Maida leaves Detroit education legacy
Cardinal’s school vision fulfills Catholic teaching to help needy
An important part of Catholic social teaching is to help the sick and the needy. Detroit Cardinal AdamMaida, whose retirement was announcedMonday, more than fulfilled that mission by outlining a vision for interfaith schools that led to the educating of thousands of disadvantaged Detroiters. It is a legacy that his successor, Bishop AllenHenry Vigneron of Oakland, Calif., should build on.
WhenMaida arrived in Detroit from Green Bay, Wis., in 1990, he quickly realized how few opportunities city children had for a high-quality education. As many as 95 percent of students in some of his Detroit parish schools weren’t Catholic. So in an October 1990 Detroit Economic Club speech, he called on church, business and civic leaders to create private alternative Judeo-Christian schools that would help make “all things new again” in Detroit.
The result is the acclaimed Cornerstone Schools, which has four school campuses in Detroit and educates more than 1,100 elementary and middle school students a year— a majority of them from low-income families.
The Skillman Foundation recognized Cornerstone as high-performing schools in 2005. The schools have received accreditations from two organizations known for rigorous academic standards. The conservativeHeritage Foundation in 1999 recognized Cornerstone leader Ernestine Sanders as one of seven urban school principals nationally who helped their communities solve problems the government hasn’t been able to.
And Cornerstone’s studies have found that 95 percent of its students go on to graduate from high school. That’s quite a contrast with the imploding Detroit Public Schools district, which struggles to graduate a quarter of its students.
See photos of Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida and his successor, Bishop Allen Henry Vigneron.
Listen to Maida’s comments about education, the priesthood, Islam, parish and school closings, race relations and the John Paul II Cultural Center.
Read a timeline of Maida’s 18-year tenure at the Detroit Archdiocese. Without Cornerstone, the educational offerings for Detroit families would be even more sparse.
Unfortunately, declining attendance in parish schools led the archdiocese in recent years to close some Catholic schools. This dismayed some of the faithful. But when parents have to pay thousands of dollars for school tuition on top of property taxes to support public schools, this attrition in attendance is bound to happen. That’s whyMaida supported an unsuccessful 2000 state ballot initiative for school vouchers that would have reduced the cost to families of choosing a private school education.
Maida also followed in the footsteps of former Pope John Paul II in interfaith outreach efforts. He participated with clergy fromMuslim, Jewish and Christian traditions in a 2001 public prayer service after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Like any leader, Maida does not have a flawless record. His sponsorship of the John Paul II Cultural Center inWashington has been a well-meaning financial flop. He also had to deal with the aftermath of the priest scandals, which have affected archdioceses around the country.
ButMaida leaves the archdiocese better off than he found it. We trust Archbishop-elect Vigneron, a native son of the region, can have as positive an impact on the community as hasMaida.