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Dr. John White and CCE Director Susan Ferguson Present at 2014 NCEA Convention and Expo

Images of Dr. White and Susan FergusonSusan Ferguson, Director of the UD Center for Catholic Education and Dr. John White, Assistant Professor in the Department of Teacher Education, UD School of Education and Health Sciences, presented together at the National Catholic Educational Association 2014 Convention and Expo in Pittsburgh. Titled The Gifts of Urban Catholic Education, their session explored the many gifts that urban Catholic schools provide to the Church and the communities they serve.

The Catholic Education Summit, hosted by the UD Center for Catholic Education in July 2013, was themed Urban Catholic Education: Meeting the Needs of ALL Learners. Dr. White was one of two presenters at the Summit who addressed the historical context of urban Catholic schools. Dr. White’s remarks provided a foundation for the NCEA presentation and facilitated discussion. Ferguson noted many of the critical issues that urban Catholic schools face, which were also subjects of the Summit, and which have provided new perspectives for the Catholic school community and the Catholic Church.

White and Ferguson framed their topics within the four domains of the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Elementary and Secondary Schools: Mission and Identity, Leadership and Governance, Academic Excellence, and Operational Vitality. Issues noted during their session concerned non-Catholic students in Catholic schools, economic diversity of the student body, methods of finance, models of governance, considerations for boards, support services with an emphasis on those needed for children and families of poverty, challenges to Catholic identity in faith formation and academic excellence, cultural diversity, and legislative cooperation to benefit those citizens of lesser means desiring a Catholic education for their children.

During time set aside for participant discussion, audience members raised concerns about the challenges of mergers and families who were not welcomed when changes occured. Both the presenters and participants agreed that, despite the challenges raised in the Church’s mission to serve students in under-resourced urban schools, these school communities allow the Church to be Christ to all and to be enriched by the lives of those in the city.

Pope Francis’ message eloquently calls all to see these schools as being among the most vital of ministries of the Catholic Church.

“The unified and complete sense of human life that the Gospel proposes is the best remedy for the ills of our cities, even though we have to realize that a uniform and rigid program of evangelization is not suited to this complex reality. But to live our human life to the fullest and to meet every challenge as a leaven of Gospel witness in every culture and in every city will make us better Christians and bear fruit in our cities.”

—Apostolic Exhortation on Joy of the Gospel

Dr. White and Susan Ferguson are most grateful to RCL Benziger for their support in sponsoring this presentation at the 2014 National Catholic Educational Association Convention.