In just one week, Father Joseph Romanoski increased Hispanic enrollment at his parish school of Blessed Sacrament in Charleston, thanks to a workshop he attended at the School Pastors’ Institute conference held at Notre Dame recently.
The conference is designed to address the unique and complex challenges related to serving as pastor of a parish school. Held July 8-11, it featured a keynote address followed by a series of workshops given by priests.
Father Romanoski said one of his favorite talks was the “Welcome of Latino Children and Families” because it gave great insight to understanding the Spanish-speaking community and ways to open the doors of Catholic education to them.
As soon as he returned to his parish, he put the lessons he learned into practice, issuing a personal invitation to about seven families and meeting with the parents one–on-one.
“My four days at the conference already yielded seven new students from the Hispanic community,” he said. “It was a well worthwhile conference — time well spent.”
Aside from what he learned, Father Romanoski said the campus and spiritual atmosphere were both beautiful.
Sandra Leatherwood, diocesan director for Catholic education, said she recommended the conference to Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone, who invited several priests to attend. Aside from Father Romanoski, Father Gary Linsky, pastor of St. Peter Church and School in Columbia, and Father Christopher Smith, administrator of Prince of Peace Church and School in Taylors, also attended.
The School Pastors Institute provides a more global perspective to priests, Leatherwood said, and lets them share common challenges and solutions. The conference this year attracted over 100 pastors from the United States.
Father Romanoski said it’s a great way to re-energize and learn all the newest statistics on Catholic education, plus share insights and tools to help the schools in their mission.
One statistic that gladdens the hearts of school pastors shows that students who attend Catholic schools do better in high school and college and make more of an impact in their community and society as a whole.
There are 28 diocesan and parochial elementary schools that are guided by pastors. The bishop has full oversight of the three diocesan high schools, and oversight of the religious curriculum at the private ones, although all five have chaplains who celebrate Mass and minister to the needs of the student body.
The role of the school pastor, said Father Romanoski, is to provide support, guidance and encouragement to the principal, who is in charge of daily decisions.
“You have to be the backbone for the school,” he said. “My role is to keep fanning the flame of Catholic education.”
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