LMU Center for Catholic Education Celebrating Ten Years of Catholic Connections

Loyola Marymount University’s Center for Catholic Education—dedicated to advancing the mission and impact of Catholic schools––is marking its tenth anniversary in 2020. Since its inception, it has grown to become a hub with more connections than ever: through programs, partnerships, and advocacy––Sister Rosemarie Nassif, Executive Director, shares all that is happening at the Center this year.


Under the leadership of Antonio Felix, Director of PLACE Corps, CCE welcomed 21 new teachers in Cohort 20 of our PLACE (Partners in Los Angeles Education) Corps program to become first year teachers in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of San Bernardino. The teachers are living in community in vacated convents and engaged in educational, spiritual and community development. While teaching in Catholic schools, they will be studying for their Masters in Education at LMU. Recruiting this year was more than challenging due to the inability to visit university campuses and the COVID-19 risks in moving to Los Angeles. These new teachers are educating students from diverse ethnicities and low-income families.


CCE also welcomed 42 new CAST (Catholic Archdiocesan School Teachers) students into its fall semester for the Masters in Education.


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Dr. Lauren Casella

On July 31—August 2, Dr. Lauren Casella and team welcomed 27 new students into the Catholic School Leadership Academy (CSLA) from 17 dioceses in the United States and Samoa. The students are earning ten graduate credits for a certificate in Catholic School Leadership. Since 2005, over 300 graduates of the CSLA program now serve in dioceses nationwide as principals, teacher-leaders, superintendents. A Master in Educational Leadership program, with a Catholic education track, is now being developed as a fully online program, which will be available in spring 2021.


CCE is now in partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in supporting the network of eight dual language immersion (DLI) Catholic schools. The Director of the Los Angeles Network, Kara Lemma, is now on staff at the CCE. In June, the Center awarded the Pathway Award Ribbon to the eighth-grade graduates of the All Souls World Language School, which teaches in English, Spanish and Mandarin. Californians Together—a statewide advocacy coalition whose mission is to better the education of English Learners—initiated this award for students who complete middle school/eighth grade in a bi-literacy curriculum. All Souls, a member of the DLI Network in Los Angeles, is the only Catholic school in California that has completed eight years with a dual language immersion curriculum. This network is the only DLI Catholic school diocesan network in the nation. The presentation by Magaly Lavadenz, Executive Director of the LMU Center for Equity for English Learners, delivered a presentation on the value of bi-literacy at the Pathway Award Ceremony, focused on the responsibility of learning in another language that builds competency in valuing other cultures.


The Center for Catholic Education is partnering with the LMU IDEAL Institute to implement blended learning in two Catholic schools in the Diocese of Phoenix. These schools will be networked with the 25 IDEAL Institute blended learning Catholic schools throughout five dioceses in California. Given the tension, anxiety and stress that COVID-19 has placed on education, the intent is to integrate Social Emotional Learning (SEL) with the distance learning curriculum—not as two separate curriculum strategies, but rather blended together in the formation of the whole person, giving students, teachers and administrators the skills and permission to acknowledge and confront stress, tension, anxiety and trauma instilled through the disruptions and unknowns of these pandemics.


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Sister Angie Shaughnessy

Under Sister Angie Shaughnessy’s renowned leadership in education law – both civil and canon– the Education Law Symposium, which was held very successfully for 20 years in Louisville, Kentucky, was transformed into a two-day virtual Legal Issues Series in partnership with the National Catholic Education Association, July 8-9.  Five of the presentations—each with a pandemic perspective– were recorded beforehand and a live panel discussed the Catholic School response to COVID-19.  There were 499 who participated throughout the United States and internationally. Sister Angie Shaughnessy presented on “Legal and Medical Matters” and Sister Rosemarie Nassif on “Fund and Friend Raising in the Era of Two Pandemics.”


All educators have experienced stress, anxiety, even trauma throughout the COVID-19 disruptions in education. The Center developed a Resilient Leadership zoom experience for Catholic education principals and administrators on July 29. It was a five-hour hybrid of a retreat, spa experience and therapy session. Sister Rosemarie Nassif began with a Gospel Reflection on the story of Martha and Mary – a spiritual context of balancing work and prayer.  There were four presentations seamlessly woven together: “Experiencing God’s Presence through Movement” with Bobby Karle, SJ, “Mental Health and Resilience” with Father Frank Buckley, SJ, “Emotions Matter” with Dr. Lauren Casella and “Sacred Space to Listen, Reflect and Relate” with Dr. William Parham. The experience was very positively received by 60 Los Angeles Catholic school principals who participated and has led to retreats with administrators and teachers in Catholic schools throughout Los Angeles.


The LMU Center for Catholic Education envisions itself as a convener for addressing significant educational issues across diverse constituents, both locally and nationally. The Catholic Education Cooperative, a membership of funders, Los Angeles Archdiocesan and University administrators and clergy leaders in Catholic education, is under the Center’s leadership. Sister Rosemarie Nassif convened the Cooperative in June with keynote presentations by the Superintendent of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the interim President of the National Catholic Education Association to learn the responses and realities of our Catholic schools locally and nationally throughout the COVID-19 disruptions. The overall goal was to explore together all that we are learning through the transformation of education in the past five months that can enlighten our pathway forward. Thirty of the forty-five participants were major foundation leaders.


The impact of educational endeavors depends on research and data. The Center builds its cornerstone on the capacity to conduct rigorous research that enlightens the strategies that are most impactful to advance the vitality of our Catholic schools. Through partnership with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Department of Catholic schools, CCE envisions a laboratory for studying educational, management, system and governance strategies that deliver the greatest success. Los Angeles has the largest and most diverse enrollment of any diocese in the United States. The Superintendent is requesting a MOU with the LMU Center for Catholic Education to assure the growth of our partnership as we progress forward. Dr. Lauren Casella was the keynote speaker at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles C3 Conference in August to launch the beginning of the new school year.


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Dr. Rebecca Stephenson

Dr. Rebecca Stephenson is Managing Editor of the Journal of Catholic Education –– whose home is the LMU Center for Catholic Education –– the peer reviewed, open access, online journal representing Catholic colleges and universities, Catholic education leaders and scholars from a variety of disciplines who are collectively committed to contributing research and encouraging best practice in Catholic elementary, secondary and higher education by advancing the field of Catholic educational research. The Journal published its May 15 edition on the “COVID-19 Crisis: Impacts on Catholic Schools and Potential Responses” with separate parts focused on developing and developed countries.


The Catholic Higher Education Supporting Catholic Schools (CHESCS) organization composed of 25 Catholic Universities throughout the United States is initiating a research study on the learnings from the COVID-19 experiences in Catholic schools nationally. The LMU Center is actively engaged with this research direction. Dr. Lauren Casella was recently appointed the President of CHESCS. As an active member of CHESCS, the Center is promoting collaboration and partnerships among the Universities to multiply our positive impact on Catholic education with Dr. Casella leading the way. This summer, she led a small group in the virtual book club consisting of 200 Catholic educators sponsored by the Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College on Racial Justice and the Catholic Church by Father Bryan Massingale.


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Sister Rosemarie Nassif

Given the COVID-19 economic impact on low income families, Catholic schools are experiencing financial constraints in the re-opening of classes as many parents are not able to afford tuition.  Sister Rosemarie Nassif is on the Board of the American Federation for Children (AFC), which seeks to empower families, especially lower-income families, with the freedom to choose the best K-12 education for their children. AFC is actively engaged in the advancement of parental choice nationally, especially through the adoption of the Education Freedom Scholarship that allows federal tax credit for businesses and individuals who contribute to scholarship granting organizations (SGO). These SGOs provide tuition scholarships to empower low income families to choose the best education option for their elementary and secondary students. As Congress is developing the next Federal relief program for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Education Freedom Scholarship is included in the Administration’s package. Sister Nassif has been actively lobbying to assure that the new relief package supports all Catholic school students (not only those who qualify for Title 1 as is being suggested) and that the Education Freedom Scholarship legislation is included. She wrote an article for publication in the National Catholic Reporter to alert and motivate all who support our Catholic schools to lobby their Congressional legislators.