Catholic schools send strategic plans to archdiocese, detailing ‘bold’ future

Plans for 58 schools expected to be submitted by Aug. 15

Detroit — Strategic plans for 58 Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Detroit are beginning to arrive at the archdiocesan Chancery ahead of a start-of-school deadline.

As of July 23, one-third of the plans had been submitted, with the rest expected by Aug. 15, said Deacon Bill Kolarik, coordinator of Catholic school strategic planning for the Archdiocese of Detroit.

The strategic planning process for Catholic schools, announced in January, has gone “very well” so far, Deacon Kolarik said. The process is designed to help schools re-envision their mission, governance and priorities in light of Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel.

“We want our schools in the archdiocese to become par excellence on the national level for Catholic education. That’s a great vision, but how are we going to get there?” Deacon Kolarik said.

Schools have taken the process seriously, Deacon Kolarik said, with each school developing a planning team to evaluate strategies and goals for the future, including how to bolster Catholic identity and academic achievement, address challenges such as declining enrollment and rising costs, and communicate the benefits of Catholic education to parents and families.

“The archbishop has said he wants these plans to be very bold. We can’t keep doing things the way they are. We’re starting to see a little out of the box, but (schools) want to know where we’re going as an archdiocese,” Deacon Kolarik said.

After all the plans are submitted, they will be evaluated by the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools and the Catholic Schools Council, an advisory body to Archbishop Vigneron, which will then work with the schools to modify and improve the plans. Religious order-run schools were not asked to participate in the process.

Deacon Kolarik said part of the reason for the plans is to change the culture at Catholic schools to help them become more evangelization-focused.

“We’re about the disciple-making business. Our Catholic schools offer the full gamut of formation: human, spiritual, intellectual,” Deacon Kolarik said. “It’s not just about the students; it’s about the entire family. We have to start living what we believe.”

But Catholic education isn’t just the responsibility of families with a child in Catholic school, Deacon Kolarik said, nor even just parishes that operate a school.

“It is all Catholics’ responsibility to support Catholic schools,” Deacon Kolarik said, adding a survey this spring showed a large percentage of Catholics in the archdiocese agree with the archbishop’s goal of making Catholic education “available to everyone.”

“For the 161 parishes that don’t have a school, it’s going to be about a culture change,” Deacon Kolarik said. “The archbishop has said this is about changing culture, and there are all kinds of signs that the culture is starting to change. The emphasis is changing, and we just have to win back some of the people who have been on the sidelines.”