Education as Sacrament

David Purpel

The Society of the Sacred Heart and the Network of Sacred Heart Schools are engaged in an endeavor to deepen their most cherished religious and moral commitments. This endeavor provides educators interested in grounding their work in a transcendent moral and spiritual vision with a powerful model. Even more important, it offers energy and hope to those struggling for a better world.

Education is about making or not making a better world. One of the most important contributions of Sacred Heart educators is that they, unlike almost all other educational leaders, make this goal explicit, clear, and central. One of the scandals of the present public and professional dialogue on education is the way we have successfully disguised our most fundamental crises by trivializing them, by converting the profound struggle for meaning into the vulgar pursuit of competitive advantage.

John Dewey said that education was about 'creating a world"-an echo of the tradition that impels humans to fulfill the promise of creation through the struggle for a life of love, justice, peace, and joy. Without denying or minimizing the complexity of educational policies and practices, there ought to be no doubt that the purpose of all institutions and endeavors, including education, should be to create a world embedded with our deepest and most cherished hopes.

This universal human responsibility is, in the American experience, further enriched by the ultimate connection between education and democracy. Let us also be reminded here that democracy-a political theory-is rooted in the moral and spiritual notion that every person is inherently worthy and that all persons are equally deserving of dignity.

This may sound obvious, but, as Andre Cide said, "It is true that everything has already been said. But it is also true that nobody was listening, so it must be said again." What must be said again is that the educational process in all institutions, especially in schools and universities, needs to be rooted in the commitment to build a democratic society that makes possible lives of meaning in a caring, just, and joyful community. This must be said with strong reaffirmation, because our society and culture seem bent on creating a world of hierarchy, privilege, inequity, injustice, moral callousness, personal gain, and international competition.

And so, while we might accept Dewey's idea that education is about creating a world, we must go beyond definition and description to ask what kind of world do we wish to create?  Alas, the dominant streams of educational policy and practice run not in the currents of love, justice, and joy but in the straits, of inequity and competition.

This situation is all the more tragic because it corrodes the true spirit of the impulse to teach. My view is that educators find themselves for the most part to be unwitting and naive accomplices to those who are bent on perpetuating a society and culture that are in sharp conflict with our deeply felt moral and spiritual vision. Even worse, many educators and people in the public sphere are not even aware of the chasm between the dominant educational ideas and our highest aspirations as a people.

Educators, in their haste and pride to be professional and knowledgeable-to be experts-actually deny the social, cultural, moral, and religious implications of educational policy and practice. What we have is a powerful and awesome coalition between those committed to the political, social, and economic status quo and those who insist on sticking their collective heads into the blinding muck of neutrality and objectivity.

A Nation at Risk

This situation is perhaps best illustrated in the single most important document of what is called our current educational reform movement: A Nation at Risk, the report commissioned and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Education during the Reagan administration. This document, ostensibly directed at making basic educational changes, offers a revealing picture of the essentially unchallenged assumptions about the purpose and nature of American education.

First is the title. A Nation at Risk-not a culture or society at risk, not a people at risk, not democracy at risk, not justice, equality, or even a way of life at risk, but the nation. Clearly, highest priority is given to the nation-state, and the report is all about how the educational system has failed to respond to the needs of the state. Never mind the irony that this comes from an administration elected on a platform that identified the government not as the solution but as the problem.

The report arrogantly and blithely posits the role of education as servant to the state: incredibly enough, it blames the schools for the nation's crisis. The report in effect says: "The nation is at risk! Fix the schools!!" This outrageous and supercilious position assumes that the educational system is the root of the problem. Even more disingenuously, it posits the notion of an autonomous and independent educational system. On the contrary, educators are for the most part under the political control of powerful public groups. Further, the values, attitudes, and consciousness of educational institutions necessarily and inevitably reflect those of the larger dominant society and culture. How could it be otherwise:

Therefore, how could an institution with millions of Americans drawn from every class, constituency, area, and group be so isolated and autonomous from public consciousness? The imperative---"fix the schools"-seems to say that we wish to make significant changes in our society by not changing anything except what goes on in schools. It would be easy to write off such thinking as shoddy, which it is, but it in fact does reflect dominant views on education.

We are reminded of the lord of a vast estate who takes his servants to task for problems that interfere with the smooth running of the estate-problems like broken fences, missing livestock, and torn tapestries. The lord is irate at these lapses and admonishes the servants for being lax, if not slothful. Similarly, educators are expected to solve problems posed by their overseers, to afford technical solutions to issues defined by the wise and the powerful.

The Risk Defined

The heart of the report, however, is how the authors define the risk that the nation is at. What are the crises that make our leaders tremble? What is it that should lead educators to contriteness and shame? What threatens the republic and the American way of life?

The crises, according to the report, are twofold and united by a concern for national domination. The first threat is perceived as the challenge to our pre-eminence as a world power in the deadly arena of geopolitics. Here the major competition has been the Soviet Union, although we are not sure whether it still is. The other major threat is economic and pertains to America's standing in the race for profits; and here our enemy/competitor is clearly Japan. In a word, our nation is at risk because we may not be number one in the international political and economic realm, and hence our nation's highest priority is to widen our lead and, in some cases, to catch up with the Soviet Union, Japan, and Taiwan.

The source of the problem is also made clear in the report: an educational system mired in mediocrity and permissiveness populated by dazed and underqualified teachers working hard but ineffectively with stupefied students bent on a life of drugs, sex, and rock and roll. The solution is obvious: educators and students need to get their act together, and the honest, God-fearing, hard-working public needs to exercise its indignation at the mess and support the painful but necessary task of serious reform.

The message for educators is simple and direct: students need to know more, work harder, be more obedient, and, above all else, be tougher competitors. The code word for this is "excellence." There are, of course, many shades of meaning in the concept of excellence, including the Greek concept of arete, which refers to the importance of striving to fulfill the sacred within each person. Alas, excellence in A Nation at Risk is not about being godlike but about interpersonal and international competition-about encouraging people to excel at the expense of others.


The dominant response of the established profession was inevitably "Yes indeed! Me too! You bet!" In less time than it takes to switch bandwagons, the profession was ready with its expert counsel for programmatic change based (of course) on careful research. The basic elements of the professional response included more sophisticated tests to be given more often; stricter modes of accountability; longer school days and years; more requirements; emphasis on mastery, competence, and the acquisition of particular bits of knowledge; increased requirements for teacher certification; testing of teachers; and refined techniques for evaluating teachers-in short, a program of tighter control, intensified competition, hard work, merit pay, and a severely narrowed and truncated conception of education.

There were other responses, though muted, scattered, and discounted. Some were outraged to see our crises framed in the context of developing a competitive international edge. These people saw far more compelling crises----crises that are, to a large extent, the consequences of the very competition that we are being asked to intensify. I share the belief that our most serious crises involve the staggering degree of poverty, hunger, and homelessness; that our very existence is threatened by economic greed and moral callousness; and that our security is endangered by the arms race, the proliferation of chemical and nuclear weapons, the intensification of nationalism and chauvinism, and the ravaging of the planet.

As a citizen, I am appalled by the arrogance reflected in A Nation at Risk, which reeks of an obsession with power, control, domination, and certainty. As an educator, I am dismayed by the timidity and disingenuousness of the professional establishment in its zeal to do its master's bidding. As a profession, we ought to know, and I believe we do know, better.

The public response has been even more disheartening, although that should not surprise us. The authors of A Nation at Risk were astute enough to gauge the political winds and cynical enough to fan them. The report, at least in its broad assumptions and conclusions, seems to have resonated with public frustration with the schools and fears for the future of the family. It is understandable that people should have these worries. The dominant culture, however, seems to have swallowed the whole package-that our priorities should be to increase our competitive stance with other nations and that the schools need to be tougher and more rigorous. The public seemed, by and large, to favor programs of increased testing, tighter controls, and stiffer requirements.

The Society of the Sacred Heart

The education reform movement, while important and influential, offers a powerful point of contrast with the extraordinary efforts of the Society of the Sacred Heart and its network of schools. This contrast reveals differences in educational strategy and illumines contrasting views of what kind of world we ought to create. One perspective speaks to the perpetuation of a world grounded in hierarchy, competition, and material success. The other is informed by a spirit that seeks justice, love, and community.

Perhaps the single most famous sentence in A Nation at Risk is "Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovations is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world." The authors look out at the world and see hostile competitors threatening our superiority. Their counterparts in the Society of the Sacred Heart look out on the world and see a far different scene. This is what they say about it.

In every corner of the world,
we see the same images.
They are world images,
images of crisis, broken promises
and broken people,
cultural domination, oppression
of women,
disintegrating social fabric,
Images of despair across all age
lines, unemployment, racism,
economic exploitation, violence,
images of drugs,
broken families, meaninglessness,
the rich get richer, the poor get poorer.

The dominant professional establishment responds to the political and public demands for reform with a newly formed enthusiasm for tighter controls over teachers, learners, and what is to be learned in the name of what are euphemistically called "effective schools." In contrast, the Society of 'the Sacred Heart chooses to see its educational task as involving a deep and profound risk: "We risk creating options within essentially unjust systems and educating only agents of change rather than agents of transformation in a truly evangelical sense." This is not a dispute over techniques, not a matter of conflicting research findings, and not a debate about issues that can be settled by expertise. Such issues are involved and entangled, but the difference is between very different ways of being in the world.

From this perspective, both orientations can be considered radical in the sense of being "root" issues, to be the very basis of the world we endeavor to create. One radical position is rooted in assumptions about the inevitability and validity of competition, hierarchy, and materialism that demand an education directed toward maintaining the status quo as either unchangeable or preferred or both. The other radical position is rooted in a commitment to the human opening to love, community, and justice in which education is seen as nurturing these impulses. In this light, the issues become, as they ought, much more serious and afford the possibility of seeing education as either a sacred or profane activity.

What is truly remarkable and inspiring about the efforts of the Society of the Sacred Heart and its network is that they represent one of the very few approaches, and maybe the only one, that constitutes a serious alternative to existing educational models. I have not seen any statement that integrated an education policy with a spiritual vision as well as the present documents do. Nor have I seen any group as serious as the society in its determination to carry out ideas of such profound significance.

The Society of the Sacred Heart is meeting its most fundamental responsibilities as a religious institution, which are to provide standards of criticism to the existing order and to offer ways to improve any shortcomings that derive from this process. It is surely the prophetic function of a religion to insist on adherence to a society's deepest commitments and highest aspirations. With that prophetic impulse comes the further responsibility to offer energy, hope, and new possibilities in the realization that as humans we are open to both powerlessness and transformation.

Our religious traditions demand that we confront our failures. They also provide us with the energy to overcome those failures. What gives us the possibility of a life of meaning necessarily involves enormous, sometimes painful struggles as we confront the tensions between the impulse to settle for a life of conformity, achievement, and personal satisfaction and the impulse to create a much more abundant and joyful life for all.

By providing such a radical vision, one in which we are asked to take the Gospel seriously, the Society of the Sacred Heart and its network remind us of the true significance of educational choices. Perhaps we ought to conduct our lives as if our history were to be read by our great-grandchildren as they seek to find wisdom and inspiration in the past.

Paradoxes, Dilemmas, Conflicts

What the documents call for requires immense political, moral, and psychological struggle. Even more risky, they require us to let go of some of our most cherished and deeply ingrained values and beliefs. It is chilling and threatening to face the possibility that some of our taken-for-granted ways of being in the world may seriously clash with our basic spiritual and moral values.

We profess belief in the brotherhood and sisterhood of all peoples, yet we maintain armies, harbor distrust, punish enemies, and take overweening pride in our national and cultural identities. We believe passionately in social justice and equality, yet we seek ways to gain an edge to obtain the very real and unequally distributed privileges of our society. We affirm the dignity of work but provide a minimum wage that is below our official standard of poverty and continue to complain how hard it is to get a good house cleaner.


We affirm the diversity of culture but are indignant when the notion of teaching an exclusively European tradition of literature is challenged. We want equality for all, but we want our own children to do well on the SAT'S. We want quality education for all, but we want to find out how we can get our own children into an Ivy League college. We want everyone to have high self-esteem, but we insist on grades. We want our children to be autonomous and obedient; to be generous and competitive; to be concerned with the group and to look out for number one.

We want racial equality, but not in our neighborhood. We want to provide political refuge to the victims of oppression, but not if they are Haitians. We want to put an end to sexism, but are very reluctant to allow women to be ordained.

These conflicts are not between God and Satan, not between the Good Guys and the Bad Guys. Rather, they reflect the paradoxes, dilemmas, and conflicts that emerge out of our own personal connection to a complex and bewildering society. These issues are magnified for us as we live in a particularly perilous and chaotic historical moment.

Participants in the Government

Significant efforts to transform education as reflected in the reports of the Society of the Sacred Heart provide us with the exhilarating opportunity to define ourselves, not as pedagogues, bureaucrats, and experts, but as participants in the sacred covenant to create a world of justice, love, and meaning.

Why teachers are always so tired, and why so many in teaching and other helping professions burn out, can be explained by the frustration and despair that emerge from the realization of how wide the gap is between what we ought to do and what we are in fact doing. Ironically, it is this very tension and struggle that also attract us to the vocation of teaching and service in the first place.

Teaching is the noblest profession. When its nobility is vulgarized and trashed, it is time for despair and tragedy. An urgent educational and public need is to find ways to counter the dramatic increase in despair, pessimism, and cynicism. Part of this need is being met by a barely recognized movement that seeks to energize and ground progressive social and cultural policies in religious images and imperatives. This movement--actually, a number of different but related movements-represents a serious effort to revitalize the prophetic mission of religion. It is seen dramatically, among other places, in various theologies of liberation being developed by oppressed peoples and groups.

Michael Lerner, the editor of the Jewish journal Tikkun, speaking of how Judaism provides both understanding of and relief from the pull of pessimism and realism, says,

Early Judaism proclaimed that the world could be turned on its head, that the powerful could be defeated by the powerless, that a whole new world could be constructed. . . This conception of possibility stood in opposition to the various religious systems that provided the metaphysical foundations for existing systems of oppression .... The Egyptians saw history as a repetition of patterns that were built into the structure of necessity. [This] led to a political quietism, an acceptance of systems of oppression as ontologically given and unchangeable (Tikkun, vol. 5, no. 5, p. 10)

Lerner also reminds us that the Bible reflects different understandings of the divine consciousness. What Lerner sees in the Torah is

a struggle between the moments in which we can truly hear the voice of God as the force that will allow us to break the patterns of the past and believe in the possibility of creating a world governed by mutual caring, love, peace, and justice; and the moments in which that voice is drowned out and all we hear is the legacy of inherited pain and oppression which presents itself as the voice of common sense and reality (just as everyone else is cruel and ruthless toward "the other," the stranger, so must we be, because that's the way of the world). (page 92)

Lerner goes on to discuss a theology of pessimism, which he condemns as idolatrous.

In practice, idolatry is the belief that the way things are in the world is all that can be, the reduction of the ought to the is, the abandonment of the belief that the world is governed by a force that makes possible the triumph of good over evil. (p. 93)

In this context, education can be thought of as the energy that helps us to hear the divine voice that urges us to create a world of peace and justice and helps us to drown out the din of the voices urging us to buy, consume, compete, and achieve. To the extent that education is part of that process, education becomes a sacrament-the process by which the ordinary invites the possibilities of becoming holy.

Indeed, our vocations are to be seen as being devoted to the struggle to accept, confess, and forgive our weakness as we affirm our determination to fulfill our commitments. This constant tug between the best and worst within and among us and the redemptive nature of that struggle is eloquently described by Cornel West in his brilliant account of the African American experience of Christianity in his book Prophesy Deliverance!

Contradiction and transformation are the heart of the Christian gospel. The former always presupposes what presently is; the latter, the prevailing realities .... This dialectic of imperfect products and transformative practice, of prevailing realities and negation, of human depravity and human dignity, of what is and the not-yet constitutes the Christian dialectic of human nature and human history. (p.17)
For Christians, the realm of history is the realm of the pitiful and the tragic .... The pitiful are those who remain objects of history, victims manipulated by evil forces, whereas the tragic are those persons who become subjects of history, aggressive antagonists of evil forces. Victims are pitiful because they have no possibility of achieving either penultimate liberation or ultimate salvation; aggressive antagonists are tragic because they fight for penultimate liberation, and in virtue of their gallant struggle against the limits of history, they become prime candidates for ultimate salvation. In this sense to play a tragic role in history is positive. (p. 18)

West goes on to describe prophetic Christianity as concerned with both existential and social freedom.

Existential freedom is an effect of the divine gift of grace which promises to sustain persons through and finally deliver then from the bondage of death, disease, and despair. Social freedom is the aim of Christian political practice, a praxis that flows from the divine gift of grace; social freedom results from the promotion and actualization of the norms of individuality and democracy. Existential freedom empowers people to fight for social freedom, to realize its political dimension. (p. 18)

Education as Sacrament

As I understand this formulation, Christians are empowered to engage in the difficult and never-ending struggle against evil and sin by their faith in redemption. West in his characterization of this struggle as tragic yet redemptive avoids the twin traps of sentimentality and despair. He speaks to a "Christian praxis," the process by which Christians endeavor to seek this salvation through careful and continual examination of how the Gospels become palpable and vital.

Clearly, the educational work that you do is a part of that Christian praxis. Your task is to create a seamless web among your educational practices, social beliefs, and religious faith. This praxis is cyclical, continuous, and ever changing. More particularly, you are now faced with yet another challenge by the Society of the Sacred Heart. This challenge is surely as vital as the preceding ones so courageously and creatively initiated by the society. If this new work is not successful, the thrust of the prior work will be seriously blunted. This so-called implementation stage should be conducted with the same reverence, humility, and passion as the prior process reflected. Making a clearer and deeper bonding of Christian faith and educational practice is itself a sacrament, an important dimension of Christian praxis.

The fundamental requirement for this process to be fruitful is willingness to struggle with its opportunity and challenges. This will involve confronting doubts, fears, and confusions and seeing them as potentially valuable to the further development of the vision. The responsibility of practitioners is not only to inform their practice with theory but also to develop theory as informed by practice. It is difficult to know the difference between contribution and sabotage, between being critical and being defensive, between being open-minded and empty-minded. The participants must have initial commitment and faith as well as strong, compassionate support from one another and from the larger community.

If you conceptualize this next stage as sacramental you could very well decrease your reliance on the language and metaphors of industry and productivity. I urge you to consider the full significance of such terms as "implementations," "accountability," "training," "evaluation," "middle manager," "assessment," and "action plan" in the light of your tradition and your vision. I suggest that as you ponder you worry not what Lee Iacocca would say about this or that but rather what Jesus would say.

Accountants are important, but balance sheets are not to be confused with confessions. Evaluation forms can be useful, but they are not to be equated with the process of witnessing. As important as form, order, and system are, their danger is in their potential to be reified or, as I prefer to say, to promote idolatry. They can become substitutes for the truly sacred. Further, they can be easily subverted by those who resist the fundamental premises of your vision. Filling out forms sometimes helps us to escape the anguish of freedom and the awesomeness of fully meeting our responsibilities. There is a danger here that you may blur the differences between accountability and responsibility, since responsibility is not about counting and blaming but about our ability and willingness to respond to our covenants.

The task is awesome, exhilarating, terrifying, and glorious. The risks are high; the risk of not seriously engaging in the processes is even higher. The sacred errand that you pursue has consequences beyond you and your communities, because the larger culture also yearns to ground its efforts in an enduring vision of meaning. I believe that, for the most part, public and private schools in American are intellectually and morally bankrupt, devoid of energy and direction.

I hope your ministry can be extended to include sharing your insights and wisdom with other educators, be they public, private, religious, or secular. The work that you do offers hope and possibility for them and for the public. I urge you to accept this responsibility as well.

I have tried to underscore the importance and significance of the efforts of the Society of the Sacred Heart to transform its educational ministry. Many of us are apt to refer to this process as involving "the bottom line." You have chosen another image-that of the divine spark and how this spark is to warm and light our way. I have tried to indicate the significance of this effort by contrasting your vision with the dominant semiofficial vision of education.

One vision suggests that the wolf should lie down with the lamb, another urges us to train lambs to be wolf-like. One vision urges us to beat swords into plowshares, while the other vision urges us to do the reverse. One vision urges us to love our neighbor, while another urges us to compete with our neighbor. Some would have us see the poor and the meek as blessed, while others would have us see them as burdens. One vision implores us to be more cunning, more productive, and to seek meaning in consumption and hedonism. The other vision prays that we search for wisdom and find meaning and redemption in the struggle to create a world of love, justice, peace, and joy.

Goals and Criteria for Sacred Heart Schools in the United States


The 1975 Goals and Criteria articulated the essence of a Sacred Heart school in the United States. For the past fifteen years the commitment to educate to these five goals has defined a Sacred Heart school and has bound it to the other schools in the Network of Sacred Heart Schools in a common mission. Today, on the edge of the third millennium, many people in Sacred Heart schools have experienced the need to refocus and rearticulate our educational priorities once again. 

As we approach the twenty-first century, Sacred Heart schools in the United States have a new appreciation of their potential to participate in a radical reshaping of society. This 1990 expression recognizes the perennial institutional issues: tradition and change, continuity and reform, society and the individual. The challenge, however, continues to lie in the five elements that have been the framework of Sacred Heart education since its beginning in 1800. These principles are ageless, but the context for the challenge has changed, and this requires a fresh response. 

The needs of the world and of the United States again set the agenda for our response. Family life is in crisis. Economic inequities separate and divide peoples; the gaps continue to increase. Racist attitudes and structures persist. Both men and women struggle to promote the acceptance of the fundamental equality and complementarity of the sexes. Social questions have worldwide dimensions. Violence, drugs, disease, and the destruction of the environment threaten human life and our planet. 

The 1990 Goals and Criteria express the values, the intentions, and the hopes of the Sacred Heart tradition, sharpened to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world. They also reflect recent documents of the Society of the Sacred Heart that express the vision of Sacred Heart education and the promise for the future. As stated in a recent working paper, 'The institutions we hope for today are made up of bonds of relationships between groups of various kinds which have a common value system and policies which allow the promotion of these values. Such institutions interact with the world at large and are able to be called into question from within or without in view of changes in the reality which they are to serve. Members are expected to take real responsibility and to creative." 

The 1990 revision is the result of a year of work on the part of faculty members and administrators of the nineteen Sacred Heart schools in the United States and the contributions of many religious of the Sacred Heart. The revision, rooted in the past and the present, attests to the future. The 1990 Goals challenge us to bring the values of a strong educational tradition to this fragmented world. They will succeed in energizing our mission only in so far as we take bold steps to interpret our local reality and dare to present Godís love as a healing and empowering gift. 

Goal One
Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a personal and active faith in God.

1. Rooted in the love of Jesus Christ, the school promotes personal and communal prayer, and reflection.
2.  The total educational program affirms the belief that there is meaning in life and thereby fosters within the individual and the school community a sense of hope.
3.  The school provides education in, and opportunities for, decision making in the light of Gospel values.
4.  The religious studies program probes the relationship of self to God, to others, and to the world.
5.  The school teaches respect for the various religious traditions of the world.
6.  The school presents itself to the wider community as a Christ-centered institution within the evolving tradition of the Church.

Goal Two
Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a deep respect for intellectual values.

1. The course of study offers intellectual challenge and inspires a love of learning.
2. The school develops a curriculum based on the Goals of Sacred Heart education, educational research, and ongoing evaluation.
3. The curriculum prepares students to live cooperatively in a global and technological society.
4. The curriculum develops aesthetic values and the creative use of the imagination.
5. The school provides experiential education which includes elements of reflection, analysis, and synthesis.
6. A variety of approaches to teaching and learning promotes the development of persons who are knowledgeable, questioning, thoughtful, and integrated.
7. A program of faculty/staff development, based on the values of Sacred Heart education, furthers the implementation of the Goals.

Goal Three
Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to a social awareness which impels to action.

1. The school awakens a critical consciousness that leads its total community to reflect on society and its values.
2. The curriculum includes the study of issues challenging our interdependent world.
3. The curriculum exposes students to the problems of oppression and injustice, and teaches attitudes of peace and behaviors of nonviolence.
4. The curriculum includes the study of the welfare of our earth and its limited resources.
5. The school has programs which enable each member of the school community to be engaged in effective action for social change.
6. The school is linked in a reciprocal manner to ministries with the poor and marginalized.
7. The allocation of the school's resources reflects the values of the Goals and Criteria.

Goal Four
Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to the building of community as a Christian value.

1. The adults model and teach skills needed to built community, and provide opportunities to exercise these skills.
2.  Laity and Religious join as colleagues in the mission of Sacred Heart education.
3.  The Board of Trustees and administration establish and review school policies in the light of Christian principles.
4.  The financial aid program effectively supports socioeconomic diversity.
5.  The school provides experiences of diversity which develop an understanding and appreciation of all people.
6.  An understanding of the purposes, values, and evolving tradition of Sacred Heart education enriches the life of the school community.
7.  The school participates actively in the national and international network of Sacred Heart schools.
8.  The program educates students to assume their role as active and responsible citizens of an interdependent world.

Goal Five
Schools of the Sacred Heart commit themselves to educate to personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom.

1. All members of the school community show concern and respect for one another.
2. Students develop self-confidence as they learn to deal realistically with their gifts and limitations.
3. The school structures opportunities for its members to share their knowledge and gifts with others.
4. School policies and practice promote self-discipline, responsibility, and decision making.
5. School programs provide for the recognition, development, and exercise of leadership in its many forms.
6. The school educates to a life-long sense of responsibility for health and well-being.

The Network of Sacred Heart Schools in the United States

The Network of Sacred Heart Schools is an association of nineteen Sacred Heart schools across the United States. Together they are dedicated to the values of Christian education articulated by the foundress of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Saint Madeleine Sophie Barat, nearly two hundred years ago. Faithful to her vision, the present generation of Sacred Heart educators have committed themselves to the goals of educating students to a personal and active faith in God, a deep respect for intellectual values, a social awareness which impels to action, the building of community as a Christian value, and personal growth in an atmosphere of wise freedom.

While these five goals unite the nineteen schools of the Network in the United States, the schools enjoy an even wider affiliation with the people and institutions associated with the Society of the Sacred Heart in thirty-five countries around the globe. The international character of Sacred Heart education helps to foster an important global awareness in students as the schools strive to build a more just world.

Membership in the network affords each school numerous opportunities for collaboration. In recent years faculty and staff members have participated in national workshops and seminars, and experienced teachers have traveled across the country in classroom exchanges. Many students have also benefited from national and international exchange programs as well as summer workshops and community service programs.

The Network Commission on Goals provides for continuous evaluation of each of the schools in light of the Goals and Criteria, the document which defines the scope and vision of Sacred Heart education in the United States. The commission's twelve lay and religious members act on behalf of the Provincial Team in the United States. This unique system of reflection upon the Goals and Criteria helps to confirm and challenge the member schools to live out their common mission with integrity.

Twelve of the nineteen network schools are members of NAIS. The Network School Office is located in Newton, Massachusetts.