National Catholic Educational Association

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The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) is the largest professional organization for Catholic educators in the United States. The association's principal objectives are to promote the welfare of Catholic education; to provide Catholic educational institutions with national and regional representation; to enable Catholic educators to work together for professional growth; to foster cooperation between Catholic schools and other professional agencies in the field of education; to facilitate the interchange of ideas; to conduct educational research; and to increase public understanding and proclaim the uniqueness of Catholic education.


The services provided by the NCEA include a broad spectrum of activities designed to aid Catholic educators. The association sponsors meetings, issues publications, and conducts informational programs. The annual convention and exposition, which attracts over 15,000 participants, is the most important annual forum for the exchange of ideas and information among Catholic educators. The NCEA sponsors an annual meeting for diocesan school superintendents, regional meetings related to the special needs of particular areas of the United States, and frequent professional workshops dealing with new educational and administrative methods for teachers and administrators.

The NCEA publishes books, monographs, journals, and directories. NCEA newsletters include News for Catholic School Parent Leaders, National Catholic Educators Accent, and Pastor Education Digest. The association's official journal is the quarterly Momentum, which includes articles and columns discussing educational theory and methodology, catechetical programs, and important educational issues. The association also makes available to members the services of consultants in guidance and counseling, religious education, accreditation, international education, and other areas of interest.

Other NCEA programs focus on leadership development and training for teachers and administrators at all levels of Catholic education. A retreat program called Shepherding the Shepherd is designed to foster the spirituality of teachers and administrators and help them integrate it into their educational efforts. Sharing the Faith is a faith development program that provides in-service training for Catholic educators and teaches them ways to balance personal reflection with community building. The Frontiers of Justice program, cosponsored by Catholic Relief Services, sends Catholic educators to developing countries to help local Catholic groups develop school systems.

Each year the NCEA, in association with the United States Catholic Conference, sponsors Catholic Schools Week to promote the value of Catholic education, to call attention to the role Catholic Schools play in their communities, and to raise money for school programs and scholarships. Since 1990 the Wednesday of Catholic Schools Week has been celebrated as National Appreciation Day for Catholic Schools.

The association also makes several annual awards, including the Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards to honor people who have made exceptional contributions to Catholic education, and the Leonard F. De Fiore Parental Choice Advocate Award to honor a person who has shown leadership in promoting educational choice.

Organizational Structure

The NCEA is made up of five departments: the religious education department, the seminary department, the secondary school department, the elementary school department, and the department of chief administrators of Catholic schools. The NCEA also includes a Commission for the National Association of Boards of Education and is an affiliate member of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. Each NCEA department elects its own officers and designates two representatives who sit as voting members on the association's general executive board. The association also includes several sections dealing with special concerns, such as the special projects and public policy section; the leadership development section; and the communications, public relations, and production section. The executive board, headed by a president, oversees the work of the association.

Membership and Financial Support

Membership in the association is voluntary and open to anyone desiring to further its objectives. Most membership is on an institutional basis. In 2001 the NCEA had more than 200,000 members. The NCEA's chief financial support comes from institutional membership dues, which vary with the size and type of institution, and corporate and private donors. Individuals may join as sustaining members, adult education commission members, or regular members.

History and Development

The NCEA's founding convention was held in St. Louis, Missouri, in July 1904 when several Catholic education groups joined forces to form the Catholic Education Association. In 1927 the word national was added to the name. The growth of the NCEA in size and services parallels the growth of Catholic education in the United States. When the association was started, Catholic schools in the United States enrolled about 850,000 students; in 2001 there were Catholic schools in all fifty states and a nationwide enrollment of more than 7.5 million.


Benson, Peter L. and Guerra, Michael J. 1985. Sharing the Faith: The Beliefs and Values of Catholic High School Teachers. Washington, DC: National Catholic Educational Association.

Convery, John J.; McLellan, Jeffrey; and Youniss, James, eds. 2000. The Catholic Character of Catholic Schools. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press.

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National Catholic Educational Association. 2002. <>.

Russell Shaw

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Judith J. Culligan

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