Focusing On What Makes Catholic Education More

Catholic Education in St. Paul MN - Catholic School Center of Excellence

By Jim Thorp

FORMED IN FAITH: Institute fosters Catholic school leaders

When Dr. Merylann “Mimi” J. Schuttloffel was a student, she was formed in faith by religious sisters who knew Church teachings and gave themselves entirely to Christ in prayer and service. This experience was foundational to her early career as a teacher, counselor and principal, and she wants other Catholic school leaders to experience faith-centered formation.

“Today’s graduates are well prepared to be educators or administrators, but Catholic education is a specialized ministry, and ministry requires formation,” Schuttloffel said. “We are beginning to acknowledge what we have all intuitively known: that Catholic education is something more.”

Last January, Schuttloffel and the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity launched the Institute for Catholic School Leadership (ICSL) and a graduate certificate in Catholic School Leadership. The 14-month program includes four courses held over two consecutive summers and two online courses during the academic year. Students live at the seminary during the short summer sessions and benefit from mentoring to enhance their leadership skills in the fall and spring semesters.

The program builds competencies in three key areas:

  • Contemplative leadership, emphasizing prayer, morality and the dignity of the human person in decision-making;
  • Educating the whole person in mind, body and spirit while acknowledging the primary mission of the salvation of souls;
  • Supporting the important pastor-principal relationship.

Schuttloffel credits Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens, a Catholic Schools Center of Excellence board member, for inspiring the program by insisting that forming leaders is essential to revitalizing Catholic schools.

“Ministry requires formation,” she said. “Catholic school leadership should be qualitatively different.”

ICSL welcomed its first cohort last summer, including priests, religious sisters, principals, and teachers. Among them is Troy Newlove, band director and seventh-grade religion teacher at Nativity of Our Lord in St. Paul. Newlove was attracted to the emphasis on discipleship and spiritual formation and was amazed at how quickly the class bonded last summer.

“Within a few days of living in the cohort, I felt like I had known my colleagues for years,” he said. “The academic and spiritual formation I receive through this program will help increase my love of Catholic schools and make me a more effective leader.”

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