Father Ronald Nuzzi, senior director of the Allicance for Education’s Renewing Identity, Strengthening Evangelization initiative at the University of Notre Dame, was the speaker for the diocesan teacher in-service day on Monday, Sept. 19. Photo by Andy Telli
Catholic schools and teachers will be key ingredients in the New Evangelization and a successful renewal of the faith, Father Ron Nuzzi told Catholic school teachers and administrators from the Diocese of Nashville.
“If there is to be a New Evangelization in the Church … if there is to be a renaissance of the faith, it will begin in Catholic schools first or it won’t happen at all,” said Father Nuzzi, the featured speaker at the diocesan teacher in-service program held Monday, Sept. 19, at the Catholic Pastoral Center. “It’s hard to imagine a renewal of spirit without thriving Catholic schools.”
Father Nuzzi is the senior director of the Alliance for Catholic Education’s Renewing Identity, Strengthening Evangelization Initiative at the University of Notre Dame. He previously was founding senior director of ACE’s Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program.
In his comments about the role of Catholic schools in the New Evangelization, Father Nuzzi said he was echoing the thoughts of Pope Francis about the important role Catholic schools have played in the history of the Church.
Particularly in the United States, Catholic schools have been key to the Church’s service to immigrants and the poor, helping to lift them out of poverty by giving them the skills they need to succeed, Father Nuzzi said. “Catholic schools are good at that.”
“When you think of the New Evangelization and renewing the spirit of the Church, I can’t think of anyone who is energized more than the Holy Father,” Father Nuzzi said. As part of the celebration of the Jubliee Year of Mercy, the Vatican hosted an international conference on Catholic education. “It’s a great gift that he made Catholic education a part of the Year of Mercy,” Father Nuzzi added.
Giving teachers the faith formation they need to be part of the New Evangelization is an area where Catholic schools must continue to improve, Father Nuzzi said.
“I think we’re getting better at that,” Father Nuzzi said. When most teachers were religious sisters and priests, Catholic schools could rely on their religious formation to nourish their spirituality, he said. But with more lay teachers in Catholic schools, “We’ve been playing catch up on that,” he added.
Catholic universities have been good at providing programs to help teachers and administrators share their faith and “bring it into the workplace in a credible way,” Father Nuzzi said.
“Teaching makes incredible demands upon us spiritually, emotionally, physically, psychologically,” Father Nuzzi told the diocese’s teachers. Thirty percent of teachers leave the profession within six years, he noted.
Successful veteran teachers are able to see in the rhythm of the school day “God’s hand and spirit at work,” Father Nuzzi said.
The Church has seen some success in broadening access to Catholic schools through public policy, Father Nuzzi said. Across the country, there are about 25 programs at the state or municipal level that help families take advantage of Catholic and other private schools through vouchers or tuition tax credits, he said.
The programs help give middle and low income families the same access to better schools as upper income families have, Father Nuzzi said.
“Studies of voucher (programs) have shown parents are highly satisfied with them,” he said. “We see it as a way to empower the parents.”
“Parental choice, Father Nuzzi added, “is a time honored tradition of the Church.”