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BC's Lynch School of Education hosts 25 Boston Catholic schools at 1st annual Catholic School Leadership Conference

bc experts show that ministry and mission need dollars and sense

Ed Hayward
Office of Public Affairs


Chestnut Hill, MA (July 2, 2009) – Responding to the increased financial pressures placed upon Boston-area Catholic schools by the recession, the Boston College Lynch School of Education held the inaugural Catholic School Leadership Conference, hosting principals, pastors, and other administrators from 25 schools for workshops focused on critical issues facing Catholic education.

The conference brought together teams from area Catholic schools, top education officials from the Archdiocese of Boston and senior administrators from the University on June 24 and 25 to share best practices in Catholic identity formation, fundraising, alumni relations, recruitment and enrollment management.

"Bringing together Boston College managers who are recognized nationally for their expertise represents a new level of involvement between the University and the Archdiocese of Boston's education system," said Lynch School of Education Dean Joseph M. O'Keefe, SJ. "Our faculty and students have long been engaged with these schools. Now it's time to share best practices in school finance that translate from the University to the school level."

Organized by Fr. O'Keefe, Lynch School experts and the Archdiocese's top school officials – Superintendent Mary Grassa O’Neill and Assoc. Superintendent Bill McKersie – the conference and two follow-up sessions planned during the next year will help schools promote academic excellence and faith formation.

"Boston College and the Lynch School stepped up to help Archdiocese schools advance their knowledge in areas central to the mission of top-flight Catholic education," McKersie said. "Cardinal Sean has charged the Catholic Schools Office with leading his priority of revitalizing Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. We cannot take on that essential charge alone; nor can the 130 schools in the Archdiocese revitalize themselves one-by-one.  We require the knowledge, energy and empathetic critical friendship of institutions such as Boston College, which is brimming with talent and expertise on high-quality Catholic education."

Parish closings and school consolidations have dramatically re-shaped the Archdiocese's Catholic school system in recent years. Furthermore, lay people have taken on increased roles in administration, boards of directors and fundraising. Add the impact of the recession and the ability to successfully maintain and advance Catholic identity and teachings requires that school leaders embrace best practices, Fr. O'Keefe said.

Fr. O'Keefe drew on the expertise of BC staff and faculty. Lisa M. Hastings, executive director of development for the Lynch School and the School of Theology and Ministry at BC, spoke about the ministry of development. She drew on case studies presented by Michael T. McNeil, advancement director at St. Mary's High School in Lynn and Russ W. Wilson, principal of the Blessed Sacrament School in Walpole.

Other school leaders shared their experiences in a roundtable discussion about putting strategic plans in place for development and fundraising. Hastings was joined by McNeil, Wilson, Julie Billingsley, advancement director at Blessed Sacrament, Bonnie McBride, director of advancement at Cathedral High School in Boston's South End neighborhood and Mary Tiernan, director of development at Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree.

The afternoon session focused on the role of recruitment and enrollment in maintaining financial and educational stability within a school, said Fr. O'Keefe.

Lynch School Associate Dean of Finance, Research, and Administration Mary Ellen Fulton hosted a series of presentations by Boston College senior leadership, including Dean of Enrollment Management Bob Lay, Director of Student Financial Strategies Bernie Pekala, Associate Director of Undergraduate Admissions Christopher O'Brien, and Samantha Lipscomb, a Boston College senior and admissions office student volunteer who builds connections with prospective BC students through one of the University's internet sites.

Bill Hurley, Associate Director of the Lynch School's Center for Catholic Education and Archdiocese Associate Superintendent McKersie closed out the session with a discussion about strategies the teams could take back to their schools.

The following day, 120 people attended the Lynch School's 15th annual Selected Programs for Improving Catholic Education, or SPICE, conference, co-sponsored by the National Catholic Education Association and the Center for Catholic Education.

The conference, titled "Configuring New Governance Models," expanded on the 2008 program, which looked at how new models of Catholic school management and organization can strengthen and save Catholic schools, whose numbers have declined precipitously in the past decade. This year, panelists and attendees from across the country looked at how boards of directors could be re-configured to promote the affordability and accessibility of Catholic education.

Speakers included Rev. Michael Himes, Professor of Theology at Boston College, Sister Andrea Jane Lee, IHM, President of St. Catherine University, St. Paul MN, Bro. Lawrence Harvey, Superior General of the Xaverian Brothers, Rev. Phil Brown, Assist. Prof. of Canon Law at Catholic University of America, and representatives from the dioceses of Covington, KY, Monterey, CA, and Seattle, WA.