Even on paper, the goal of increasing the enrollment of Latino children in Catholic schools from 250,000 to 1,000,000 seems like a pretty big undertaking, and yet that is precisely the mission of Fr. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., the Director of the Catholic School Advantage Campaign at the University of Notre Dame. Although the CSA’s goal might seem unrealistically bold, it is that very zeal to dare the impossible with God in order to make Him known, loved, and served that has defined the mission of Holy Cross since its founding. Today we profile this true Holy Cross educator in the faith, as Fr. Joe shares with us a reflection on his critical work for the future of the Church in the United States.
On Sunday, November 21, 2010, I returned to the campus of the University of Notre Dame where I live. This was my 88th trip since I began working at Notre Dame in August of 2009. Almost all of the trips were related to the work that I have been asked to do at Notre Dame --- to serve as Director of the Catholic School Advantage (CSA) Campaign.
The CSA Campaign is a response to the report “To Nurture the Soul of a Nation” published by the Notre Dame Task Force on the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools. The Campaign hopes to spearhead a national effort to double the percentage of Latino parents who send their children to Catholic elementary and secondary schools. In terms of numbers, that would be increasing the number of Latino children in Catholic schools from the current number of 275,000 to about 1,000,000.
Everywhere I have travelled --- from New York to Los Angeles, from Chicago to San Antonio, from Cleveland to St. Louis, from Detroit to El Paso --- I have found the same story. There are hundreds and hundreds of Latino children enrolled in our parish Religious Education and Sacramental Preparation programs and very few Latino children enrolled in our schools. The question that is asked over and over and over is, “Father, how we can get these children in our schools?”
For the most part, everyone quickly assumes that the issue is money. And while that is obviously part of the picture, it does not tell the whole story by a long shot. A big part of the picture is working to make our schools more culturally responsive so that Latinos can feel at home in them and can feel ownership for the schools.
I have been so blessed and so privileged as a Holy Cross priest to have served in several different assignments, including serving pastor of two of our parishes – St. John Vianney in Goodyear, AZ, and Holy Redeemer in Portland, OR. One great grace that God has given to me is that everything that has been asked of me seems like it has led me to where I am now, to my current assignment.
In many ways, the future of the Church in our country is directly related to the future of Catholic education. And the future of Catholic education is directly related to how we embrace the biggest opportunity facing the Church today --- and that is the growing number of Latinos in the Church. I can’t think of anything more exciting to do!