The selection of former Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio as pope is already energizing Latin Americans, who make up 40 percent of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics. Cardinal Edward Egan, Archbishop Emeritus of New York, told WNYC this week that "one-third of what I was doing had to do with Latin Americans."
Outreach to immigrants, especially Latinos, is a key part of the recent three-year strategic plans issued by the struggling Catholic school systems in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens.
This week, WNYC's Amy Eddings hears from two superintendents of these schools, as our Catholic Conversations continue.
Dr. Timothy McNiff is superintendent of the New York Archdiocese school system. It is made up of 160 elementary schools and 50 high schools, and serves more than 65,000 students. But enrollment is down. The Archdiocese announced earlier this year that it was closing 22 elementary schools and 2 high schools because it could no longer spend money on schools that were not economically self-sufficient. McNiff says the new pope can help make Catholic education more attractive to Catholics.
"I think this new pope really has to help the Church figure out what's the best way to communicate with its believers, and also the world. In doing so, I think we're still challenged, and we could do a better job with a little more accountability."
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Dolan said just 25% of Catholic children attend a Catholic school.
Dr. Thomas Chadzutko is superintendent of the schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens, which is recovering from an enrollment drop of 33% between 2004 and 2007. He, too, thinks the new pope can do much for Catholic education by efforts to re-energize the faithful:
"We have [...] a product that we don't promote and I think that's the thing we need to do. I think this whole idea of having the election of a new pope, we as a Church should be saying, 'We are proud of our Catholic faith. We are proud of what we have to offer.' We should be using this as a marketing opportunity or a recruitment opportunity to say, 'Catholics do work together and Catholics do have a benefit for the future.'"
If you decided to send your children to a Catholic school, we'd like to know why. And, what can Pope Francis do to re-ignite an interest in a faith-based education? Leave us your thoughts below.
Catholic Conversations airs Saturday mornings during Weekend Edition Saturday from 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM on 93.9FM and from 8:00 AM - 11:00 AM on AM820.