It still amazes Dr. Pamela Patnode how visionary – prophetic, even – Archbishop Hebda and then-Auxiliary Bishop Cozzens were to recognize the need for a Catholic school leadership program in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Now, after COVID-19 – with new stresses on teachers, a historic enrollment surge and mounting concerns over public-school agendas – the Institute for Catholic School Leadership housed at The Saint Paul Seminary is more vital than ever.
Midway through its third year, the institute’s certificate program is bearing many fruits – some of which have taken even its director by surprise.
“This network of Catholic educators has formed, developing these relationships and continuing to be in touch to support each other after graduating from the program,” she said. “That’s been an incredible joy and value.”
Specifically, she underestimated the power of the setting. Being at the seminary, where students in the program connect with seminarians, professors and priests, has had enormous benefits.
“That has been so fruitful in a way I could not have anticipated,” she said. “It has been beautiful to see the relationships formed – whether it’s between priests or religious or lay students enrolled in the program or with the seminarians, professors and priests they encounter here on campus.”
To her knowledge, the program is the only one of its kind – a Catholic graduate certification – housed at a seminary. It has impacted some 10,000 Catholic school students being led by graduates of the program.
“Word is getting out,” said Patnode, who expects enrollment to double next year.
They’re receiving a unique education. “The formation of the Catholic school leader is critically important,” she said. “Other than the pastor, this person is the spiritual director of the school.”
Students in the program – mostly teachers who aspire to leadership roles – learn from mentors who are currently directors, deans, vice principals and principals. Together, they explore the hallmarks of a great Catholic leader.
Patnode offers a good summary: “Five things jump out. A great Catholic leader needs to have faith. They need to have training and continual learning. They need to focus on relationships. They need humility. And they need joy.”
That combination sets them apart. One hundred percent of graduates from the 2021 cohort are now in leadership roles in Catholic schools. Kevin McCaffrey was among them, and he has since been named principal of Holy Trinity School in Winsted, Minnesota – his first time in this leadership role.
“He’s using the practical skills he gained through the program every day,” Patnode said.
McCaffrey raved about the quality of faculty, Patnode said.
“He appreciates that every professor in the program – no matter what course they are teaching – knows the Catholic faith, strives to live according to the faith and courageously defends the faith. That was so important to him because he can see how challenging it is to do that, even within Catholic education. To be surrounded by people who are striving to do that has been incredibly inspiring.”