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St.Therese Digital Academy enrollment increases

Enrollment at the Diocese of Burlington’s St. Therese Digital Academy has grown from four to 52.
 
Principal Lisa Lorenz attributes the growth to several factors including grant money from Our Sunday Visitor and the Catholic Communications Campaign of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, word of mouth, courses for the Lay Formation Program Institute for Missionary Discipleship, the building of the digital academy’s own curriculum and existing brick and mortar schools using its courses.
 
St. Therese Digital Academy is an online diocesan Catholic high school with a rigorous program grounded in the firm foundation of the Catholic faith. The academy works with parents in their role as the primary educators of their children by providing flexible options to assist with the diverse educational needs of students and their families. Its goal is to develop well-grounded disciples of Jesus Christ who possess 21st-century skills, equipping them to fulfill their roles as members of the Body of Christ within society.
 
The digital academy offers high school courses and theology for the Lay Formation Program, with projections for catechetical classes for ongoing professional development.
 
“We are rolling out our own courses. We are beginning our adult theology classes and have projected to roll out courses for the Diocesan Lay Formation Program as part of the Institute for Missionary Discipleship. In addition, our courses are being used in our existing [Catholic] schools now with increasing interest,” said Lorenz, who is also superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Burlington and principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.
  • Published in Diocesan

Laity in Catholic schools

When David Estes, principal of The School of Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales in Bennington, walked into his first meeting of Vermont Catholic school principals in 1987, he looked around the room and saw one religious brother; the rest of the principals were women religious.
 
Now he is no longer the minority; Vermont has no Catholic school principals who are members of religious orders.
 
And according to Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Burlington, this years marks the first year there are no religious sisters on staff of any of the 14 Catholic schools in Vermont, though pastors and other clergy are “wonderful” about visiting the schools.
 
Father Scott Gratton is the new part-time vice principal for Catholic mission at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.
 
Staffing is just one change Estes – a husband and father of two -- has lived through in his nearly 40 years in Catholic education – all at the Bennington school where he used to teach third and fifth grades.
 
“I have a lot of history” here, he said as he sat in a school office that was once a choir loft overlooking what was Sacred Heart Church.
 
The 1995 closing of the church located within the brick school building is but one of the changes Estes has witnessed. When Sacred Heart Church was merged with St. Francis de Sales Church, the Bennington parish became Sacred Heart St. Francis de Sales, and eventually the name of Sacred Heart School was changed to that of the parish.
 
Other changes he has experienced during his tenure at the school are numerous: the reinstatement of grades seven and eight and the addition of a preschool; the expansion of the school into the church space for use as a multi-purpose room; an increase in interest in Catholic education among non-Catholics seeking quality education and a safe, disciplined environment; and the retirement of the last Sister of St. Joseph to teach in the school.
 
“For decades, schools were staffed entirely by religious but as numbers of religious decreased, schools were staffed by very capable, committed lay colleagues who ministered with religious and understood/understand what Catholic education is about,” commented Sister of Mercy Marianne Read, a former Catholic school teacher, principal and superintendent in Vermont.
 
“All lay teachers today in Catholic education understand that by the words spoken and by their presence to children and young adults, they can bring faith and hope and joy,” she continued. “Our lay teachers, continue the legacy of religious [congregations] and continue to build on a strong foundation, for they teach us that it is not just the crucifix on the wall or the statue of Mary or Joseph in the school building that makes a school Catholic. It is not just the priests, religious sisters and brothers or lay teachers we have that make a school Catholic. It is this and far more. It is the living out of the charism of the religious orders who taught in the schools. It is the teaching of Gospel values and striving to model the message of Christ on a daily basis, not just in religion class but witnessed to throughout the school day; it is our conscious participation in the life and mission of the Church that makes us Catholic.”
 
When the last Sister of St. Joseph at Sacred Heart School retired, Estes said there was concern about maintaining the Catholicity of the school, but the lay teachers and staff members live, teach and pray in ways that make it clear this is a Catholic school. “There is a joy here surrounded by the Catholic faith,” Estes said.
 
School Masses and prayer are key, he added. “When you see the students singing the Lord’s Prayer, they’re not singing. They’re praying. They mean it. It’s the presence of God here among everyone.”
 
Last year six students were baptized, an example of the evangelization role played by the school, once filled with only Catholic children. “We are evangelizing all the time,” Estes said.
 
Other changes he has witnessed through the years include the addition of technology and technology education to keep up with the changing times; the addition of athletic teams that build school spirit; more single-parent families and safe environment training for teachers, staff and volunteers.
 
“The gift of religious and clergy is truly a gift, and the gift of the laity is a gift,” Lorenz said. And having all-lay staffs in Catholic schools “is different, but this is a new time in our world” when there are fewer religious and clergy available to staff schools.
 
When Estes first came to the Catholic school, tuition was $50 a month; now it is $475. Though financial assistance is available, Estes said new ways of financing Catholic education need to be found.
 
As he looks to the future, Estes can’t help but look back on the changes he has experienced. “We’ve had a lot of change here at the school,” he said. “Change takes a lot of work, a lot of forethought and a willingness to change. …Change is a risk, but you have to go forward.”
 
--Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
  • Published in Diocesan

Catholic Faith Formation Day for educators

Catholic schools need to be joyful, innovative places to grow and thrive, the director and superintendent of Catholic schools for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told nearly 235 Catholic school educators and administrators at the Catholic Faith Formation Day Oct. 16 at St. Michael’s College in Colchester.
 
“Innovation does not mean iPads is every kid’s hands. You can be very innovative without technology,” Dr. Kevin Baxter said, explaining innovation is celebrating successes and improving on past performances. “Avoid staleness. We want to be a continually growing organization. We must be continually growing individuals.”
 
More than maintenance is needed, said Baxter, who is responsible for coordinating and implementing the vision for growth for Catholic schools in the archdiocese with a student population of 80,000 from preschool through grade 12. “Change is a requirement for growth.”
 
Innovation can come in such areas as technology integration, curriculum innovation and governance innovation. He encouraged his listeners to be bold and creative and not to be satisfied with always doing things the way they’ve always been done.
 
“In order to be a great school, you have to face the brutal facts of your current reality,” he said. “This is the seed of innovation.”
 
Baxter, a part-time faculty member in the School of Education at Loyola Marymount University, encouraged the creation of a culture in which people can be heard, not worrying about what cannot be controlled (like the economy or the increase in charter schools) and not losing faith.
 
St. Michael School in Brattleboro is poised to meet the emerging needs of 21st-century education and extend its tradition of excellence through a set of innovative changes, noted Principal Elaine Beam. At the heart of its principal initiative will be a  curriculum of classical liberal arts. "The new high school program, emphasizing academic excellence, will feature a classical  curriculum, an integrated program of instruction and  the introduction of seminar-style instruction," she said.

St. Michael's already has added a high school program.

She concurred with Baxter's remark, “We want to be a continually growing organization.” At St. Michael School, she added, "observing the need for innovation, and acting boldly to realize it, incline the school to continual growth."

Basing much of his talk on Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” (“Evangelii Gaudium”), Baxter said Catholic schools — like the Church — must operate with joy because “the real mark of a Christian is joy.”
 
Yet he acknowledged that people live and work with barriers to joy: defeatism, “sourpusses” who can sap energy, competition from a technological society, conflict.
 
Baxter encouraged constructively dealing directly with persons with whom there is conflict and forgiving. “Forgiveness is a grace for ourselves,” he added, because holding on to a wrong “burdens us.”
 
To live and work with true joy, he emphasized, “we must have constructive debate and disagree at times but always be able to forgive. … The idea of forgiveness is crucial.”
 
Baxter called upon the school personnel to uplift others and bring them joy.
 
Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Burlington, interim principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington and principal of St. Therese Digital Academy, welcomed the educators to the conference, told participants at the conference they are called “to be madly in love with God.”
 
“When you are, people feel it,” she said.
 
Also presenting at the event was Ben Walther, a singer, songwriter and worship leader.
 
Burlington Bishop Christopher Coyne celebrated Mass for the formation day participants in the Chapel of St. Michael the Archangel.
 
The daylong event, sponsored by the Diocese, was an opportunity for the educators to deepen and focus on their faith.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Published in Diocesan

Rice Memorial High School celebrating centennial

Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington is celebrating its centennial.
 
Tracing its beginning back to Cathedral High School in Burlington in 1917, the largest of the two Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Burlington has earned a reputation as a “great school,” said Interim Principal Lisa Lorenz. “It is known for its Catholic identity, its community service and everlasting sense of family. The spirit and love of Rice is felt long after graduation and even decades later.”
 
Celebrating the milestone anniversary is important, Lorenz said, to commemorate the roots, mission, drive and purpose that brought the school into existence. “When we take the time to pause and deeply reflect upon the events that inspired the beginnings it is then we allow the Lord to work in us anew to continue His work in the world of today, being lead by the inspirations of the Holy Spirit,” she continued. “If we fail to pause and reflect on our past and future direction, we risk the danger of floundering about like a boat without a rudder.”
 
The 100th school year kicked off Aug. 29, an occasion marked with a special First Day of School Assembly and "Clap In” to which alumni and parents were invited.
 
Alumni from every decade since the 1940s were present to cheer on current students, hear from school leaders and blow out the candles on Rice-Cathedral's 100th birthday cake. 
 
The celebration continues on Homecoming Weekend, Oct. 6-8, with a full calendar of events designed to engage alumni, parents and students.
 
For more information on the events go to rmhsvt.org/riceturns100.
 
“Our Centennial year is book-ended by these events and those at the tail end of the year including an All School Reunion and Rice-Cathedral Alumni Association Golf Tournament the weekend of June 22-23, 2018,” noted Christy Warner Bahrenburg '88​, director of advancement and communication.
 
There are currently 431​ students enrolled at Rice, up 21 percent in six years. Students come from 53 towns and 12 countries.
 
The mission of Rice throughout the years has remained in essence the same: to love learning, to serve others and to seek God through Jesus Christ and His Church, Lorenz said.
 
Rice – named after third Burlington Bishop Joseph J. Rice – opened in 1959.
 
 
  • Published in Schools

St. Therese Digital Academy grants

The Diocese of Burlington’s St. Therese Digital Academy, an online Catholic high school with a rigorous program grounded in the Catholic faith, has received two grants totaling $116,000 to support the development of a digital learning platform, curriculum and marketing.
 
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Catholic Communications Campaign awarded $96,000 and Our Sunday Visitor awarded $20,000 to provide access to a Catholic education to families limited by geography and for Catholic formation courses and catechism education for children and adults.
 
"This support will provide us with the resources necessary to develop Catholic formation courses for Catholics young and old who desire to continue to grow in their knowledge of our Catholic faith beyond the traditional means. Faith formation is no longer hindered by conflicting work, school or extra-curricular schedules," said Burlington Bishop Christopher J. Coyne. "We want to reach out to people and provide as many options as possible to grow in their faith; to do so we must embrace technology."
 
The academy works with parents in their roles as primary educators by offering an online Catholic high school with flexible options to assist in their child’s education while also providing weekly local opportunities for enrichment courses, community service projects and social and spiritual formation.
 
“This format of a Catholic high school overcomes the obstacles of no Catholic school nearby. We are serving military families whose children would otherwise not be able to have access to a Catholic education such as Okinawa, Japan,” said Lisa Lorenz, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Burlington and principal of the digital academy. 
 
The school’s goal is to develop well-grounded disciples of Jesus Christ who possess 21st-Century skills that equip them to fulfill their roles as members of the Body of Christ within today’s society.
 
This spring plans call for offering classes to students at Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington who need specific classes to meet their requirements or are in need of advanced classes.
 
“We will be offering to our smaller high schools that cannot afford to have a large variety of courses this online format as a supplement to the rigors of their already in-person classes,” Lorenz said, referring to Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and St. Michael High School in Brattleboro. “We even have students taking classes merely for enrichment. Our hopes are that we can also aid those families who may not be able to send their children to Catholic schools but really would like to have their child continue growing in the faith by studying theology classes.”
 
In addition, there will be adult theology classes for ongoing catechesis. “All of this can and will be built with the funding made possible by Our Sunday Visitor and the USCCB,” Lorenz said.
 
She has been speaking at parishes about the digital academy and has found it is met with enthusiasm, support and a sense of hope for Catholic education being restored in their communities in a 21st-Century model.
 
“Without the funds this endeavor would be impossible,” Lorenz said. “It will permit Catholic education to reach beyond brick and mortar, as well as being able to offer a more affordable Catholic high school.”
 
St. Therese Digital Academy currently enrolls five students.
 
There are three other Catholic high schools in the Diocese of Burlington: Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington, Mount St. Joseph Academy in Rutland and St. Michael High School in Brattleboro.
 
For more information about the digital academy, go to stdavt.org.
 
 
  • Published in Schools

Digital academy principal gets additional role: superintendent

The principal of the Diocese of Burlington’s new St. Therese Digital Academy has another assignment: superintendent of Catholic schools for the statewide diocese.

St. Therese Digital Academy, an online Catholic high school, opened its virtual doors in June in preparation for the fall semester. Through it, the rich tradition of a Catholic education can reach students in areas of the diocese that would not otherwise be able to access it.

Lisa Lorenz, who assumed responsibilities with the online academy in April, took over as Catholic schools chief on Aug. 1, replacing Sister of Mercy Laura DellaSanta who is the new principal of Rice Memorial High School in South Burlington.

“It is my intention to get [the digital academy] up and running this year and hire a new principal to take it over as the demands will soon increase,” Lorenz said. “That way I will be able to solely devote my time [to serving as] superintendent.”

There are 10 Catholic elementary, three Catholic high schools and one Catholic preschool in Vermont. 

Born in Okinawa to a military family, Lorenz relocated from Hanover, Penn., to Milton.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., in 1994; a master’s in moral theology from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood, Penn., in 1997; and a master’s in pastoral counseling from Loyola University in Baltimore in 2008.  She taught Catholic middle school, was an elementary school administrator and was coordinator for graduate school in school counseling and mental health.

She is a licensed counselor in Maryland and Vermont.  

Her work has included private and public schools working with at-risk children, adolescents and families in urban school settings and private practice providing counseling for children, adolescents and adults/couples. Her special areas of interest include academic success, depression and anxiety disorders, bereavement, anxiety, pastoral and spiritual concerns, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, behavior interventions for children/adolescents in home and school settings and animal assisted therapy.

“I have many years of experience in education and leadership on a variety of levels. I am a collaborative leader, a good listener and bring a skill set of being able to provide programmatic assessments and problem solving,” she said. “In addition, I have a deep love and passion for my faith, education and mental health and well-being.”

According to the new superintendent of Catholic schools, the biggest challenge that Catholic schools face in Vermont is sufficient enrollment and lack of resources.

“I plan on getting to know every school, the principals, teachers, students and families well,” she said. “Equally important is assessing our resources, talents and gifts, thinking outside the box, being creative and open-minded so that we support this important mission of the Church to help our families in bringing Catholic education to all who thirst” for it.

Her hobbies include running, hiking, kayaking and training her dogs in hopes they will become therapy dogs. She also enjoys cooking, playing piano, oil painting and taking long walks on dirt roads.

Article written by Cori Fugere Urban, Vermont Catholic staff writer.
  • Published in Schools
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