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Catholic schools are a gift to the church, to the state and to the nation. They help form children and youths to be good Christians, to be good people and to be good citizens.

" Br. William Dygert, CSC Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Portland
Research in the 1980s identified what is called the “Catholic School Effect,” the reason that Catholic schools have been so successful in educating young people regardless of economic or ethnic background. James Coleman, a sociologist from the University of Chicago, and others attributed this success to what Coleman termed “social capital,” that is, the close supportive community of families with shared values that make up the Catholic school constituency. Catholic scholars and educators who utilized this research to make a case for Catholic school excellence referred to this “social capital” — the shared values — as faith community. Catholic schools have been effective because of the faith shared by those who attend them; by the parents who enroll their children in them; by the teachers and administrators who instruct in them; and by the archdioceses and dioceses, religious congregations, and parishes who sponsor and support them.

In order to be sure that the mission of Catholic school education continues to be available, accessible and successful, the Portland Archdiocese has engaged in a yearlong process of strategic planning for Catholic school education in Western Oregon. The archdiocese resolves to be intentional about insuring that Catholic schools remain true to their mission and continue to grow in excellence. As a system of schools, we stand on the shoulders of others. The great Catholic schools we have are the result of the insights and wisdom of our forebears. The archdiocese wants to build on those insights and that wisdom to ensure that these schools remain vibrant, vital and viable for the years to come.

And why, you may ask, should the church ensure the future of Catholic schools? First and foremost because Catholic schools are the most effective platform available to the church in collaboration with parents to pass on the faith to children and young people. Catholic schools in the archdiocese combine Catholic faith and teachings with academic excellence. They partner with parents in the faith formation of youths. They set high expectations for student achievement and help students succeed. They integrate faith, culture and life. They instill the value of service. They teach respect of self and others. They emphasize moral development and self-discipline. They prepare students to be productive citizens and future leaders. And they offer a well-rounded program in a nurturing and caring environment. Catholic schools clearly demonstrate that the best way to form youths for a life of faith is in the context of a faith community.

Catholic schools are a gift to the church, to the state and to the nation. They help form children and youths to be good Christians, to be good people and to be good citizens. Catholic schools help students to acquire knowledge, skills, wisdom, values and virtue — that is, to become whole and holy human beings, to be good citizens in this life and in the life to come. That is why the archdiocese, the religions congregations, the parishes, the individual schools and their constituencies are putting so much time, energy, effort and resources in planning to ensure their future.

Brother William is superintendent of Portland archdiocesan schools.