Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Catholic schools’ educators are a gift to the Church

by Duane F. Schafer, for the Inland Register

(From the Sept. 11, 2003 edition of the Inland Register)

Duane F. SchaferThere are no longer any Religious Sisters teaching in the Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the Diocese of Spokane. The last two, Sisters Loretta Giampietri and Jacqueline Welch, retired at the end of the 2002-2003 school year.

The long tradition of having groups of Religious women and men staff the Catholic schools throughout the United States is rapidly coming to an end. In 1920 92 percent of the teachers in Catholic schools were Religious women and men, in contrast to 2003, when only 5.6 percent of the teachers were women and men Religious.

These dedicated individuals created and sustained the Catholic schools in our country for 400 years. They worked tirelessly to educate and form the future leaders of our Church and our society; and they prepared and handed off the baton to those who are taking their places in the front of today’s Catholic school classrooms. We will be forever grateful to these dedicated women and men Religious.

So what does this mean for our schools? Are they still Catholic schools? Are our lay teachers truly passing on the Faith to our children?

Today there are 163,004 Catholic school teachers in the United States, and 94.2 percent of these teachers are lay women and men. In our diocese, 100 percent of the teachers and school administrators are laity. And although they are not vowed religious, they are no less dedicated to educating and forming children in the Faith than the men and women Religious who have gone before them.

Catholic school teachers in 2003 are women and men who perceive their role as a vocation. They have each responded to God’s call to “go forth and teach all nations” (Math 16:15) as Catholic school educators. They have responded to God’s call not only to teach reading, math, and science; importantly, they have responded to the call to proclaim the beliefs, values, and traditions of our Church through the example of their lives.

Our Catholic school educators are women and men who are dedicated to personal lifelong professional development and spiritual growth. They are committed to building Christian community within their schools and classrooms. They are committed to the spiritual growth of their students. They seek to recognize and respect the dignity of each child, integrate Gospel values into their teaching, instill a desire of Christian service in their students, and model Christian values in all that they say and do.

The 200-plus Catholic school educators in the Diocese of Spokane are highly competent, certificated educational professionals. A large percentage have earned advanced degrees in education; all of them tirelessly minister to our children for a compensation that is significantly less than their counterparts in the Washington State public schools. Currently our diocesan teacher salary scale reflects 80 percent of the previous year’s state teacher salary scale. This means that during the 2003-2004 school year a first-year public school teacher will earn $29,149; a first-year Catholic school teacher, $22,640. These dedicated educational ministers are truly a gift to our diocese and to the thousands of children that they serve each day throughout Eastern Washington.

(Duane Schafer is Superintendent of Schools/Bishop’s Secretary for Catholic Schools, Diocese of Spokane.)

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