Maida leaves Detroit ed­u­ca­tion legacy

Car­di­nal’s school vi­sion ful­fills Catholic teach­ing to help needy

The Detroit News - - Native Son Returns To Detroit Archdioces­e -

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.


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