Brittany (Corona) Vessely – John Jay Fellow, Fall 2012
Founder and Executive Director of Catholic Education Partners
Family. Community. Unity in Christ. If you were to ask Brittany (Corona) Vessely to describe her passion, these are some of the words you would hear. As Executive Director of Catholic Education Partners, a national Catholic K-12 education nonprofit, Brittany recognizes that the best way to effect change is through relationships. But how do we accomplish this in such a way that is constructive and adheres to the tenets of our faith? Brittany believes the key to cultivating the next generation is to begin with the basics:
“It’s through the family. We are taught at John Jay – and much of the reason that I’m now in public policy – that it all rests on family issues. To cultivate Christian leaders, we have to start with fixing the family. The Christian community is the source, and the family is the ultimate crux of that.”
We live in an era in which modern culture decries the family, education has been relegated to the state, and objective truth is often seen as a relic of the past. This is where Brittany’s work comes in. Upon completing her fellowship at the John Jay Institute, she joined The Heritage Foundation, conducting domestic policy research focused on education, welfare, and family issues. Prior to launching Catholic Education Partners, Brittany served as director of state policy for EdChoice (formerly Friedman Foundation), working with state lawmakers and other stakeholders to advance school choice policy. Today, she spends her days serving the community by advancing policy that empowers families and children to enjoy the benefits of Catholic education.
Brittany believes that the Church universal understands that parents are called to be the primary educators of their children. The end goal of properly ordered education reform is to re-empower parents with education decision-making for their children, effectively separating the government financing of education from the delivery of education services. In many ways, the direction of education reform reflects the desires of modern consumers: to fully customize their child’s education to their learning needs. And data show that the majority of parents re-empowered with their children’s education choose classical or religious education for the moral teaching. Catholic schools represent the largest private provider of classical and religious education in the country – and they also provide community.
Brittany explains, “The parent then is the primary educator, and the primary teacher of the faith, as well. They ought to be a part of a church community, but they also ought to be able to go to a school that teaches them what is True and Good and Beautiful.”
These roots in the family extend to and from the broader community. It’s an ontological relationship. Our churches should be communities unto themselves. As the body of Christ, we are called to bolster one another toward sainthood, while also striving to be the “light of the world” – both at home and in society. A good percentage of John Jay alumni are homemakers; committed to focusing on their families, marriages, and their children, the very cornerstone of society. But we are also called to be outwardly focused, ministering in the public sphere, whether it is politics, policy, education, etc. As Christian leaders, we must be in the culture, but not of the culture. We serve the Kingdom in policy, but we are not of policy.
“The Church,” Brittany emphasizes, “is not meant to be a part of partisan politics, but ought to represent a light outside of partisan politics. America is a very young country. If the American church is focused exclusively on the American experiment, we will inevitably fall short, because the ‘city on the hill’ is not DC and it’s not the government. It is Christ, it is Heaven, it is His kingdom. And in order to win hearts and souls for Christ, that must be the main focus.”
“This undergirds the reason I love the John Jay Institute: The Christian Community and the union between Natural Law principles and Christian faith. The Trinity is communal – we, as God’s creations, are therefore communal in our nature. This is what brings us together, and what makes us uniquely human. And from that very fundamental standpoint, we need to re-cultivate our educational system and the family. The family is the core. If we can make the family strong again... if we can educate our students to recognize and desire that which is True, Good, and Beautiful again, then they just might realize that it all points to Jesus.”