Parent Shannon Fitzpatrick lamented “In our time here, the word ‘Catholic’ has been removed from the mission statement, sacraments were removed from the curriculum, the lower school curriculum was changed to world religions, the logo and colors were changed to be ‘less Catholic,’ and the uniform was changed to be less Catholic.” The school has removed all but 18 of its 180 religious statues in an effort to be more “inclusive” and “forward looking.”
Why were these changes made? “Over the last few years we’ve had fewer Catholic students as part of the community and a larger number of students of various faith traditions. Right now about 80 percent of our families do not identify as Catholic.” The justification was “If you walk on the campus and the first thing you confront is three or four statues of St. Dominic or St. Francis, it could be alienating for that other religion, and we didn’t want to further that feeling.”
This is an interesting challenge faced by many schools. Often schools start serving one demographic of society but over the years end up serving quote a different one. Do you keep your original identity or adapt to cater to the 80% of your students? Were the 80% attracted to your school because of the original identity, or do they feel awkward with it? Sometimes we may think we are adapting but end up removing, or losing, what originally made our school distinctive and attractive.
Celebrate your distinctiveness. When all the schools look and feel the same it makes it harder to stand out and attract new families.
Sources: San Anselmo’s San Domenico School creates stir by removing Catholic statues
Catholic School Removes Jesus, Mary Statues Because They’re ‘Alienating’ to Non-Catholics