Contributing to the success of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New Orleans has been the aspiration of the Council of Catholic School Cooperative Clubs (CCSCC) since it began 77 years ago.
Among the oldest Catholic parents’ clubs in the nation, the CCSCC was chartered with the ecclesiastical approval of Archbishop Joseph Rummel in 1940, when most mothers stayed home to raise children and were deeply involved in their children’s elementary or high schools. These mothers sought to establish a central base where archdiocesan schools could pool resources and share ideas.
“The ladies decided they just needed something organizational for schools,” said current president Fern Carr. “They were trying to get something together that would be an umbrella organization for Catholic schools.”
The CCSCC promotes Catholic schools through love of God, education and activities for parents of member schools to share information and nurtures the family by strengthening the home-school-parish-community ties.
Annually, the CCSCC events holds five general membership meetings with speakers and workshops rotated at member schools. It also offers a Parents’ Institute, Religion in the Home training and Clothe-a-Child campaigns for families in need at Christmas, and it is a lead sponsor of the “Keep Christ in Christmas” essay, poetry and poster contest and contributes to the Christ in Christmas billboard initiative. The organization hosts the outgoing CCSCC presidents’ luncheon and appreciation luncheons for principals and presidents.
Past presidents Cheryl Cabes and Suzette Herpich, who handles the CCSCC Club of the Year award presented at the annual luncheon, said from the beginning the health and welfare of children was of utmost concern, as was the faith development of members.
They recalled vision and hearing screenings at schools and members being active in civic causes and education endeavors such as the UNO Science and Engineering Fair, holding workshops at the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) and National Forum of Catholic Parent Association conventions.
“These women were community activists,” Herpich said. “They were trying to carve out a special place for our Catholic schools.”
Role model for others
The CCSCC serves as a guide for schools to understand how schools, parents and the community can work well together.
“We offered the schools lots of help in networking and seeing what other schools were doing well,” Cabes said. “Back then, the superintendent of Catholic schools would attend every meeting and we’d hear about the schools and national test scores.”
“We even brought in Mike Patin (a Catholic speaker from Lafayette) twice,” Herpich said. The ideas she got from club of the year was shared at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, where her children attended elementary school. She said it was not a competition among schools; there was a camaraderie where everyone shared successes.
“I remember other school systems asking how to get (a CCSCC) started,” Herpich said. “I always felt like we were a partnership (with the Office of Catholic Schools and the Archdiocese of New Orleans). At our general membership meeting, we could give information to our member schools that the superintendent might not always have time to give them. Nobody wanted to miss those meetings.”
Through national and local recognition, the council’s high standards have made it the go-to organization for Catholic school principals to consult when forming a new parents’ club, helping clubs with bylaws and revisions or even finding speakers and relevant educational topics for meetings.
“Our role as a Council of Catholic Schools is more important now than it has ever been because of the challenges of Catholic schools today,” Herpich said, mentioning charter and other schools.
One of the CCSCC’s popular events is its annual luncheon highlighting how Catholic school parents’ clubs promote Catholic faith. The council celebrates its 75th annual luncheon Dec. 6 at the Best Western Plus Landmark Hotel and Suites, 2601 Severn Ave., Metairie. The outstanding Club of the Year is announced here.
“We want to acknowledge these schools for what they do differently than public schools,” Herpich said.
Fostering the spirituality of members is another component of CCSCC. Spiritual directors have included superintendent of education of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Msgr. Edward Prendergast (also its first moderator), Msgr. Henry Bezou, Father Marion Reid, Msgr. Bob Massett and now Father José Lavastida.
“We as parents are the first teachers of faith to our children,” Carr said. “We’re supposed to be the source of religious information, so we need spiritual direction to guide us to help others.”
Every year since 1947, the CCSCC acknowledges a strong Catholic mother in the archdiocese by presenting the Regina Matrum award near Mother’s Day.
CCSCC’s legacy remains instilling and promoting the Catholic faith and its virtues and values.
“We’re making sure faith remains in the school, something that is more important now than it ever has been,” Carr said. “When kids go out in the world, they need their faith base. Parents have to understand (a Catholic education) is worth the money. … If they are not in Catholic school, our kids are missing day-to-day prayer.”
Yearly membership dues of $65 help support activities and services such as newsletters. If a school can’t afford dues, financial help is available. The next CCSCC general meeting will be Oct. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at St. Angela Merici in Metairie. Other general meetings this year are scheduled Jan. 22 at St. Clement of Rome in Metairie; March 12 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Kenner; and May 7 (location to be announced). For details on the club, call Carr at 837-0489 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christine Bordelon can be reached at email@example.com.