CEM has supported schools by informing and advising them on a range of topics related to their effectiveness, growth and development
Each month, The Visitor is inviting guest writers to spotlight one of the ministries supported by the Bishop’s Annual Appeal. This is the second in a series.
As a student at St. Augustine grade school on the southeast side of St. Cloud in the 1950s, I recall announcements by the principal that a guest from the diocese would be visiting our rooms. Those visits are my earliest memories of the special relationship our Catholic schools have with the diocese.
The visitor was Benedictine Sister Aloysius Weber, who was the diocesan school supervisor from 1952 to 1963. My childhood impressions were that Sister Aloysius was a kind and gentle person who was interested in our learning. She represented the diocesan office then known as the Bureau of Education.
Over time, the bureau evolved into what is now Catholic Education Ministries. The CEM office serves and supports not only Catholic schools but all other education programs in the diocese as well. Since Sister Aloysius’ tenure, dedicated leaders of the bureau and CEM have included Father David Rieder; Benedictine Sisters Shirley Frandrup, Joan Felling and Dorothy Manual; Sister Catherine Kallhoff, a School Sister of Notre Dame; and current director Linda Kaiser.
Changing with the times
The evolutionary arc from the bureau in 1950 to CEM in 2016 encompasses dramatic changes and developments in Catholic schools, from paper and pencil to the digital age. Throughout, CEM has supported schools by informing and advising them on a range of topics related to their effectiveness, growth and development.
Paramount among them has been the subject of Catholic identity itself, accompanied by the exploration of what values, standards and actions comprise a distinctly Catholic school. The communication and promotion of methods of catechesis for the faith formation of students, families and school staff have been integral to the identity question.
Curriculum and instruction are high on the list as well. CEM assists schools in determining academic standards, curricula and instructional materials. It works cooperatively with schools to help teachers acquire a repertoire of best instructional practice and methodology to support effective teaching and learning. It works with principals to develop and hone their skills as instructional leaders.
The digital revolution has had a significant impact on curriculum and instruction. CEM’s digital catechesis and technology consultant, Tim Welch, has walked with diocesan schools, assisting them in transitioning from the advent of desktop computers to today’s integrated technology curriculum, being a companion on a journey from floppy disks to Twitter feeds.
Adapting to changing needs and times is a challenge for organizations. CEM has encouraged schools to undertake strategic planning, has helped them find sources of useful planning advice and has supported schools engaging in the school accreditation process with its emphasis on continuous improvement. By assisting in the development of school leaders and boards of education, CEM helps schools hold a steady course in both calm and stormy seas.
Walking with schools
Through trials and successes, triumphs and challenges, the Diocese of St. Cloud has encouraged and advised our Catholic schools. The special relationship between the diocese and its schools, personified by Sister Aloysius in the 1950s, endures. Today’s Catholic Education Ministries, the catechetical office of the Diocese of St. Cloud, continues the tradition of the diocese walking with Catholic schools in their mission to spread the Gospel message.
In his letter for this year’s annual appeal, Bishop Donald Kettler observes that “Catholic families who settled in our diocese decades ago built Catholic schools before anything else. Their first priority was to ensure their children would receive the faith.” Catholic Education Ministries supports the fervor of those early families through its legacy of commitment to Catholic schools in our diocese.
Share in the passion of those pioneers by supporting the work of CEM. Please give generously to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal.
Dan Hollenhorst is a former teacher, principal, and school consultant for the diocese. He is retired and living in St. Cloud.