top of page

Answering the Call

The hundreds of Catholic schools across the country that have fully embraced their rich Catholic heritage are providing renewed hope for the Catholic Church. They are helping to form a new generation of Catholics who are wise and faithful followers of Jesus, they are causing entire families to discover the truth, goodness, and beauty of Church traditions, and they are leading a revival of religious vocations. This renewal of the mission, curriculum, pedagogy, and teacher communities within Catholic schools is accompanied by further good news. More Americans have realized the importance of the school choice movement, and great progress has been made in passing school choice legislation in a growing number of states. This means that parents who choose to send their children to Catholic schools can redirect their tax money that would have gone to the secular public neighborhood school to the Catholic school of their own choosing. They will no longer have to "double pay" and this will allow all families - regardless of income - to have the financial means to send their children to any school they choose. 


The schools and school leaders featured in Catholic School Playbook are by no means perfect. Some level of dysfunction accompanies every human institution, and each school profiled here will no doubt always remain, to varying degrees, a work-in-progress. What sets them apart from other Catholic schools is not merely their enrollment or financial success; rather it is primarily their vision, their embrace of the Catholic intellectual tradition, and the witness of their faculty community. We are deeply grateful to the individuals who have shared their stories, knowing that it may invite scrutiny, and we are delighted by the success of the schools included herein and all the schools at the forefront of the renewal movement.

It would be a terrible mistake to believe that the renewal of authentically Catholic, classically liberal education is merely a niche market – just one school model among many that may be fine for a small minority of Catholic families and schools but not for others. Every child deserves a formative education in which their sense of wonder is nurtured; their virtues, particularly their intellectual virtues, are developed; and their longing to seek the truth, desire the good, and love the beautiful are cultivated.

It would also be a mistake to assume that the Catholic education renewal that is currently underway is a finished product with no room for continued innovation. Michael Hanby reminds us that "none of us have the benefit of having been formed by a genuinely Catholic culture, and few of us have the kinds education that we are hoping to give our children.  The movement therefore has something of an ‘experimental’ quality.  It’s a long process of trial and error and the errors are okay, and in fact an improvement on what our culture has to offer."

This Playbook is a clarion call for all bishops, superintendents, school leaders, and parents to raise our collective expectations for what we desire our Catholic schools to provide our children who deserve a Catholic education that is both spiritually and intellectually Catholic.

How do you even get started? Here are three steps to gain some early traction:

1. Get everyone on board and excited for a bold, authentically Catholic vision of education for their children. Share the Catholic School Playbook with parents, school leaders, and yes even your bishop. The whole book is freely available online! Read and discuss it. Reach out to school leaders to ask them questions about their experiences and challenges. Visit schools like St. Jerome Institute in Washington, DC and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Classical School in Denver, Colorado, or find schools that are part of the renewal near you to witness firsthand what this sort of education looks like in practice.


2. Contact the non-profits that are serving the renewal movement so you can benefit from their many years of experience. The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education provides teacher training and hosts events for teachers, school leaders, superintendents, and bishops. Cana Academy offers workshops to high school teachers to help them lead more effective and engaging Great Books seminars. They also publish teacher guides for leading discussions on classic texts ranging from Plato’s Apology and Aristotle’s Ethics to Dante’s Inferno and Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov. The Augustine Institute recently launched a Master of Arts program in Catholic Education that you can do in-person or remote, full-time or part-time.


3. Create a strategic plan with clear, measurable goals. It needs to include a plan for renewing the mission, culture and curriculum of the school, a recruiting and training plan for teachers, and a marketing plan for attracting the right families. Perhaps most importantly, it needs a leader who both gets the vision and understands how to execute on the plan, hire great people, and provide them the guidance that they need. This goes for the pastor or school board hiring the right leader for a school as well as for the bishop hiring the right superintendent to oversee many schools.

School does not have to be the wonder-killing, intellectually mediocre experience that it was for the vast majority of us. Catholic schools have an opportunity to lead the way in not only forming the souls of the next generation, but also to bring about both a renewal in the Church and society at large. May all people entrusted with the education and formation of God’s children have the strength and grace to answer His call!

bottom of page