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Superintendent's Blog

A monthly blog from Dr. Kathleen Cepelka

To Teach As Jesus Did

A monthly blog from Dr. Kathleen Cepelka focusing on issues related to Catholic schools, principals, teachers and administration.


 

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Catholic Social Responsibility: “Love One Another As I Have Loved You”

As Catholic school educators in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we are called to respond to contemporary social challenges as disciples of Jesus Christ, loving one another in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

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Thanking Our Catholic School Heroes

For almost 180 years, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have endeavored, with enormous sacrifice on the part of many, to faithfully execute their responsibility to participate in the evangelizing mission of the Church, in spite of changing circumstances, demographics, and societal challenges.

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2020-21 Honoring Those Who Have Served

As this eventful 2020 - 2021 school year draws to a close and the more restful summer season begins, I want to take this opportunity to publicly recognize 68 individuals from our Catholic elementary and secondary schools who have faithfully served Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in a variety of capacities, for a total of over 1600 years.

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Leading with Hope

Our vision for 2020-2021 as Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is, as always, based on the characteristics that define the essence of our identity as Catholic schools. These Defining Characteristics, as derived from The Catholic Schools Standards Project, https://catholicschoolstandards.org/, call us this year in a particular way to meet the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and to be stronger than ever in our commitment to provide excellence in all aspects of Catholic school life.

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Catholic Schools: Accessible to All Students

In all elementary and secondary schools throughout the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, this is prime enrollment season for 2020 – 2021. As we continue our yearlong reflection on the Defining Characteristics of Catholic Schools, https://catholicschoolstandards.org, I suggest we now consider the relevance and importance of the fact that our schools are to be, as much as possible, Accessible to All Students.

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Catholic Schools: Educating the Whole Person

As we approach Catholic Schools Week 2020 and celebrate the many ways in which our schools contribute to the overall advancement of society, we also consider and give thanks for the holistic formation they provide for students as unique individuals, created in the image of God.

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Catholic Schools: Distinguished by Excellence

As we approach the end of autumn and the traditional time of sharing student progress reports in many schools, we’re mindful of our commitment as Catholic school educators to be accountable in our pursuit of excellence.

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Catholic Schools: Shaped by Communion and Community

Walk into any Catholic school, remain there for a half hour or a half day, and observe what community looks like. Experience the feeling of family. Step onto the grounds of Mount Mary University on the day of the Soles Walk for Catholic Education and know that you’re part of a community. Experience the feeling of family.

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Catholic Schools: Evangelizing with the Church

Last month, in sharing my 2019 – 2020 Leadership Vision for the elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I indicated that this year we would be focusing—as a widespread Catholic educational community of 102 schools throughout the archdiocese—on the characteristics that define the essence of our identity as Catholic schools.

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"Leadership Vision: 2019 - 2020"

At our Opening Day for Catholic School Leaders in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee several weeks ago, I shared my annual Leadership Vision for our elementary and secondary schools. This year’s vision is based on the characteristics that define the essence of our identity as Catholic schools as derived from The Catholic Schools Standards Project: https://catholicschoolstandards.org/

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Catholic Education in the 2020’s

As we approach Catholic Schools Week 2019 and, soon, the beginning of the third decade of the 21st century, I’ve been asked to consider what Catholic education might look like and require in the decade that lies ahead.   Since I’m completing five decades of work in Catholic schools this year, I’m grateful to bring some treasured personal history to my perspective. 

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175 Years: Keep Ringing the Bells!

From Burlington to Port Washington, New Berlin to Fond du Lac, Elm Grove to Eden, Dousman to Whitefish Bay, Greenfield to Kenosha, and the north to the south sides of Milwaukee, Catholic school students rang bells, prayed, and celebrated at exactly 10:00 a.m. on November 28 to begin the yearlong celebration of the 175th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. It was an amazing experience of solidarity throughout our 107 schools.

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2018 Honoring Those Who Served

As the 2017 - 2018 school year draws to a close and the beautiful season of summer begins, I would like to take this opportunity to publicly recognize 59 individuals from our Catholic elementary and secondary schools who have faithfully served Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, in a variety of capacities, for a total of over 1475 years. 

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A New School Year: “It’s All About the Journey”

During these late August days, as a new school year begins amid a number of other commemorations and events, I find it hard not to be fascinated with images of common travel toward a common destination.

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2012 Honoring Those Who Served

These teachers, administrators, and support staff members are now entering retirement.

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A Time for Summer

“There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven. A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted….

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2013: New Year, New Initiatives

As we approach Catholic Schools Week 2013 and continue to commemorate the Year of Faith, I’m pleased to announce two exciting initiatives, soon to be launched, that will present unique opportunities for a number of our schools to firmly advance the mission of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

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What Makes a Catholic School Catholic?

Catholic schools exude a Catholic ethos and culture. In them, at every level, the Church’s sacramental life is faithfully explained and richly experienced.

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Bullying: A Catholic Schools’ Perspective

School after school throughout our Archdiocese is implementing specific approaches bullying, with “No Bully Zone” reminders visible throughout classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, gyms, and other public spaces.

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Catholic Schools and Memorial Day

As we celebrate this Memorial Day and the end of the school year, men and women whose similar, silent greatness, demonstrated through service and sacrifice, are the focus of our special attention as Catholic school educators.

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Catholic Schools and Mission Month

Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have historically been committed to educating students about global issues and, specifically, to furthering the mission of the Church in countries other than our own.

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Catholic Schools Choose Life

On Sunday, January 22, we commemorate the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion in the United States.

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Catholic Schools on the Journey of Lent

Catholic Schools participate in each phase of the Lenten journey. School community members are challenged to understand their responsibility to make a difference in society, not just to “feel good about themselves,” but as a response to the Gospel call to teach—and live--as Jesus did.

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Epiphany and Immigration

As Catholic school educators committed to fulfilling Christ’s command to “teach all nations” through the students entrusted to our care, we celebrate this Feast by renewing our efforts to be ministers of hospitality and advocates for truth.

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Milwaukee Archdiocesan Catholic Schools: A National Perspective

Recently, I had the privilege of participating in the annual meeting of the Chief Administrators of Catholic Education (CACE). My summary statement to our Office for Schools staff upon my return was simply, “I’m so grateful to be where I am. I wouldn’t want to be a Catholic school leader anywhere else.”

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The Blessings of Beginning Anew

No matter the school location or grade level, there is indeed an energy, an eagerness, and a freshness to this time of late summer that hold rare experiences of hope and promise for students, parents, and educators alike.

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We'll Choose Hope

As this beautiful month of October comes to a close, I doubt that I’m alone in feeling awed and almost overwhelmed by the many remarkable events that united us as a Catholic educational community during the past several weeks.

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Why Choose a Catholic High School?

Some of my fondest memories as a Catholic school educator stem from my many years as a high school principal. I especially was fond of the rituals of autumn. In Catholic high schools everywhere, this time of year brings experiences and traditions that linger for a lifetime. Think Friday night football, Mass of the Holy Spirit, homecoming, college applications and visits, a series of “last times” for seniors, “first times” for freshmen, and a focus on inviting 8th graders to become their freshmen the following fall. The 15 outstanding Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee are no exception.

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Bringing Lent to Life 2012

The season of Lent 2012 has been a serious time to focus on prayer, self-sacrifice, and charity within the 119 Catholic elementary and secondary schools of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

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Catholic Education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Three weeks ago this weekend, the Archbishop Cousins Catholic Center was alive with the delegates, volunteers, and observers who gathered for the Archdiocesan Synod, the first such event in 27 years.

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Catholic Educators and the Season for Mercy

For the past twelve months, we have focused on concrete ways to live our faith through the practice of the Spiritual and Corporal Works of Mercy by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and teaching the 31,000 students in our Catholic schools.

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Catholic School Educators and the Year of Faith

As the 2012-13 school year begins, we’re drawn to think about the special significance of this particular year for us as Catholic educators in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

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Catholic School Educators: Year of Mercy Blessing

Lord Jesus Christ, You are the face of the Father’s mercy to us.

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Catholic Schools and the "Red Sea"

Some time ago, a visitor to the Cousins Center and her daughter-in-law asked me about our philosophy of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They also inquired about reference materials and resources they could access to learn more about why we do what we do in our schools. Although tempted to turn over various Church documents from my shelves or send them to our website, I stated simply, “We prepare students to be successful in life and to become saints.” The woman responded graciously, “Thank you. Truth is almost always that simple.” I’ve never forgotten that brief but profound conversation.

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Catholic Schools and the Jubilee Year of Mercy

“Catholic Schools and the Jubilee Year of Mercy” On Tuesday, December 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, Archbishop Listecki will formally open the Jubilee Year of Mercy at the 5:15 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee. The Archbishop will read a proclamation for the Year of Mercy and bless the Cathedral’s “Holy Door.” http://www.archmil.org/Our-Faith/Year-of-Mercy/Holy-Doors-of-Mercy-Spiritual-Background-and-Meaning.htm

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Catholic Schools and the Saints of January

As we begin a new year and the run-up to Catholic Schools Week at the end of January, it strikes me as more than coincidental that, during this same month, we’re brought face-to-face with at least four saints with a significant connection to Catholic schools.

 

On January 4 we celebrated the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774 – 1821), the founder of Catholic education in the United States. After her husband’s death from tuberculosis, she accepted the invitation from a priest in Baltimore to start a school in his parish and went on to found the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. With her canonization in 1975, Mother Seton became the first native-born saint of the United States.

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Catholic Schools in the Year of Mercy: “Forgiving 70 x 7 Times”

As the 2015 – 2016 school year ends, we especially appreciate this month’s theme for the Jubilee Year of Mercy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: “Forgive Offenses Willingly” and “Bear Wrongs Patiently.”

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Catholic Schools in the Year of Mercy: Comforting the Afflicted

This month the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s focus for the Jubilee Year of Mercy is the Corporal Work of Mercy, “Comforting the Afflicted.” Please take a few minutes to watch this fascinating video in which Father Ken Omernick, Archdiocesan “Missionary of Mercy,” describes how learning the “secrets” of others in a mystery writing class impacted his appreciation of the importance of mercy.

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Catholic Schools in the Year of Mercy: Feeding the Hungry

This month the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s focus for the Jubilee Year of Mercy is the Corporal Work of Mercy, “Feeding the Hungry.” As the devastating struggle with hunger and thirst continues, on a worldwide and local basis, we look for ways this month, as Catholic school educators, to alleviate this problem in spiritual, academic, and physical ways.

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Catholic Schools in the Year of Mercy: Visiting the Imprisoned

This month the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s focus for the Jubilee Year of Mercy is the Corporal Work of Mercy, “Visiting the Imprisoned.” Although this is a work of mercy not easily available for most of us to practice directly, we no doubt will find new ways to think about the imprisoned after viewing this challenging video by Father Ken Omernick, Archdiocesan “Missionary of Mercy”:

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Catholic Schools in the Year of Mercy: Burying the Dead

Every year on Memorial Day, my sisters and I continue our family’s long tradition of visiting the graves of those who’ve gone before us.

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Catholic Schools in the Year of Mercy: Clothe the Naked

At least since the Fourth of July, stores, catalogues, and online advertisers have been promoting back-to-school specials of every kind. Students and their families, from prekindergarten through high school, are drawn into a culture that directly and indirectly correlates the “right” personal look with acceptance and success. Even in Catholic schools where uniforms are required, it’s almost impossible to deny the role of clothing and style in school life.

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Catholic Schools in the Year of Mercy: Sheltering the Homeless

As I noted in December, during this Jubilee Year of Mercy the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is focusing on a specific Corporal or Spiritual Work of Mercy each month as a special theme for action and reflection.

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Catholic Schools Week 2015: A Litany of Gratitude

As the Catholic educational community of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we give thanks to God during this Catholic Schools Week for all the blessings of this privileged ministry to which we have been called. In particular, we are grateful:

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Catholic Schools Week 2018

Forty-four years ago, in 1974, Catholic Schools Week was established by the National Catholic Educational Association as an opportunity to celebrate the value of Catholic education, not just to the Church, but to society as a whole. I remember that first Catholic Schools Week well. At the time, I was teaching literature and religion to 7th and 8th graders, directing the school’s plays, coaching girls’ basketball, and serving as a substitute cheerleading moderator and Girl Scout leader.

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Catholic Schools, the Communion of Saints, and the "Red Sea"

Yesterday a visitor to the Cousins Center and her daughter-in-law asked me about our philosophy of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. They also inquired about reference materials and resources they could access to learn more about why we do what we do in our schools.

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Catholic Schools: Environments of Safety and Respect

Within the past weeks, safety has become a topic of increasing concern in the city of Milwaukee, where multiple homicides have occurred in a matter of a few days and a record number since the beginning of 2015. Community, civic, and church leaders are more serious than ever in trying to come to grips with both causes and solutions for the spiraling problem of violence in our midst.

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Catholic Schools: Ignited, Renewed, and Energized

The theme of our recent Archdiocesan Synod, “This will be for us a new Pentecost,” inspired our recent challenge to all principals in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for 2014 – 2015.

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Catholic Schools: Peace-Making in the Year of Faith

Who can deny that we are living in heartbreaking times?

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Catholic Schools: Steeped in a Catholic Worldview

During the current COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like, as a world community, we’ve almost exhausted not only our intellectual, emotional, and physical capacity to deal with this crisis, but also our verbal ability to describe it.

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Catholic Schools: Welcoming Hispanic Families

For the past 175 years, the Catholic schools of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have been shaped by the various immigrant groups and their descendants who placed such a high value on Catholic education that, in some cases, they built a parish school before they constructed a parish church.

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Catholic Schools: Solidarity in Faith

Earlier this week, I participated in the profoundly moving prayer vigil at Marquette University celebrating the life of James Wright Foley, the 40-year-old journalist barbarically murdered in Syria last week.

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Christmas 2014

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.” Isaiah 9: 1

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Easter Season: Continuing the Journey of Grace

As children, it was customary for us to end our Lenten practices on Holy Saturday, usually after we’d gone to church for the blessing of the Easter food. Whatever we’d “given up” for the previous six weeks—TV or candy or time on the phone with our friends—came back into our lives full force. Lent, at long last, was over!

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It’s “Back to School” for Catholic Schools

Perhaps no other time of year evokes the mixed emotions that “back to school” does for all segments of our society. Come July 4th—or even earlier, it seems, each year—teachers, parents, administrators, and students begin to experience competing feelings of anticipation and anxiety, eagerness and dread, and the conflicting desires to “get ready” for what’s ahead and also to withdraw back into summer.

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Leadership Vision: 2018 – 2019

Recently, at our Opening Day for Catholic school leaders in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, I shared my annual Leadership Vision for our schools in light of the celebration of the 175th anniversary of the archdiocese that begins in November.

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Lent 2013: Catholic Schools Alive in Faith

During this Year of Faith, Lent presents our Catholic schools with special opportunities to help students, co-workers, parents, and other constituent groups learn about, identify with, and come alive in faith.

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Lent 2014: Choose Life

These bleak winter months have tested even the most resilient spirits. Since the end of the Christmas season, the Ordinary Time of the Church Year has felt quite extraordinary to everyone in the 10 counties of our archdiocese who’s had to battle the constant rotation of snow, cold, ice, and danger that’s filled our nights and days.

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Lent 2018: A Season of Conversion in Catholic Schools

Lent will arrive early this year. Signs of Christmas have not completely been removed, and winter is definitely not over. Still, as we are marked with ashes on February 14, we’ll begin the Church’s season of springtime and renewal: the 40 days of Lent. Just as our gardens and grass will no doubt be different on April 1, Easter Sunday, with soil that’s ready to bring forth life, so should our hearts. Lent is a time for conversion of spirit.

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Lent in Our Catholic Schools

Soon the beautiful season of Lent, the Church’s annual opportunity for retreat, repentance, and renewal, will be upon us. Soon we’ll begin the journey of 40 days of “regular time” during which we’re called to reflect on our lives and develop new ways of thinking and acting that are consistent with the Gospel. In short, as we will hear on Ash Wednesday, we’ll soon be entering the time for us all to turn back to God.

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Living Our Faith: Easter 2014

During Holy Week, I asked the principals of our 110 elementary and secondary schools to respond to the following questions:

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Looking Back at the Blessings of 2013

As the first full week of school in 2014 ends, it seems opportune to pause and recall some of the many steps forward that we took, as well as blessings that we enjoyed, as Catholic school educators in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee during 2013.

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New Models for a Timeless Mission

For over 170 years, the mission of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been to successfully prepare students for this life and for eternity. For most of that history, the structure of Catholic elementary schools, here and elsewhere, was a single parish – single school model.

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Safety, Security, and Catholic School Culture

During this Easter season, we focus on the powerful images of resurrection, amazement, forgiveness, and transformation that the Scriptures bring to our attention each day. For fifty days, from Easter until Pentecost, we’re reminded, through stories, images, and music to be people of hope.

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The Pause of Summer

As another school year ends and summer soon begins, we inevitably look back on the past ten months with mixed degrees of relief, regret, and gratitude. For us Catholic educators, however, there is no “standard” school year. The year we’re completing isn’t just one more set of seasons that we’ve concluded, like the final page on a calendar, or one more destination that we’ve reached, like the finish line of yet another marathon. We’ve been walking unique journeys of faith this year, with challenges, successes, setbacks, and blessings, knowing Christ as both partner and goal.

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The Year of Faith: Giving Thanks for Our Catholic Educational Heritage

Last weekend, Associate Superintendent Patrick Lofton and I had the privilege of participating in the 150th anniversary of Catholic education in Beaver Dam.

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The Year of Faith: Advent for Catholic Educators

Early one morning this past week, the full moon hung above the St. Francis Seminary cupola and the interfacing hedge of woods with such precision that the entire landscape seemed crowned by a halo of light. What sacred serenity, I thought. What an amazing infusion of brilliance into the night.

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The Year of Faith: Living Our Missionary Call

October is Mission Month. This year’s theme as established by the World Mission Ministries Office of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is Setting a Place at the Table: Living our Missionary Call.

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Time for the Long View: The Blessing of Summer

Many years ago, while I was still in the early years of my preparation to become a teacher, I came upon an anonymous poem about teaching from Our Little Messenger, a popular Catholic publication for Catholic school children and their teachers in the 1950’s and 60’s. Since the time I found it, I’ve carried that poem with me: a tattered, faded, but still-relevant reminder of what it means to give nothing less than everything.

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Walk for Catholic Education: Homecoming 2013

These beautiful fall weekends are perfect for homecoming celebrations of every type. High schools, colleges, and an increasing number of elementary schools regularly call their alumni back to where a specific segment of their schooling took place, usually for organized events, exuberant socializing, and, at our Catholic schools, prayers of gratitude and praise.

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Dr. Kathleen CepelkaKathleen A. Cepelka, Ph.D., superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee,  has spent more than 40 years serving Catholic schools in various capacities. She oversees 16 secondary and 86 elementary schools in the 10-county Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

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