kids or our culture.

All the problems in our current culture are the results and fruits of Western culture without Christ. We have sickened ourselves by abandoning God. As Chesterton understood so well, removing the supernatural from man has made him unnatural. Personal and cultural problems will not be fixed by a secular Western classical program or curriculum, but by Christ Himself. We cannot successfully raise our children or maintain a flourishing culture without He who is the source and summit of all that is true, good, and beautiful.

The battle for humanity cannot be sidelined, and public or public charter schools cannot be rendered safe. Reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic, and career preparation are not sufficient for the battle. These are tools both side use to advance their worldviews. The survivors will be those most rooted in truth, whose minds are most aligned with reality and who are the most generous in life. There is nowhere to hide or shield our children from the fundamental questions each must answer for himself: Who am I? What was I made to do? And ultimately Christ’s questions to each of us: “Who do you say that I am?” One benefit of this current chaos is that the stakes are clearer and more explicit. Our choices are stark. And the value of an authentic Catholic education stands out even greater. The Newman Guide’s schools and colleges are rising to the opportunity.