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Educators in Roman Catholic schools were exhorted at the National Catholic Educational Association annual meeting in New York last month to keep their schools open and provide higher salaries for teachers.

Cardinal John O'Connor, the Archbishop of New York, promised that "we will close everything else to keep Catholic schools open, if they give a quality education.''

His archdiocese, he said, has increased teacher salaries by 39 percent over the last four years.

Retired Bishop William E. McManus of the Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., diocese, charged that priests and educators have been too quick to close Catholic schools. He said parents and parishioners will support the schools and higher salaries for teachers if the schools better promote and fund their efforts.

The bishop and the Rev. Andrew M. Greeley, the sociologist, jointly wrote Catholic Contributions: Sociology and Policy, a book published last year that provides statistics supporting those arguments.

Bishop McManus said Catholic dioceses should:

  • Set a minimum salary of $400 a week for beginning teachers, and a scale of 5 percent salary growth per year, effective by September of 1990.
  • Establish a funding process in which affluent parishes could help poor parishes pay teachers.
  • Require parishes to draw on parish funds rather than tuition increases to pay teachers.

He called on the NCEA to sponsor a national assembly of Catholic-school teachers to discuss pay and working conditions.

John J. Reilly, president of the National Association for Catholic School Teachers, also has asked the NCEA to form a committee on collective bargaining.

Mother Mary Angelica, the founder of the Eternal Word Television Network, based in Birmingham, Ala., recounted at the NCEA meeting her Catholic-school experiences and childhood in a disadvantaged family.

Growing up in rat-infested apartments and having little money, Mother Angelica said, "I wasn't interested in learning the capital of Iowa; I was interested in surviving.''

"You have thousands of children like me in your classrooms,'' she told the Catholic educators. Those children, she said, "have adult problems'' and need caring as much as they need schooling.

Mother Angelica compared the task of keeping Catholic schools open to her "ridiculous idea'' of starting a television network, against the advice of many experts.

"Unless you're willing to do the ridiculous,'' she said, "God won't do the miraculous.''

Showa Women's University of Tokyo has bought the TMI Academy in Sweetwater, Tenn., for $2.2 million, and will operate a coeducational college-preparatory program for Japanese students there.--KG

Vol. 07, Issue 32

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