A study of the perceptions of bishops, pastors, and future pastors toward Catholic schools

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The purpose of this study was to investigate the perceptions of the Roman Catholic bishops, pastors, and future pastors of the United States concerning the (1) value, (2) effectiveness, (3) funding practices, and (4) future structure of Catholic schools in the United States.

The data for the study were generated from completed questionnaires returned by 80.2 percent of the population of 273 bishops and 52.4 percent of the sample of 660 priests representing the population of 37,572 priests in parish ministry. The questionnaire was modified from one developed by Eugene P. Sullivan of Boston, Massachusetts.

Statistical analysis included a frequency distribution analysis of each item, plus a Spearman rho correlation coefficient. A chi-square treatment tested the statistical significance between the expected and observed frequencies. The study accepted a level of significance of .05.

Among the findings were the following: (1) A large majority of bishops and priests saw Catholic schools as having a value sufficient to justify their continued existence. (2) They saw Catholic schools as playing an essential role in the church's mission. (3) They saw Catholic schools as academically better than the local governmental schools. (4) They agreed that Catholic schools have a positive impact on the adult religious behavior of their students. (5) They thought the schools make effective use of the church's resources, but use too much of them. (6) They thought that each parish should continue to finance its own school and that the financial support was the responsibility of the whole church. (7) They did not think that parish religious education programs should replace schools. (8) There was less agreement among bishops and priests on financial matters connected with the schools.

The recommendations included the suggestion that programs be developed to help priests work with Catholic schools, that a study of regional schools be conducted, that seminaries offer information to seminary students concerning Catholic schools, that the bishops fund an indepth study of religious education programs outside of schools to find an effective alternative to current programs, and that the bishops study the question of funding for Catholic schools.

Catholic schools, Bishops, Priests, Perception