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May 7, 1993     The Message
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May 7, 1993

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12 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana --. Bishop's Forum Principles in Vincennes letter apply to all This past week I wrote a let- ter to the parish communities in Vincennes including St. Francis Xavier, St. John the Baptist, Sa- cred Heart and St. Vincent. They were about to receive a study of the Catholic Schools in Vin- cennes, a study funded by the Catholic Diocese as a support to the Interparochial Catholic School Board of Vincennes. The letter was addressed to the Parish Councils of those parishes since it is the parish council that decides on the man- ner in which a parish will assist parents in providing religious ed- ucation for their children. Although the letter was addressed to those parishes, the principles in it are applicable to all parishes within our diocese. As our sisters and brothers in the Catholic Community of Vincennes struggle with the ques- tion as to "how" they will address the question, I ask all of you to remember them in your prayers. It is quit fitting that we recognize that their struggle is ours. In that light, I publish the following text of my letter. BISHOP RALD A GETTELFINGER Dear Parish Council Members of the Catholic Community of Vincennes: My videotaped letter comes to you concern- ing the report of the Catholic Schools' Study you are receiving tonight. Printed copies of the sum- mary will be provided for each of you after the meeting. At the outset, please recall that I was very pleased to be able to respond positively to the request of the Vincennes Catholic School Board to fund a study of your schools so that you could make decisions concerning the future In light of that, I want the work of the professional direc- tors of the study to be taken most seriously by everyone in the Catholic Community of Vin- cennes. Tonight you are only receiving the report. In doing so, you are not making any decisions about your schools. By receiving the report you are getting invaluable information that will as- sist you in forging and shaping the future for Catholic Schools in the Vincennes community. Those decisions will be made by the appropriate bodies in the course of time. This is the evening of Wednesday, April 28, 1993. To hope that reasonable decisions about the future of your Catholic Schools can be made tonight in light of the study just completed may be unrealistic. In exercising my pastoral role, I met with three of your pastors last Friday to reg- ister my concern that we must, by all means, avoid any "quick" decisions that could cause chaos in your community. To that end, I sug- gested a plan that will provide the time neces- sary to make wise decisions for the future. The pastors concurred. The Pastors have, in their pastoral role, judged that it may be unwise to attempt to make any decisions about the long term fu- ture for your schools prior to the beginning of September 1993. Recognizing that to commit to another year may have financial implications, I indicated to them that if it is necessary for an indi- vidual parish to seek a loan to meet its obligations to operate the schools for the school year 1993- 1994, I would approve it. Therefore, to provide the nec- essary time for your parishes to make appropriate and wise deci- sions, and because this is an interparochial mat- ter, I, as your Bishop, am herewith authorizing the pastors to announce that the Catholic Schools in Vincennes will be in session for the school year 1993-1994. In light of the above, however, I am direct- ing that a decision making-process be imple- mented so that a decision about the future of the Catholic Schools in Vincennes will be forthcom- ing no later than December 31, 1993. Before I discuss further the decision-making process, it is all important that you recall why we are involved in Catholic Schools at all. The primary right and responsibility for the education of children belongs to their parents. The same right and responsibility rests with them for the religious education of their chil- dren, the passing on of the faith. They must de- cide how this will be accomplished for their children. At the same time, it is the grave responsibil- ity of the Catholic Community to assist parents in providing religious education for their chil- dren. The Catholic Community, in return must hold its members mutually accountable in ful- filling this most important responsibility. The Catholic parish either alone, or con- jointly with others, must decide how it is able to assist parents in the religious education of their children. In coming to a decision a Catholic parish must recognize that there is unimpeachable evi- dence that Catholic schooling can provide the best possible environment for such religious ed- ucation. Therefore, as Chief Teacher in our diocese, where possible, it is my expectation that a Catholic parish provide Catholic elementary and secondary schooling for parents who wish to choose that for their children. It is never allowable, however, to suggest a less than quality academic education under the guise of religious education. Nor is it ever persmissable to offer less than excellent religious education in order to fund a quality academic educational program. I must insist that every parish, if it is to be viable as a parish, provide appropriate religious education programming to assist parents in meeting the primary obligation that is theirs. Where there is Catholic schooling available, propriate alternative religious educational gramming must be available for those parents who choose, for whatever reason, to send their children to public schools. Who then will decide as to whether or not there will be Catholic schools in Vincennes? The Parish Councils of the Vincennes Catholic Community with their pastors w cide as to whether there will be Catholic in Vincennes. Once that decision is made, the school board then can make the appropriate icy decisions that will guide the school adminiPi trator in operating the resultant school. In order for the four parish councils to that critical decision it makes good sense that original study committee continue as a pl committee to develop proposals for inforr sharing, consultation and decision. This tee will not decide, it will only propose. I am herewith inviting the members of the-- original study committee and, in addition, sentatives from the Catholic School Boarc the Christian Educational Foundation, to this committee to provide continuity with the stud just completed The names of the planni y .  , , committee will be published in each parish after the members have had a chance to respond invitation. I have appointed Ms. Phyllis Beshears, the i Director of Schools for the Catholic Diocese of Evansville to coordinate the work of this plan- ning committee. At my request, one of the tors of the study will serve as a resource to the' planning committee during the decisi( process. The first work of the planning committee will be to formulate a calendar of meetings lead" ing up to the decision concerning the future of Catholic Schools in Vincennes. will provide detail of the initial steps at the end: of this meeting. Further, I am herewith appoint" ing Father Donald Ackerman, the Dean of the Vincennes Deanery who is the pastoral tative of the community, to be the single spokesman throughout this decision-making process. Know that I walk with you on this jou My prayer will be that the Spirit of God " guide you through this arduous, but all impoP tant, decision making process. Indeed, the sions of your parishes will affect the life Catholic Community of Vincennes long into next century. 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