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Celebrating the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe

on Friday, 13 December 2013.

The homily from Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., at the special bi-lingual Mass celebrated on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the University of Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart

GuadalupeSomewhere in the 25-year period between the time I was ordained a priest here in 1984 and 2009, when I was assigned to live and work at Notre Dame, the Guadalupe Mass at Notre Dame came into being and grew up. I remember hearing about it while I was a pastor. People raved about what a great Mass it was.

To be honest, I remember thinking, "Oh yeah, a bunch of Anglos singing 'Pan de Vida' thinking that it's really a song that would actually be sung in Mexico." And at first I thought that Pan de Vida was another fast food restaurant competing with Panda Bear. I remember thinking, "this is Notre Dame's nod to the growing Latino population in the United States, but that's about it."

Then in July of 2009 I was assigned to live and work at Notre Dame. And a few months later I was asked to preside and preach at this Mass. While it is quite different than the Mass for Our Lady of Guadalupe that I knew in Arizona and in Oregon, it was nonetheless very beautiful.

Now in my fifth year at Notre Dame, I see this Mass as a hope and a promise of all that we can become here at Notre Dame and in the Church.

I love the Guadalupe Mass (as it has come to be known) for a couple of reasons. All Marian feasts celebrated at this beloved university named in honor of Our Lady take on a special meaning. I really love this Mass because it attempts to bring together people of different races, languages, and ways of life to share in the one Eucharist of Christ the Lord.

A buzz word for our day is diversity and inclusion. Every organization from the Church to Intel to Notre Dame and to the banking world talks about diversity and inclusion. That discussion is very much alive at Notre Dame today, which is a wonderful thing. Often our conversation about diversity, however, uses words like integration, assimilation, and mainstreaming. I want to suggest to you that these are not the correct words, concepts, or ideas to guide our thinking about diversity and inclusion. Integration does not necessarily honor what each culture brings. It wants to make us come out looking the same, which would not only be an unfortunate outcome, but one that is really impossible. And we'd all be so boring.

The question that we should be asking is not "How can we integrate Latinos, Asians, African-Americans, or any other culture into Notre Dame?" The questions that we should be asking are "How can the Hispanic culture enrich life at Notre Dame; How can the African-American, Asian-American, and European cultures enrich life at Notre Dame; How can the various cultures that make up Notre Dame all enrich one another?"

It's clear which is better for the Church. Understanding and celebrating other cultures makes the Church that much richer. And from a Christological point of view, what more reveals the face of Our Lord? One culture and one language or many cultures, languages, and ways of life seeking the one face of God. I think that this liturgy is a splendid example of how several cultures at Notre Dame can enrich one another and walk with one another in our common search for God.

Think for a moment of the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Her very appearance brought different cultures together in an enriching way. In 1531, Juan Diego, a poor, uneducated Aztec Indian from modern day Mexico City shows his tilma with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to the wealthy, educated Bishop Juan de Zumarraga of Spain. Together they fall on their knees in prayer to Mary. She brought them together. Her very person invited the conquering Spaniards and the conquered native peoples to come together in brotherhood and sisterhood. It wasn't easy or quick, but that was her message.

Hundreds of years later, Blessed John Paul II proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe as the mother of one America, from the southernmost point of Tierra del Fuego to the northernmost regions of Canada.

Look at how our Blessed Mother is honored all over the world: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Carmel of the Maipú, Our Lady of Knock, Our Lady of Lavang, Our Lady of Africa, Our Lady of the Angels, Our Lady of Luján, Our Lady of Charity, Our Lady of Altagracia, Our Lady of Peace, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Divine Providence, and dozens and dozens more.

These titles – some geographical, others that reveal her essence, and others that do both – speak of the various ways and cultures in which Our Lady is loved by people all over the world. All of these cultures love and show devotion to Mary, but in different ways, forms, and languages. Mary draws all people to Her Son, and she does so through different cultures and ways of life and languages.

Mary can be our guide as we go forward so that all the races, languages and ways of life that make up Notre Dame – and the Church – may enrich one another; and through her powerful intercession, may draw us all closer to the heart of Her Son.

Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us.

Fr. Joseph V. Corpora C.S.C.
Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12, 2013

Catholic School Advantage Campaign Newsletter

on Thursday, 14 November 2013.

Queridos amigos,

I am so happy to send you this first issue of our Catholic School Advantage (CSA) Campaign newsletter. So much has happened since Father John Jenkins, C.S.C., President of the University of Notre Dame, convoked the Task Force on the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools in 2008.

In fact, so much has happened that we have not found the time to keep you informed of the many initiatives, programs, and projects that have taken place since then. We are now committed to sending a quarterly e-newsletter that will highlight some of what is going on with the CSA Campaign. In it you will find updates on what we're doing, where we are, success stories, and links to other sites that may be of interest to you.

It would be difficult to detail all that has happened in the past four years, but the current landscape of Catholic schools in the U.S serves as both encouragement and a humble reminder of the work left to done. While the number of children in Catholic schools continues to be down, we signs of hope as the number and percentage of Latino children has increased. And although we have done a lot of work, there is still so much more to do. But that's okay, because a man's reach should exceed his grasp. Else, what's a heaven for?

Perhaps more than anything else, we have helped to begin a national conversation about this very critical issue. Rather than list the dozens of places where the CSA has been presented and where it is active, I would like to reference a comment that I heard once while sitting in a meeting. I was a visitor to the annual NCADDHM (National Catholic Association of Diocesan Directors of Hispanic Ministry) in Little Rock, Arkansas in June of 2011. At one of the sessions, the speaker said, "Notre Dame has successfully engaged an entire Church in the question of Latinos and Catholic Schools." The speaker did not know me nor did he know that someone from Notre Dame was present." So that's quite a compliment, as well as testament to the work we have done thus far.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. Please let me know if you have any questions, and please keep the CSA Campaign in your prayers. I promise to remember you often in my own inadequate prayers.

All best wishes and God's abundant blessings to you from Our Lady's University.


Father Joe Corpora, C.S.C.

Catholic School Leaders Explore Strategies for Outreach to Latino Community in CSA Summer Programs

on Tuesday, 12 November 2013.

IMG 1967The summer of 2013 proved to be one of tremendous growth for two of the Catholic School Advantage Campaign's biggest initiatives – the Latino Enrollment Institute (LEI) and the School Pastors Institute (SPI). Both of these conferences – in their second and third year, respectively – brought together leaders in K-12 Catholic education from around the country to discuss new strategies to better reach out to the Latino community. 

In June, ACE welcomed 32 Catholic school principals, representing 18 (arch)dioceses, to the campus of Notre Dame for the second annual Latino Enrollment Institute – a 4-day workshop focused exclusively on ways to increase Latino enrollment in Catholic Schools. School principals, along with two to three of their staff and faculty members, gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities surrounding Latino recruitment and enrollment.  

The LEI Design Team, which consists of eight Catholic school principals (and former principals) who have all successfully turned around a school on the brink of closing, presented various strategies to more effectively market to and engage Latino families, sharing personal testimonies about their efforts to reach out to the Latino community, as well as the new life that these families brought to their schools. The mentor principals will each continue to work with a group of LEI schools throughout the current school year, aiding in implementation through direct correspondence and visits to the schools.

IMG 0827

In July, 105 pastors who have the privilege – and indeed, challenge – of overseeing a parish school, gathered at Notre Dame for the third annual School Pastors Institute. The SPI is an innovative pastoral and administrative formation conference for school pastors on core issues of Catholic identity, financial management and advancement, formation of personnel, and of course, ways to more effectively engage Latino families and invite them into fuller participation in Catholic schools. The pastors in attendance were each nominated by their respective (arch)bishop in an effort to better equip them to handle the increasingly complex challenges and opportunities associated with serving as the pastor of a parish with a school. This past summer, the SPI, like the LEI, welcomed its largest group of participants yet. The 105 pastors in attendance represented 38 (arch)dioceses.

While the Latino Enrollment Institute and the School Pastors Institute are just two of the many innovative workshops offered during the busy "ACE Summer," they have truly become the core of the Catholic School Advantage Campaign's mission strategy. Local leadership that understands and knows how to respond to the specific needs of the Latino community, whether it be pastoral or administrative, is essential if our Catholic schools are to succeed in offering the best possible education to the children who need it most. The tremendous growth of both the Latino Enrollment Institute and the School Pastors Institute has been a testament to the desire and commitment of Catholic school leaders to fulfill this mission.

Learn more about:

The Latino Enrollment Institute

The School Pastors Institute

Latino Families in Near Eastside Neighborhood Find a Home at St. Philip Neri School

on Monday, 28 October 2013.

Latino Families in Near Eastside Neighborhood Find a Home at St. Philip Neri School

St. Philip Neri Catholic School, located in the 44-square-block area just east of downtown Indianapolis known as the Near Eastside, is part of the Mother Theodore Catholic Academies, a consortium of schools committed to closing the achievement gap for low-income and minority students in urban areas of Indianapolis. In a neighborhood that is notorious for high rates of crime and poverty, St. Philip Neri School stands as a sign of hope for the children and community that it serves.

While Indianapolis may not be home to the largest or fastest growing Latino population in the country, St. Philip Neri School reflects quite a different reality. In the past decade, the school has undergone a remarkable demographic shift, experiencing an increase in Latino enrollment from 13% in 2003 to 99% today. With nearly 100 percent Latino enrollment, it is one example of the many extraordinary urban Catholic schools that have found new life in serving the Latino community.

CSW - February 2011The transformation of St. Philip Neri School into a thriving institution to which a great number of Latino families entrust their children's intellectual and spiritual formation could not have been achieved without the tireless efforts of the school's leadership - former principal, Mary McCoy and current principal, Gary Asher. Both graduates of the ACE Remick Leadership Program at the University of Notre Dame, Mrs. McCoy and Mr. Asher are well equipped as educational and spiritual leaders and possess the strategies needed to foster successful school community. Mary served as principal of St. Philip Neri for seven years, until this past July when she accepted a position as Assistant Superintendent of Instruction for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Although truly effective and transformative school leadership is not easy to replace, St. Philip Neri School could not be in better hands as Gary Asher, after having served five years as assistant principal alongside Mrs. McCoy, has assumed the role of principal.

When Mrs. McCoy first came to St. Philip Neri in 2006, there were 151 students enrolled in the school with 83% Latino. Having stepped into the role in the middle of a demographic shift that was clearly well underway, Mrs. McCoy refuses to take much credit for the influx of Latino students to the school. However, with a respective 52% and 31% passing rate in language arts and math on the ISTEP, as well as years of high faculty turnover, much work needed to be done in order to effectively serve this new population.

Mrs. McCoy had to hire several new teachers in her first year on the job, but took a very intentional approach to transforming the school environment, creating a welcoming community, and also setting high expectations for academics, attendance, and discipline. Since her first year as principal, St. Philip Neri has seen a significant increase in ISTEP scores – 75% passing in language arts and 72% in math – as well as successive years of enrollment increases. The most recent school year finished with 209 students and 99% Latino, and 220 are already registered for this upcoming year.

While St. Philip Neri reflects many of the best practices identified by the Notre Dame Task Force on the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools, Mrs. McCoy and Mr. Asher both agree that the factors that have contributed most to their successful recruitment and retention of Latino families have been the natural social networks existing within the Latino community, and a school environment with which Latino families can immediately identify. 

IMG 0044When a family walks into the front office of St. Philip Neri School, they are greeted by Maria Lomeli at the front desk, the school's administrative assistant. Maria began working at St. Philip Neri in 2004, which Mrs. McCoy notes is probably one of the main reasons why the Latino enrollment grew so quickly. Maria is originally from Tala, a small town in the Mexican state of Jalisco, which is where many of the school's families are from, many of whom are first-generation immigrants. "Having Maria at our front desk eliminates any language barriers that could potentially exist for our current and prospective families and her influence within the Latino community cannot be overemphasized," says Mrs. McCoy. In addition to Maria, several other members of the St. Philip Neri School staff are from Tala, forging an even stronger sense of community amongst the staff, students, and parents. Mr. Asher also mentions that the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the front entrance of the school is "an immediate message to Hispanic families that they belong here." While the use of this widely recognized symbol of Latino Catholicism and a bilingual staff member in the front office are just two simple examples of a culturally responsive school environment, their presence speaks volumes.

When asked what recruitment and marketing strategies they employ, both Mrs. McCoy and Mr. Asher said that retention has been their main focus, not recruitment. "If we can retain our students, our recruitment issue is solved," says Mrs. McCoy. "The word is out about St. Philip Neri School." While no Catholic school is exempt from at least some form of outreach to maintain enrollment, the existing social networks in the community surrounding St. Philip Neri have left very little of the recruitment and marketing to Mrs. McCoy and her staff. "Word spreads quickly in the community about our school. Parents know that if they want their children in pre-K, they have to register in January,"she says.

With their focus on student retention and providing the best educational experience possible, Mrs. McCoy and Mr. Asher identified cultural awareness as a primary concerns regarding the commitment of teaching in a school with nearly 100% Latino enrollment. Thus professional development for teachers and staff addressing cultural awareness would be essential. Some of the ideas that they implemented were bringing in a panel of Latino parents from which the faculty could learn about the culture, expectations, and desires parents had for their children, training from a state-level professional on culturally responsive teaching methods, and even ideas as simple as emphasizing from the very beginning of the interview process that being a teacher at St. Philip Neri School means being an ENL teacher. Furthermore, as part of the Remick Leadership Program, Mary conducted an action research project on school culture at St. Philip Neri, consisting of a pre- and post-survey of 18 faculty and staff members to both gauge the knowledge, attitude, feelings, mindset, and needs of teachers working in an urban school with a large Hispanic enrollment, and to determine the impact of professional development programs focusing on Hispanic culture. The findings of the study showed that participation in cultural awareness workshops had a very positive influence on staff and teachers, and as a result, these workshops have become routine at St. Philip Neri School.

While there are a few changes in store for this upcoming school year - particularly that of leadership - St. Philip Neri School will certainly continue to thrive. Mr. Asher has been instrumental in making St. Philip Neri a place of intellectual and spiritual growth that countless Latino families in the Near Eastside call home. And although it's not easy to leave a place she has grown to love so much, Mrs. McCoy won't be far away and will continue to serve Indianapolis Catholic schools with the Archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education. The dramatic transformation of both culture and student achievement under the direction of Mrs. McCoy and Mr. Asher at St. Philip Neri School is a true testament to the possibilities that arise when committed and capable Catholic school leaders embrace the changing community around them and provide for the fullest experience of the Catholic school advantage.

Madrinas Serve as Bridge for Latino Families: Boost Enrollment at Corpus Christi - Holy Rosary School

Written by Steve McClure on Thursday, 17 October 2013.

CCHR MadrinasAbout 30 miles north of Midtown Manhattan in the working-class village of Port Chester, New York, Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary School has a long history of educating the children of immigrant families. Like many other U.S. cities that were at one time destinations for European immigrants during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Port Chester finds itself undergoing a dramatic transformation due to a recent wave of immigrants from Latin America. Today, 59 percent of the town's residents are of Hispanic origin, contributing to a population increase of 17 percent in the past 20 years - twice as fast as Westchester County as a whole. This immigrant influx, described by Port Chester's director of planning and development, Christopher Gomez, as the "lifeblood" of the town, has brought new life to a city that fell on hard times in recent decades. For the principal of Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary, Sister Lou Ann Fantauzza, a Salesian Sister, this has been especially true as she has seen consecutive years of enrollment increases and a school culture that has been further enriched by the presence of the school's Hispanic students and their families.

Rooted in the Salesian tradition of St. John Bosco, Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary School has provided academic and spiritual formation to the children of immigrant families for over 65 years in an environment of faith, optimism, and family spirit. Similar to many other communities throughout the country, however, shifting demographics have presented entirely new cultural realities that have come with their own set of opportunities and challenges. One of the biggest and most prevalent of these challenges is the inefficacy of traditional recruitment and marketing strategies within the rapidly growing Latino population. Corpus Christi Holy Rosary School has responded to this challenge with faith, tenacity, and creativity, embracing the town's Latino community through the efforts of the school's madrinas. 

 The Notre Dame Task Force that studied the participation of Latino children and families in Catholic schools found that schools that extend personal, one-on-one invitations to Latino families have more success than those that extend blanket invitations. This statement is evidenced clearly in CCHR's recent enrollment success through the Madrinas initiative. Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary is one of 28 CSA partner schools in the Archdiocese of New York receiving need-based scholarships for newly enrolled Latino students who have been referred to the school by a madrina. These madrinas, literally meaning "godmothers," serve an indispensable role in connecting the school to Latinos in the surrounding community, informing families about the benefits and accessibility of a Catholic education, as well as mentoring new families through their transition to Catholic schooling.

This past school year 22 new families enrolled at CCHR through the madrinas program, which Sr. Lou Ann says "would not have been possible without the exceptional group of women who have volunteered their time in service to the school." Judi DeSouter, the school's Director of Development and Student Recruitment further notes that such an exceptional team does not come together without clear vision and intentionality when selecting the madrinas. "Sr. Lou Ann has identified outstanding parents who are proactive, creative thinkers, and have gone out into the community and really hit the ground running," says Ms. DeSouter, "They truly are part of the internal workings of the school and have a sense of ownership. They devise new ideas because they are in the community, amongst the parents, and constantly identify new and changing opportunities."

The madrinas, Silvia Sical, Milena Carvalho and Nadeya DeDiago work to thoughtfully craft plans and efforts that meet the needs and expectations of Latino families. "It's such a productive collaboration," says Ms. DeSouter. "Our madrinas are incredibly personable, can make meaningful conversation easily, and they have generated so much interest in our school.

CCHR StudentAmong the madrinas at CCHR, there is one in particular whose dedication and hard work have established her as an outstanding leader. "The three madrinas work incredibly well together and take the job very seriously. And Nadeya is definitely the trailblazer within our group. She is a class act – a true treasure who inspires and coaches others," says Sr. Lou Ann. On many a Sunday, Ms. DeSouter meets with Mrs. DeDiago to discuss any news on the recruitment front and any opportunities or challenges the team is facing. Ms. DeSouter noted, "When I first saw Nadeya interact with prospective families, I thought she had a background in sales because she is so successful in connecting with parents. I don't think I have ever seen a parent walk away saying, "no thanks." Because of the strength of the CCHR madrinas, the school had a waiting list of 35 kids for enrollment this year.

Although Sr. Lou Ann and Ms. DeSouter are blessed with an outstanding group of madrinas, the support of the archdiocese and its partnership with ACE's Catholic School Advantage campaign have been instrumental in the success of this program as well. Thanks to generous donor support and the fundraising efforts of Dr. Timothy McNiff, Superintendent of Schools in the Archdiocese of New York, Madrinas scholarships were available to over 400 new students throughout the archdiocese this past year. In addition, Rudy Vargas IV, CSA field consultant in New York, has been working on the ground with schools throughout the archdiocese to help establish Madrinas programs. Ms. DeSouter notes that "without Rudy's leadership, guidance, training, and continued partnership, this effort would not be nearly as successful as it is now." Although little training and professional development has been needed for the madrinas at CCHR, Rudy has always been available to help resolve issues, aid in initial training, get others involved, and give counsel to develop culturally appropriate messaging for advertisements and marketing materials.

In addition to adopting more culturally responsive recruiting techniques, CCHR School has created an environment in which students of all cultures can feel at home, with special emphasis these days on embracing the various cultures of the school's Latino population. Sr. Lou Ann notes, "Our community has a deep appreciation for and understanding of the immigrant reality. We're open to the suggestions of our madrinas that everything be a family event." Ms. DeSouter goes on to say, "as a Salesian school, we aim to be home, school, church, and playground. It's a very faith and joy-filled setting in which the opportunities to include the children's culture and include their families are many." Whether it be the Hispanic religious iconography in the hallways, celebrations honoring saints revered in the Latino community, or welcoming children who may not speak English proficiently just yet, Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary has embraced Port Chester's changing demographics and been tremendously successful. Through the tireless efforts of the school's leadership, the dedication of their madrinas, and the committed families who contribute to and entrust their children's formation to the school, Corpus Christi-Holy Rosary has truly become a beacon of hope to families in the village of Port Chester.

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