I’d like to get back to blogging. I started to blog regularly probably about 2008, but for some reason I don’t remember, I stopped about a year later. Maybe it coincides with the problems I had with my knee or maybe there was a drought of thoughtful material. Anyway, I haven’t written a blog for a very long time.
I was thinking recently about how often I worry about the future of the Network. More specifically I worry about our being faithful to the mission of the Network. I keep recalling that every Catholic school was founded originally to serve the needy, just like our Network schools. But then I ask myself how did they end up in the suburbs. How did they get off track in regard to the people Catholic schools serve? My biggest nightmare is that the same fate awaits our Network schools.
I heard about a graduation at one of our schools just last month. When the guests and new graduates left the auditorium and went out to the parking lot, there for everyone to see was a car with a huge red bow on top of it. How did a student whose family could afford to buy him/her a car as a graduation present ever get admitted to a Cristo Rey school? How is that being faithful to our second Mission Effectiveness Standard: “A Cristo Rey school serves only students with limited economic resources…“? The one in charge wasn’t watching the door! When I asked someone who has a lot of responsibility at that school if they had seen the car with the red bow in the parking lot, he said he had “and it really p—– me off.” Personally, I like that reaction. I hope it makes us all mad that someone didn’t do their job about who is admitted to one of our schools. Someone is hurting our brand!
While I’m on the subject, another thing that I am beginning to suspect is that having a hefty endowment is not always an unmixed blessing. I get the impression that some schools are looking for ways to spend it. (It’s more than a suspicion! I’ve heard people say that if a school has money, it might as well spend it!) So it turns out that we build something because we have the money, not because we really need it. From my own experience, I can testify how tempting it is for one’s ego to build a brand new facility. I’m certainly not saying that we should never do any building; I’m saying that it should only be in response to a real need for the students. Our schools are meant to offer a new financial model. It takes vigilance and discipline to run a lean economic operation. Just because we have the money is never a reason to spend it.
On a final note, a few months ago I learned a new English word: swag. Someone from one of the new schools was looking for advice on what swag the school should have. Does anyone keep an eye on how much is bought and sold at one of our schools? Where do the profits go? I agree that some expression of school colors and school spirit can have a positive result, but many years ago I learned from someone at a high school in Peru that it was better not to sell anything. Putting things up for purchase inevitably divides the student body into “haves” and “have-nots.”
If you have read this far, thank you for listening. I think I am finally beginning to understand my role as Chief Mission Officer. I think we have to be diligent about making sure our Cristo Rey schools don’t end up in the suburbs. Remember the second reading for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time. It was from 2 Corinthians and talks about equality: Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less. May Christ our King help us to be vigilant in our stewardship of the Cristo Rey movement.
John P. Foley, SJ