Could These Be the Most Important 75 Days in the History of your Catholic School and/or Parish?

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Although one week later than we wanted to get this out, the title/premise of this Special Edition Newsletter # 6 is an intriguing one and certainly worth considering. This past Monday, June 15th, ISPD began the first of our 75 days with the start of our Summer Institute 2020 – three on-line courses offered for Catholic school and parish leaders – in partnership with the University of Dayton. 1. Moving Your Catholic School Forward NOW; 2. Moving Your Catholic Parish Forward NOW; 15 More Lessons Learned in 30+ Years in Catholic School Development. Over 225 students (pastors, presidents, principals, superintendents, development and advancement directors, enrollment management directors, board/council members, stewardship directors, staff members, and other Catholic leaders) are enrolled. Each course offers five intensive classes with extended Q & A, and for those who wish, they can earn Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from the University of Dayton. Over 15 guest faculty members (all Catholic leaders with many years of experience) offer expertise and perspective with each class. After one week of teaching, the energy is fantastic; the questions go to the heart of our challenges in these times; and, many students taking one or more of the courses are working in teams in order to implement what is being taught. All of the above is the main reason why this Special Edition Newsletter is one week late; we wanted to make sure the courses got off to a great start.

The title of this newsletter is understood by most every student enrolled in the UD/ISPD Summer Institute 2020. These 75 days between June 15th and August 28th could very well be the most important in the history of your Catholic school and/or parish. The title also begs the question, “If these 75 days are so important – as Catholic leaders – what should we do?” We would like to offer 10 suggestions for you to consider.

1. Understand that these 75 days this summer are not business as usual.

  • The main message here is: Now is not the time to relax and let our guard down. Now (these 75 days) is the time to “kick in our second wind” and make sure we are ready for the 2020-21 school year and the years beyond. Now is the time to communicate, communicate, communicate. Now is the time to plan, to build our community, to instill confidence, to set forth a positive stance that says, “Together, we WILL prevail during these challenging times. With so much uncertainty, Catholic leaders need to present a position that screams, “Together, we’ve got this!”

2. Tune in, research, and listen.

  • As we all know, it will be important to stay on top of the latest research. Every day, we are able tune in to what is being offered and discussed by our (arch) diocesan leaders; local, state, and federal agencies; studies and case statements; Q & A documents, and other resources.
  • Tim Uhl, superintendent of Montana Catholic Schools and also author of Catholic School Matters (and one of our guest faculty members in our Summer Institute 2020) offers some wonderful resources to consider. Everything below comes from Tim.


3. “Pipeline” to your people. (Survey)

  • Now is the time to “pipeline” to your people. There are many ways to conduct surveys today; we like Survey Monkey but there are many other wonderful vehicles. It is important to find out how your parents (and students) felt about distance learning; it is important to poll your parish families and find out what they need; it is important to reach out to your entire constituent base and survey them about their needs, their questions, their thoughts about moving forward and re-opening, etc.
  • We really like using The Ultimate Question Survey. Please see below.

Part A

  • On a scale from 0-10, with 10 meaning “Highly Likely” and 0 meaning “Not at All Likely,” how likely is it (during these COVID-19 times) that you would recommend (name of school/parish) to your family, friends, colleagues, and/or neighbors?

Part B

  • If you gave us a score of less than 9 or 10, what would we need to do to have your score be higher the next time we invite you to take a similar survey?

Part C

  • If you gave us a score of 9 or 10, why did you commend us so highly?

4. Analyze this: “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” (General Dwight D. Eisenhower)

  • “There is a very great distinction, because when you are planning for an emergency or crisis, you must start with this one thing: the very definition of ‘emergency’ or ‘crisis’ is that it is unexpected; therefore, plans created must be fluid, adaptable, and adjustable.
  • “The knowledge gained during the planning process is crucial to the selection of appropriate actions as future events unfold.”

5. Build your bridge as you walk on it, and invite, enlist, and engage people to walk with you in the building (planning and implementation) process.

  • This is the focus of two of the summer courses. We have written, spoken, and presented on this topic. These 75 days are crucial times to engage people, which is possibly the greatest paradigm shift for some Catholic schools and many Catholic parishes. So many Catholic leaders do not want to go beyond their first ripple of people (administration, boards, and councils), but it is the second and third ripples (parents, parishioners, alumni, parents of alumni, grandparents, financial leaders, community members, etc.) where many answers and wonderful wisdom can be found.

6. Establish a consistent communication system.

  • The quantity of what you create during these 75 days is not nearly as important as the consistency of your communication: what, when, how, and to whom. Many people always tell us, “It helps so much when we know when that bulletin from the principal is going to go out. Then, we can look for it.”

7. Network.

  • There are many opportunities to network with Catholic leaders and others. Virtual communication has opened up a whole new world. Now is the time to reach out and find out what others are doing. Beginning Friday, July 10th, we will resume our Friday (1:00 PM Central Time) Zoom sessions where we connect with Catholic school and parish leaders from all over the country and discuss one topic per week – a topic that is impacting everyone during these COVID-19 times. Please e-mail me at if you wish to join us.
  • We will also resume our ISPD Virtual Catholic School and Parish Cohort Sessions on Monday, July 6, 2020 at 1:00 PM Central Time. Please be on the look out for that invite.

8. Grow professionally.

  • Take a summer course, read a book or two, join an on-line class. There are many ways for Catholic leaders to grow beyond their own network.
  • Here at ISPD, we are considering offering a mid-to-late July/early August session of the summer courses we are presently teaching. By that time, we will have had many discussions with those presently taking one or more of the courses we are teaching now and will be able to share their stories and examples. Please stay tuned.

9. Think globally.

  • When (and hopefully not if) you move forward in building your community and seeking input to the challenges facing you, please think outside of your community. In the past, most of the input in a Catholic school or parish planning process came from those people involved or living in the community. Today, with virtual communication now the norm, we can reach out across the globe. I was on a Zoom session last week with a Catholic high school’s National Advisory Board, and there was an alum from London and an alum from South America.

10. Remember: Insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting the results to be different.

  • This could be old ways of thinking, out-of-date action plans, turning to the same people, relying on old adages that are no long relevant.
  • Quite honestly, I believe most Catholic leaders will realize the importance of building their bridge as they walk on it. The one point, as I stated earlier, that I believe will be the hardest thing to break out of is turning to the same people to create solutions and answers. We really need to move to the 2nd and 3rd ripples. We do need to pour our wine into new wineskins.

June 15th – August 28th will certainly be challenging days, but our journey is not alone:

  • The Father encourages us.
  • The Son directs us.
  • The Spirit anoints us.

Our challenge today is to seize the moment and journey with Christ in continuing to help Build the Kingdom – even in the midst of the storm.

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