Bishop Matthew H. Clark has appointed a task force of 23 people to examine ways of strengthening Catholic education in the Diocese of Rochester.
The bishop told the Catholic Courier that he recruited people who were acquainted with the diocesan Catholic-school system and the unique opportunities the schools offer, as well as the challenges they face. These task force members will study and discuss the key issues affecting Catholic education and then make recommendations to the bishop.
“It is no secret that Catholic schools face many challenges unheard of a generation ago,” Bishop Clark said in a statement. “At the same time, we also need to brainstorm as-yet unexplored opportunities and new avenues so that our schools can continue to be a vital force in our community and in the formation of tomorrow’s leaders.”
The task force comprises community leaders from a wide variety of professions and backgrounds, including two school principals, two pastors, one pastoral administrator, a deacon, a college professor and a number of local businessmen and women, as well as Father Joseph Hart, a vicar general and moderator of the diocesan Pastoral Center; Sister Janice Morgan, president emeritus of the Sisters of St. Joseph; Lisa Passero, chief financial officer for the Diocese of Rochester; and Sister Elaine Poitras, CSC, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools.
“We tried as best we could to get a variety of points of view about Catholic education. They are acquainted with our school system in varying degrees,” Bishop Clark told the Courier.
The Center for Governmental Research, a local public-policy analysis and research organization, is facilitating the task force’s work. Task force members gathered for their first meeting Sept. 5, and Bishop Clark said he was “pleased and gratified” by their dedication.
Declining enrollment is one of the challenges the task force will study, Bishop Clark said. Enrollment losses forced the closure of St. John Bosco School in Seneca Falls over the summer, and also caused Holy Family School in Dansville to teeter on the brink of closing before Bishop Clark decided in August to keep the school open, try to build enrollment and reassess its future at the end of the school year.
“We’re challenged with a declining enrollment. It’s obviously related to increasing costs,” Bishop Clark told the Courier.
The task force also will examine such other issues as the costs facing schools, how best to utilize and maintain buildings, and the economic pressures on families who are considering Catholic education, he said.
“We also need to take a closer look at and be more helpful to schools outside Monroe County … because they’re very scattered. We want to do all that we can to support those communities,” Bishop Clark said.
The task force met again on Sept. 26, and members planned to meet regularly for the next few months.
“I hope people will pray for the task force and its work,” Bishop Clark said. “We want to move forward in the most constructive and helpful way. It’s a very important moment in our history.”