Catholic school leadership in a time of crisis

Loretta Ann Tomasiello, Fordham University


One of the aims of public education is to prepare its students for adult membership in society. Similarly, one of the aims of Catholic school education is to prepare students for adult membership in the Church. At the present time, however, says ecclesiologist Avery Dulles (1987), the Roman Catholic Church finds itself racked by paradigm shifts. In describing a cluster of conceptual models that have been associated with church, Dulles points out that today, unlike at midcentury, for example, no one model predominates in the common understanding of what "church" means. Prior to the Second Vatican Council the institutional model prevailed, but contemporary Catholics do not share such a commonly assumed image. They are just as likely to think of the Church in the imagery of the "People of God," or as "Herald," "Servant," or "Sacrament." The variety of conceptual models reflects in part a sense of ambiguity regarding the identity of the Church. The confusion about the meaning of "Church" poses a challenge for the principal of a Catholic school who must exercise leadership in the service of the aim to prepare students for adult membership in that church. Since the ambiguity is not likely to disappear any time soon, the principal must find a way to exercise effective leadership in spite of it. This study is proposed in order to explore the problem and to begin to generate a model of leadership for the Catholic-school principal. In a church undergoing major paradigm shifts (evidenced by new and conflicting models of church), Catholic schools face the problem of educating their students toward adult membership in a church whose identity is uncertain. Given this lack of certainty and the historical trends in and after Vatican II, what kind of leadership is called for in Catholic schools? More specifically, what kind of principals in Catholic high schools are needed to provide this leadership?

Subject Area

Religious education|School administration|Educational theory

Recommended Citation

Tomasiello, Loretta Ann, "Catholic school leadership in a time of crisis" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9412151.