by Katie Pesha
FAITH Catholic Marketing Consultant
The year 2020 has presented major challenges to our society and world, and Catholic schools have experienced this in a singular way. Despite these challenges, now is not the time to back off of your mission. Catholic schools must do more than simply try to maintain the status quo or just keep their heads above water as they attempt to navigate back to “normal.” In my consulting with Catholic schools, I encourage them to seize this moment to redouble their efforts to live their Gospel-oriented mission. You are called to be the beacon of excellence in education that Catholic schools always have been. By staying atop your game, you can engage effectively with your communities and continue advancing the mission you’ve always had. Here are some recommendations for how to do that in your school.
1. Communication is not just key, it’s care
Our understanding of the coronavirus changes every day, and it seems as though our plans for back-to-school in August change even faster. Despite this hectic atmosphere, keep getting the word out! Your school families will appreciate regular updates that are up-front and honest about the current state of the situation. Even if you’re simply telling them about the process of navigating the coming year, that is much better than no communication at all!
The age of social distancing means people have increased their expertise in digital media. You can offer weekly newsletters, consider the possibility of a Zoom town hall to inform parents, and keep social media up-to-date. Short videos, such as this example from the Archdiocese of Chicago, require no special equipment and can take fewer than five minutes, yet go a long way to instilling hope simply by reaching out. Regular updates will offer the stability many are seeking and demonstrate that the school is taking families’ concerns seriously. Effective and thoughtful communications tell your families you care.
2. Showcase success
Solicit pictures of students who love digital learning, and share them on your social platforms. Get the word out about the variety of safety measures being prepared. Remind families of what Catholic schools do well. Parents choose Catholic education for many reasons they cannot find elsewhere: the focus on faith, the sense of community, the well-rounded academics, plus much more. Catholic institutions obtained more than a billion dollars in stimulus aid to retain valuable personnel and maintain our standards of excellence. These funds are being put to use to ensure our schools are safe for the fall. Make sure your communication showcases what your school is doing well and reminds families why they sought Catholic education to begin with.
3. Prayer is paramount
Ultimately, Catholic schools are defined by our faith — our days are framed by prayer and the love of God. Lockdowns last spring disrupted many institutions’ shared prayer lives, and many schools experimented with live-streaming as a substitute, especially to start the day. In preparing to re-open, principals and teachers must keep prayer, the core of Catholic education, in the forefront of our minds and hearts.
But of course, faith starts with the family. Communication efforts should, in addition to the regular administrative and marketing messages, shine a spotlight on how our community is rooted in prayer at home. Encourage families to explore daily prayer time in the form of the rosary, or praying with the daily Mass readings. Consider learning the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayer of the Church that sanctifies each day with prayer (an instructional video is available here). By focusing on our daily relationship with the Lord, we re-center our schools’ mission and maintain our hope in the Kingdom of God amid our ongoing communication with our families and students.
These are uncertain times but that uncertainty should not cause us to react in fear. By focusing on our mission as Catholic educators and making it a priority to communicate effectively, we can continue to promote success and celebrate the good things that are happening in our schools — no matter what our learning looks like in the fall.