Leading with Passion and Excellence: the Center for Catholic School Leadership & Faith-Based Education

Dr. Pat Kelly-Stiles is the Associate Director of the Center for Catholic Leadership & Faith-Based Education. She discussed the Center and its activities, as well as the importance of faith-based education.

Why is Catholic and Faith-Based Education important today?

The faith-based educational community has been operating for centuries and has an outstanding success record it takes a critical place in the broader field of education.

We talk about differentiation within the classroom learning but differentiation in mission and purpose is also a critical piece for education. Faith-based or non-public education differentiates by offering alternatives.

People are so unique and their needs are so different that it is difficult to productively educate large groups and faith-based education often is able to provide more one-on-one opportunities.

What are the goals of the Center?

Our goal is to promote leadership for faith-based schools and also work in close, productive partnerships with organizations and give them close links to the GSE and the university.

The Center has been preparing individuals to take leadership positions in faith-based schools for over 3 decades.

We work through the lens of mission and vision-driven faith-based education.

Leadership is very critical to schools settings. When educators work within schools, there is a need to develop the mindset of working within lens of the vision and mission so that all contributions, from their classroom lessons to student life to community involvement, supports the mission.

Yes, the Center prepares students for the same state certification exams and requirements as any other students, but they also begin to internalize this idea of mission-driven leadership. They begin to internalize some of the principles that make faith-based education unique and envision their own style of leadership; they have the preparation to lead those faith-based schools with a sense of passion and excellence.

What are the programs and services offered?

Degree Programs
The Center works with the Diocese to offer classes at Lincoln Center and Rose Hill, as well as in off-site locations, such as Rockville Center in Long Island, Queens, and Brooklyn. At any given time, there may be as many as 70 students taking classes in different locations. Each summer, all classes are offered at Lincoln Centers, so our students have the opportunity to study and build relationships with each other.

In addition the the traditional masters program, the Center, within the Graduate School of Education, offers a Ph.D. program for those seeking high level leadership positions, not only in faith-based organizations but other church-related organizations. These students may become superintendents of Diocese, work in college administration – a number of college presidents have gone through our program – or take leadership positions within social service organizations.

Multicultural Education Teacher Leader Program
In partnership with the Diocese of Brooklyn, we have a unique masters program that seeks to prepare a cohort of teachers in the Diocese in Brooklyn to become future school administrators with a deep commitment to multicultural education. The goal is to build students’ capacities to lead in Catholic elementary schools serving diverse, multicultural communities.

The Diocese of Brooklyn, like many neighborhoods in the area, has experienced incredible demographic changes. Each course prepares them for school building leadership state certification as well as how to infuse the sense of diversity into their schools and share that knowledge with educators, students, and the community. Those classes are offered at a site within Diocese of Brooklyn during the year and at Lincoln Center during the summer.

Professional Development
We offer professional development programs for current leaders in faith-based schools throughout the year.

Our Entrepreneurial Leadership Seminar works with superintendents’ offices to identify a group of principals to meet at Fordham several times during the year. This year’s theme is Leading Toward Identity; the series offers guidance and strategies to help these principals stay true to their schools’ missions. Right now, we have principals from the Archdioceses of Newark, New York, Brooklyn, Rockville Center, and Albany.

In addition, in partnership with the Diocese of Brooklyn, our Cabrini Program is part of the Diocese’s three-year orientation for new principals. For the first year, the Diocese concentrates on introducing principals to policies, procedures, and expectations. In years 2 and 3, the Center provides ongoing presentations for these principals on topics such as leadership, mission, and strategic planning.

International Outreach
Each summer, the Center hosts a Principals’ Institute where Catholic and faith-based school administrators travel, study, and network with educators abroad. We’ve traveled to such places as Buenos Aires, Vienna, Maynooth, Glasgow, Lisbon, and Paris. Sometimes those of us in the United States need an invitation to broaden our understanding of rest of the world and this is a marvelous way to do that.

Then, the flip side, is that the Center often accepts international students from these countries into our degree programs – members of the Jesuit society or other religious societies, laypeople, religious sisters or brothers, or clergy come from around the world and study here. Then they go back and lead their community in India, serve as bishops in Africa or assigned to Jesuit work at the Vatican, for example.

Catholic School Executive Leadership Dinner
The Center not only works, it celebrates. Each year, the Center hosts a Catholic School Executive Leadership Dinner where we pull together the superintendents and central office staff of the NY Metropolitan area and across New York State, as well as from National Catholic Education Association in Washington, DC and others to come for a dinner here at Fordham.

This year we were honored to have the Papal Nuncio to the United States as our guest speaker and we are recognizing individuals from the Archdiocese Newark, New York, Rockville Center, Brooklyn, Albany, who have been actively working within their local settings to support the ability of Catholic Education to provide what the church calls “our preferential options for the poor.” These are benefactors who give time, talent, and treasure to projects within their Dioceses.

Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò

What are the biggest issues facing Catholic education today?

I think accessibility is probably the key challenge, and I mean accessibility in a variety of ways:


The cost of Catholic Education is born primarily by the parents and the community that support the schools, and that’s very costly. Like all schools, the costs of running Catholic schools has grown immensely. Many of the students served in Catholic schools are from the low socioeconomic family structure and many of them are not Catholic so the service that the school provides is for the common good but the political interpretations preclude the schools getting funding.

The population boom of children in Catholic families peaked after WWII and then started declining. As a result, the Catholic school that was always a neighborhood school within walking distance of home has gotten a little further. So families need to be able to afford the schools and also be able to get to them.

In order to meet the needs of a broad spectrum of students, Catholic schools frequently offer services before school or after school yet again adding a burden to the family, the student, and the school.

What advice do you have for future GSE students?

Learning is a lifelong responsibility. The learning that takes place at Fordham links formal, classroom learning with fieldwork and service learning in the community.

The opportunity to meet their fellow students is another kind of education. Our students are bright, committed, and diverse.

I encourage students to embrace the experience as yet another step in their journey to develop themselves as people and as professionals.



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