Posted in Burnout, Catholic leadership

Less Than Nothing

When I took this job, it was unpleasant and awkward: Father had removed a person who was, objectively, bad at her job by all metrics.  She was a poor teacher, dressed like she was a child, herself, and played favorites and made friends with the staff.  The school was her playground.

Our students did not do well academically, and she was oblivious to this.

Religiously, we were abysmal, and she really didn’t care.

A year later, I’m in the same position she is: I have lost my job (and the entire school besides), but unlike her, I’ve done everything right.  People tell me that none of this is a reflection on myself or what I’ve done or not done.

But it’s the same story.

While emotionally, treating the former principal so poorly (he let her finish the year, but it was just dreadful) was not kind, it was logical.

Tossing me out like garbage when I didn’t do anything wrong is even less the right thing to do.

Here is a list of only some of the things I did, as principal, that had nothing to do with the principal job:

·         Safe Environment Coordinator

·         Website writer/designer

·         Marketing

·         Liaison to Spanish Ministry

·         Coordinate Fish Fry (A parish fundraiser, not per-se a school one)

·         Internet/Networking

·         Computer maintenance

·         Translator

·         Back up parish secretary

·         Rewrite and translate letters for Father (copywriting/editing)

·         Small-scale fundraising

·         Grant-writing

·         Coordinate facilities

·         Signage—Changing on outside

In short, I was the parish administrator, not just the school administrator.

And, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m paid the least of any school principal in my Diocese, with no health insurance, no retirement…nothing.

I think there’s a lesson in all of this.

I was undervalued, underpaid, and overworked.  I thought, foolishly, that being good at my job (so good I was given responsibilities for the whole parish) would help ensure my continued presence at the parish even if the school were to close because these things would still have to go on as before.  Based on the chilly reception I got when he came back, I know that he is done with me.

I was last year’s flavor-of-the-month.  Next year will be religious education.  He has an idea that will revitalize the parish, he’s been told.  Just like improving the school was supposed to.  He’s planning to find a way to convince the person who set up our endowment, designed to pay for Catholic education for students in our neighborhood, that he should let him use this money to fund religious education, not Catholic school tuition.  This was not the purpose of the endowment, and there is literally no sense in what he is planning because it’s happening piece-meal, and haphazardly, and a generation or two too late.  The young people aren’t going to flock to us for this programming; at least one other parish in town is doing this already.

He has literally no clue that when you don’t allow time for changes to take hold, they will fail.  He killed the school before it had a chance to grow.  He’ll try this new thing and it’ll fail for two reasons: 1) he doesn’t have the staff to see it through, and 2) even if he did, he’ll be disappointed in how it’s not progressing fast enough, and he’ll change again.

And he’s grown territorial.  He’s decided to save this parish, he’s going to fight with the other three priests, to stake his claim, as they have, which has so far only resulted in continued bickering and in-fighting while people flee our parishes.

But this helps me to make a decision: whatever I decide to do, we will not remain in this parish and I am questioning whether I wish to continue in this Diocese, either.  You see, my Diocese has never really supported Catholic education, beyond lip service.  In other areas of the country, Bishops have taken strong leadership roles in guiding their parishes to successfully revitalize the important mission of Catholic education.

My bishop has mostly stifled it.

In the end, my problem is that I am trying to unlearn a rule that I have taken to heart too long: that my hard work for God and in bringing children to God would be rewarded.  I would be increasingly at peace.  But with this parish already given over to the Devil, to be his plaything, why would I think I could keep fighting this evil, especially when my boss decided to stop fighting it, too?

We didn’t drive the devil from this parish; we gave it to him.

And I am spent from the fight.

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