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Our School President Reflects on How Marist School Will Remain Marist

Marist School President Fr. Bill Rowland, S.M. shares his thoughts below on the important ways the Society of Mary is securing the Marist identity of the school now and into the future.
Details are outlined in the Society’s new publication called “Standards and Expectations of a Marist Education: U.S. Province Schools and Sponsored Schools.” Read more to learn how this document came into being and how it is inspiring additional action.

The first priority of Marist School’s Board of Trustees-approved Strategic Plan 2025 states: Be Unwaveringly Marist. Our school’s Marist identity distinguishes it from other Catholic, private, and public schools. With the Marist religious diminishing, the laity will continue to assume a more significant role and responsibility in ensuring that Marist School retains the distinctiveness that we value so much.

Fortunately, we are not starting from scratch. The Marists in the U.S. Province foresaw this day coming. The province began to prepare for it with the hiring of Fr. Richmond J. Egan, S.M. as director of mission implementation in 1999. He remained focused on clearly defining that mission and articulating it in various ways during his term as Marist School president from 2001-2008. Fr. Joel M. Konzen, S.M., who worked at Marist School in various roles including teacher, admissions director, principal, and president from 1982-1988 and as principal from 1999-2018, and Fr. John H. Harhager, S.M., school president from 2008-2017, expanded the work begun by Fr. Egan. Those efforts were important to the history of the Marist Way program and laid the groundwork for Marist School to voice the strategic priority that it will remain unwaveringly Marist. In 2010, Mr. Mike Coveny ’81 was hired to be the director of the Marist Way and since then the mission of the program has been further clarified and developed.
 
To that end, a Marist Identity Committee was formed in 2020 consisting of faculty and staff who proceeded to study the only document from the Society of Mary founder, the Venerable Jean-Claude Colin, that defines the vision for a Marist education. The document is entitled On the Education of Youth and Schools: Instructions for Marist Educators. Beyond the Marist Identity Committee, Marist School Principal Kevin Mullally has introduced this document to the principal’s council and the academic deans. In addition, the Marist School Board of Trustees has used the document for the past two years as the basis for its annual retreat.
 
This year, under the leadership of Kevin Mullally, the Marist Identity Committee has begun to familiarize itself with a new publication called Standards and Expectations of a Marist Education: U.S. Province Schools and Sponsored Schools. Written by the Marists in the U. S. Province, work on this document began in 2001 and was approved by the provincial and his council in 2019. Its purpose is to provide a framework that will do the following:
 
(1) preserve and deepen the fundamental characteristics of U.S. province schools and sponsored schools;
(2) establish guidelines that govern what is to be expected from those involved with the communities of learning and faith;
(3) create a common language and set of actions that can be used to measure adherence to the larger mission of the Society of Mary;
(4) share our common understanding within the province and wider Society of Mary about the spirit which guides and the principles that animate the programs and progress of schools within our Marist mission and ministry.
 
To strengthen the commitment to ensure that Marist School remains unwaveringly Marist, the Marist School Board of Trustees has created a Mission Committee. The purpose of the Mission Committee is to maintain and promote the mission of Marist School, especially its Catholic and Marist identity. The committee works closely with the Board of Trustees, the administration of the school, and the Marist Identity Committee to foster a greater understanding of the Marist core values and principles that are foundational and essential for the school to carry out its mission.
 
This year, four members of the Mission Committee were added to the Marist Identity Committee as this committee familiarizes itself with the Standards and Expectations of a Marist Education: U.S. Province Schools and Sponsored Schools. Next year, these four members will use their experience to help formulate a plan to familiarize the Board of Trustees with this critical document.
 
The model for evaluating the “Marist-ness” of a school will be like the one that is used for accreditation by the Southern Association of Independent Schools. Marist-owned or sponsored schools will use the Standards and Expectations of a Marist Education: U.S. Province Schools and Sponsored Schools to evaluate its current practices and identify areas for future development. A written report will be presented to the provincial, who, in turn, will assign a team of three representatives from other Marist-owned or sponsored schools to visit Marist. The team will study the report, interview faculty, staff, administrators, students, parents, participants in the Marist Way program, and board members. After the visit, the team will present a written report containing commendations and recommendations. These will then be submitted to the provincial for his review and endorsement. Most likely, this process will be repeated every five years.
 
These initiatives underscore the necessity of making resources available about the Society of Mary's history, mission, and spirituality. On March 15, 2022, a Marist Way Reading Room was formally dedicated in honor of Fr. John Harhager, S.M., former president of Marist School. The reading room was made possible through the generosity of Christine and Greg Kordecki, parents of Marist alumna Hilary Kordecki '15. In recognition of the value of a Marist education and appreciation of the contributions of the Marist priests and brothers, the Kordeckis wanted to fund a project that would enhance the Marist identity of the school, promote the Marist Way, grow the Marist laity, and encourage vocations to the Society of Mary. The establishment of the Marist Way Reading Room will provide numerous resources about the Marists and display relevant artifacts from where the Marists have served throughout the world. It will be a permanent reminder for present and future generations of students about the Marists' contributions and an encouragement for them to do the same in the name of Mary, who is the inspiration for the Society of Mary and patroness of this school.
 
Finally, any discussion about ensuring that Marist School remains unwaveringly Marist must include promoting vocations in a way that adapts to the realities of this age. Under the direction of Theology teacher and campus minister Mr. Nik Rodewald, the school began revamping its approach to promoting vocations in 2020. From now on, all conversations about vocations will occur within the context of the universal call to holiness common to all the baptized.
 
That means students will learn about men and women from different disciplines whose life's work can be appropriately understood as a vocation from God. These individuals may not use religious language but will speak of their work as their destiny or as having chosen them. Such talk invites the consideration of that person's work as a calling or vocation from God. No longer will being called to the priesthood and religious life be viewed as the exception to the rule but as an expression of the rule itself. In other words, God calls everyone to holiness and to do his work in various ways and settings. Students will be provided with plenty of examples, including Marists, priests, and laity, and given skills or religious practices that they can apply to recognize (listen) when God is calling them and to respond. The vocation to be a member of the Marist Laity or a Marist Layperson will receive greater emphasis.
 
The essential takeaways from what I am sharing with you are these. First, the Province’s commitment to Marist School is assured with this document, the Standards and Expectations of a Marist Education: U.S. Province Schools and Sponsored Schools. Secondly, you should feel confident that 23 years of articulating the Marist spirituality and mission in education with greater precision and intentionality have already begun to bear fruit in countless ways. As some alumni have observed, the school’s Catholic, especially its Marist identity, has never been more clearly defined as it is now, as recent school surveys have confirmed. Thirdly, the process outlined above will ensure that the Marist Way of educating youth will be institutionalized. That means the school leadership will assume more of the role that the Marist religious had undertaken since the school’s founding in 1901. From now on, these standards and expectations will provide an objective basis for measuring the school’s fidelity to the Marist Way of educating youth. The school leadership will be charged with implementing this document. Additionally, the Marist School Board of Trustees will exercise its oversight responsibilities in this regard as it does in other areas of the school.
 
The Marists in the U.S. Province, the Marist School Board of Trustees, and Marist School itself have steadily been moving in this direction during the past 23 years. The Marists in the U.S. Province welcome the increased role the laity will be assuming as partners in this work of Mary, which is the Marist Way of educating youth.

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Marist School

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-1899
(770) 457-7201
An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers