Given our scheduled Spring Membership Meeting, it seemed best to offer you a detailed report of the work of the Conference since our Fall gathering.
As you know the Conference serves as a forum for genuine conversation regarding the evolving mission of Sacred Heart education within the Network Schools. Listening to the promptings of the Holy Spirit within the school communities and within the realities of our world, the Conference works to ensure mission effectiveness by creating opportunities for the Chairs, Heads and Provincial Team to engage in thoughtful dialogue and discernment about the future of Sacred Heart education. In order to achieve this objective, we’ve conducted our own needs assessment across our school communities to better understand the dynamics of our own cultural, religious and demographic shifts – so that we as a Conference can most effectively respond to the subsequent needs and opportunities they present us. Simultaneously, we wanted to understand the larger landscape of young people’s attitudes towards religion by doing research on the phenomenon of disaffiliation and the rise of “nones” (those who do not identify with a religious group). For this research we reviewed two important studies, Going Going Gone
the Pew Religious Landscape Study
as well as the insights captured in a new book, The New Copernicans.
All of these studies demystify the dynamics of religious disaffiliation and correct the inaccurate assumptions many Church leaders make about disaffiliation.
We discovered that in order to understand these changing dynamics, we must acknowledge a fundamental shift in frame of reference happening among young adults, many whom we call millennials (born between 1980 and 2000). Most research on them is constructed in categories that ignore this radical shift in perspective and their right-brained intuitive approach. Instead, to understand their framework, we must understand their influences. They are shaped by Google and the world’s knowledge at their fingertips; social media and the ability to share their views, opinions and stories instantly; exposure to cultural, religious and sexual diversity promoting a non-judgmental and inclusive approach to others; and disappointments and awareness of the limitations of institutions from Wall Street to the Republican and Democratic committees, from the National Security Agency to the Church. (View our report
While there is a rise of disaffiliation (37% of 18-29 year olds), these studies also clearly supported Lisa Miller’s
research that millennials are haunted by a desire for transcendence, meaning and truth.
Through the needs assessment conducted by both of us, it is evident that the dynamics described in these studies are also occurring in our school communities. (Over the past year, Claire has visited 19 of our 24 schools – and among the two of us we have visited each of our 24 schools at least once.) Our findings have reinforced our need to help our faculty, administrators, staff, trustees, chairs and heads understand the essential principles of Sacred Heart education with new language, concepts, frameworks and tools. (View our report
All of our research shows us that disaffiliation is the result of discernment, reflecting the values of millennials, mirroring those we’ve mentioned above. Many of our faculty and staff as well as lower school parents and some trustees are New Copernicans. Those of us who are not can sometimes use wording and concepts that fail to carry significance to those who approach questions about meaning, values, religion and spirituality from a radically different perspective.
Our findings have significant implications for our work as a Conference. To both understand and embrace the New Copernicans (millennials), it is clear to us that we need to equip our communities with both a relevant framework and the effective, language, approaches and tools to understand, communicate and live into our complex Sacred Heart identity.
Our conclusion was that in order to begin to do so we had to start by answering the question: What does it mean to be a Sacred Heart School, a Catholic School and an independent school?
We offer this document, Sacred Heart School Identity
, to you as the leaders so that you have a sense of how we understand the essence of Sacred Heart education. (Also attached) In answering this question, we have created the parameters for our ongoing work. This statement has been developed with much input from our schools through the needs assessment process, the committees of the Conference and some actual beta testing with a school leadership team and a couple of school administrators. Given the Strategic Planning process in which the Network Board is leading the Members, we believe that this paper is important to share with you now.
We are currently in the process of developing a three-year plan that will clarify for all exactly what we propose in the areas of Education to Mission for each of the constituencies that makes up our school communities. In the fall, we plan to share with the Members our detailed plan. This summer and fall we plan to do the following:
- Hold regional trainings with leadership teams on our three dimensional Sacred Heart Identity
- Create an Orientation to Mission & Mentoring Toolkit to be launched for the new school year
- Expand the mission-focused sections of sacredheartusc.education, including developing new multi-media resources, podcasts and videos
We will be working closely with the Education to Mission Committee to develop these resources and trainings over the summer.
Our immediate foci:
- Follow-up to the publication of Principles and Practices for Governance and Leadership in Sacred Heart Schools
- We are working with individual school boards and/or school leadership teams
- We have printed 1200 copies
- These have been shared with the 24 schools and the RSCJ communities
- We have sent the booklet to our international schools who have asked
- We have posted some chapters to the Trustee Resource Board
- Creation of our next publication – Committee on Trustees Booklet
- Creation of a resources on Financial Literacy for the adult communities
- Planning for the Fall Conference the focus of which will be Character Formation…Education to Conscience
- Launch of bi-monthly “Trustee Topics” newsletter (first edition in May) and bi-monthly Network News (first edition this past March)
We so enjoy working with all of you. We hope that you experience our support and the support of the Conference through the development of mission resources. We appreciate you reading the report ahead of time so that during our conversation on Friday afternoon we can clarify any questions you may have regarding our work.
Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ Claire Lorentzen
Conference of Sacred Heart Education
Suzanne Cooke, RSCJ
Matthew Anita MacDonald
Ann Taylor, RSCJ