The staff of Fordham’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) is accustomed to staging conferences, but this week the school is holding one 4,298 miles away from home—in Vatican City, Rome.
“Paul: Prophetic Missionary and Transforming Leader,” to be held from June 25 to July 1, will join Catholic educational leaders from states as disparate as Florida, Indiana, New Orleans and New York with their counterparts in the Catholic hierarchy.
The conference was organized by Gerald M. Cattaro, Ed.D., executive director of the Center for Catholic School Leadership and Faith-Based Education at Fordham. Cattaro said inspiration for the conference came from recent conversations with His Eminence Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, prefect for the Congregation for Catholic Education.
The idea is for Catholic school superintendents and vicars of education from the United States to discuss three core issues with their counterparts at the Vatican: identity, quality and affordability.
“This conference is about finally discussing how the United States is only one piece of what we’re talking about around the whole globe,” Cattaro said.
The gathering coincides with the end of the Pauline year, a jubilee timed around the 2,000 anniversary of the birth of St. Paul the Apostle.
It will be split into four sessions:
• The Activity of the Holy See in Support of Catholic Education;
• Catholic Education: A Global Perspective;
• Teaching and Serving with Charism: The Commitment of Religious Institutes to Catholic Education; and
• Education as the Missionary Work of the Church: The Contribution of St. Paul’s Teachings and Cross-Cultural Experiences to the Emerging Issues of Catholic Education in America.
Attendees are invited to a Papal Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica for the Solemn Feast of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
Cattaro said he is hopeful that the conference, which is the first of its kind, will bring together a mix of leaders who can develop creative solutions to the challenge of revitalizing Catholic education. Catholic grammar schools have struggled in recent years, as declines in religious faculty and increases in tuition have forced many to close.
“This can only take place in Rome because this is where their people are headquartered,” he said. “The head of the Jesuits is in Rome; the head of the Marist Brothers is in Rome; the Salesians are there. So for them to take part in the conversation, it has to happen in Rome.”