Catholic Education is a Concern and a Priority
By Bishop David J. Malloy
Early September used to be the marker for the beginning of the new school year. Now, many schools open for the new academic year before Labor Day. 
Still, this is a good opportunity to review and to celebrate aspects of one of our most important works of evangelization. That is, our system of Catholic schools.
We are, of course, very proud of the long-standing work of our six diocesan Catholic high schools. Those are Aurora Central Catholic High School in Aurora, St. Edward Central Catholic High School in Elgin, Boylan Central Catholic High School in Rockford, Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Aquin Central Junior-Senior Catholic High School in Freeport and Newman Central Catholic High School in Sterling. 
This year, we have 2,435 students enrolled in our diocesan Catholic high school program.
In addition, we are blessed to have two other high schools contributing to the formation of our Catholic young people run, not by the Diocese of Rockford, but by religious orders. Those are Marmion Academy (535 students) in Aurora run by the Monks of St. Benedict, and Rosary High School (299 students) in Aurora sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.
Of particular interest, however, is the historical excellence and the on-going renewal of Catholic elementary school education in the Diocese of Rockford. Currently, there are 33 parish grade schools in the diocese. 
A total of 7,163 students have enrolled for the 2019-2020 school year. The total enrollment for all 41 Catholic schools (39 diocesan and two private Catholic) is 10,397. 
Since the foundation of the Diocese of Rockford in 1908, the education of Catholic youth in our schools has been not only a concern of the Church but, in truth, a priority. 
The early years of education, supporting the God-given task of parents by instructing and living out the Catholic faith in a formal school setting and community has given formation and academic excellence to thousands of young people over the years. 
The commitment to continue that formation, on the part of the diocese, parishes, teachers and administrators and, most importantly, families, continues to this day.
Catholic education must, however, adapt to the ever-changing conditions of society in order to be efficient and effective. 
In the current day, that means that Catholic schools need to adjust to the reality that families are having less children than they did decades ago. Additionally, the cost of providing the quality education and formation for which Catholic schools are known has also risen over time. 
Because our schools are a form of evangelization, efforts have to be made to keep Catholic education available to as many students as possible, coming from families of varying social backgrounds and financial means.
That has been the key to the on-going renewal of Catholic elementary school education in the Diocese of Rockford. 
In order to maximize the efficiency of our programs and to reduce the cost burdens on families and parishes, following a diocesan-wide study, several school consolidations have taken place.
Last year, the new Pope St. John Paul II Catholic Academy was opened in Aurora. It resulted from the consolidation of four schools into a new and vibrant Catholic elementary school. Its enrollment is 283 students.
This year, All Saints Catholic Academy opened in Rockford. Aug. 28 was opening day for this newest Catholic elementary school which currently has an enrollment of 316 students. 
Having been present for the opening of the doors for the first time, I can say that there was a clear sense of excitement and purpose among the students and the teachers.
In a challenging moment in our society when faith and the role of God in life is widely questioned, how good it is for us to have such an important outreach to continue to preach and live the message of Christ. 
I am grateful to all who have helped to make our Catholic schools a reality, especially our new and consolidated schools.
We have every reason to expect that this will be another great year for all our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Rockford.
Next week: Parish religious education programs are an important part of our Catholic strength.