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An Amazing Morning Discussing Catholic Education

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A large crowd of more than 120 businesspeople and educators packed the Fleming Center at Cathedral on Thursday Morning as we welcomed Sister Anne Catherine, Principal of St. Cecilia, Mike Deely, Headmaster of Pope John Paul II High School, and Jim McIntyre, President of Father Ryan High School.

The heads of school discussed the future of Catholic education, here and across the country, in the first installment of our Thought Leadership Series.

All three panelists were clear about one thing: the future of Catholic education is bright, but not if educators, church leaders, and community members do not put in the necessary work.

As McIntyre put it, “If we want to grow, we have to get the whole Catholic community
to recognize the value of Catholic education.”

Deely agreed, also adding that “We need the best teachers to attract our students/families.” The California native went on to say that, at the end of the day, it’s the teachers that students remember, and it’s these shapers of young minds that ultimately represent the brand of a school.

Sister Anne Catherine noted that “Nashville’s growth should be a source of encouragement for Catholics.” Surely, with our city’s vibrant and rapid growth, and new young people and families coming from all reaches of the country, there is much opportunity for the Nashville Catholic community to grow.

Still, the challenge facing Catholic education is daunting. As Sister noted, in 1965, there were 5.5M students enrolled in Catholic schools. Today, that number is at 1.9M. McIntyre further reminded the audience to not look at the sitatuation with rose-colored lenses. “Be cautious about optimism,” he said. “Be realistic and be bold.”

Moderator Marty Blair kept the conversation lively and natural, and in the end, this panel discussion proved to be eye-opening and motivating for all in attendance. Clearly, as Catholics, we have work to do. With such great educators leading our area schools and a wonderful new Bishop now ordained, we can feel confident about the challenge ahead.