From Father Bill Ashbaugh, Pastor:
This fall, St Thomas the Apostle celebrates 150 years of educational ministry. This is a tremendous accomplishment and a great gift of God to us all. Many graduates of St Thomas have gone out and blessed our world, and continue to do so. Catholic education continues to serve a vital role in the mission of the Church today, and by God’s grace will continue to do so until the Lord comes again.
As we celebrate this great milestone, we do so fully aware of the great challenges that face Catholic Education. Catholic schools across the nation are facing higher costs, cultural struggles, and declining enrollment – and so are we. These challenge St. Thomas’ educational mission in going forward.
As I stand as pastor, looking back and praising God, I also am called by God to look forward to our future. I am called to discern how the Lord intends His school to serve His people through the years ahead. It is clear that He is calling St Thomas to reach and serve more Catholic families than our current and continued declining enrollment. In order to bring about a change, we must change. To that end, I have sought to form a new vision for St. Thomas School’s identity, scholarship and finances to serve as the foundation for our parish’s next 150 years of educational ministry.
To identify this vision, I have conferred with diocesan, regional professional educators and parish representatives including Bishop Boyea, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Mr. Sean Costello, Assistant Superintendent, Mr. Ray Rzepecki, Diocesan Director of Curriculum, Mrs. Therese Edwards, Diocesan School Board Member, Kathy Tarnacki, President of Fr. Gabriel Richard High School, Mr. John DeJak, Eastern Michigan University’s Dean of Education, Dr. Michael Sayler, Sacred Heart Seminary Professor, Dr. Janet Smith, St. Thomas School Principal, Mr. Tim DiLaura, St. Thomas School parent, Mr. Adam Skoczylas, Parish Council Representatives, Dr. and Mrs. William Chavey, Finance Council Representative, Mr. Mike McClelland, Parish Business Manager, Mrs. Kathy Grisdela, Parish Director of Development, Mr. Larry Nienhaus, and Parish Director of Faith Formation, Mrs. Monica Pope. In earnest prayer and discernment, we have identified the following threefold vision to guide our school into the future. I am currently working with the diocese in establishing members from this forum as a St. Thomas School Board of Trustees who will take responsibility with my headship to guide and govern the realization of this vision beginning with the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. St. Thomas School will:
I. Live a Transformative Catholic Culture to support our students, families and community in a growing communion with Jesus Christ by:
Daily participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,
Providing instruction in the faith by Catholic, certified catechists,
Instilling the Catholic ethos in all school activities, media, performances & extracurriculars, etc.
II. Provide Classical Academic Scholarship to ensure our youth will be articulate, knowledgeable and discerning leaders of their future families, schools, communities, organizations and culture by:
Inspiring in students joy and wonder in discovering the good, the true, and beautiful in the world through literature, history, mathematics, science, language and the arts.
Forming children’s conscience, reflection and expression through a classical pedagogy, curriculum and exemplars of virtue, thought and creativity.
III. Establish Intentional Financial Sustainability as the foundation for an enduring and growing presence in and service to the community by:
Exercising responsible stewardship of parish giving,
Aligning the number of classrooms to enrollment with combined-grade classrooms as needed,
Offering equitable, competitive teacher salaries and benefits.
This vision is a powerful definition of what Catholic Education can be for our community and is a reflection of what the Holy Spirit is doing throughout the Church in our day. Many Catholic schools in our nation have chosen this path and those families called to share in this work are experiencing newfound spiritual growth and academic achievement. This is what St. Thomas parish and school are being called to offer our community. As St. Pope John Paul II put it: “Faith and Reason are like two wings, upon which the human spirit rises.” In establishing a firm and sustainable financial foundation, and building a classical Catholic instructional culture uniting faith and reason, St. Thomas Catholic School will be a viable and inspiring educational experience that will draw and bless families throughout our region. The St. Thomas Board of Trustees will be charged with guiding and monitoring this vision’s operational implementation. The following action steps will be implemented for the upcoming school year:
Reflecting current enrollment, we adopt a five classroom, combined grade model of Kindergarten, 1/2, 3/4, 5/6 and 7/8 classrooms. Classical specials and five classical Catholic educator classroom positions will be filled by first consulting individually with our current faculty members who seek to become a classical educator.
A classical Catholic educational curriculum and pedagogy will be put in place as outlined in the St. Thomas Catholic School Educational Plan document.
To make an informed decision to enroll in St. Thomas, it is vital that parents read and study the attached St. Thomas Educational Plan. This document will guide parents in understanding the clear relevance, philosophy, content and value of a classical Catholic education. Parents are urged to carefully review this plan and also the answers provided to key questions in the Question & Answer document. Included in that Q&A document are additional resources to help you learn about classical Catholic education. Please submit any additional inquiries via email to: STCSinquiries@sta2.org. We also highly encourage everyone to join in the following orientation sessions on a Classical Catholic Education:
What is a Classical Catholic Education?
Mr. John DeJak, President of Fr. Gabriel Richard High School
Tuesday, April 10th at 7 PM in the St. Thomas Parish Hall