Archdiocese of Washington’s Secretary for Education Appointed President and CEO of National Catholic Educational Association

Thursday, July 7, 2016       

Dr. Thomas Burnford to take the helm of national association representing Catholic school educators

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) announced today that Thomas W. Burnford, D. Min., has been appointed as its new President and CEO, effective August 8, 2016. The NCEA is the largest, private professional education organization in the world, representing 150,000 Catholic educators serving almost 2 million students in over 6,000 Catholic elementary and secondary schools across the United States. Last December the NCEA’s Board of Directors appointed Dr. Burnford as its Interim President while it began a nation-wide search for its next president and CEO. Dr. Burnford continued in his position as Secretary for Education for the Archdiocese of Washington during this time. His final day with the archdiocese is Friday, August 5.

“I congratulate both the NCEA and Dr. Thomas Burnford on his appointment as the Association’s new President,” said Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington. “Tom brings great experience and gifts to his new responsibility and I can only wish him well, even though we will greatly miss his presence and leadership here at the archdiocese. Our Catholic schools and religious education programs play a critical role in passing on the Catholic faith,” Cardinal Wuerl continued. “Through them, we strive to prepare the next generation to live full, faithful lives by helping them to be stewards of their faith and leaders committed to building a truly good and just society. In overseeing the religious education programs and the Catholic schools of the archdiocese, Tom has brought strong leadership to carry out that mission.”

As Secretary for Education, Dr. Burnford managed the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Director for Catechesis, and served on numerous archdiocesan boards. He was responsible for the oversight of Catholic education, including executive leadership of a system of 94 Catholic schools and 139 parish religious education programs serving over 50,000 students and 30,000 adults. “It has been my great honor and privilege to serve Cardinal Wuerl and the great people of the Archdiocese of Washington who work so hard in Catholic education,” said Burnford. “I look forward now to serving Catholic schools across the country through my work with NCEA.”

Some of the highlights of Dr. Burnford’s two-decade career in the archdiocese include, developing and implementing policies for Catholic schools, including strengthening Catholic identity, establishing regional school agreements, and designing protocols for school viability planning; working with Cardinal Wuerl and pastors to increase tuition assistance to $6 million (from $800,000 in 2007) for students; lobbying and advocacy initiatives at the local, state and national levels, including support of the Opportunity Scholarship Program; restructuring urban Catholic schools resulting in the successful Consortium of Catholic Academies that now serves over 700 inner-city students; executive planning for major events within the archdiocese, including archdiocesan catechetical days, large-scale strategic planning events and two papal visits (Pope Benedict XVI in 2008 and Pope Francis in 2015); transitioning the archdiocese from individual school accreditation to a comprehensive system accreditation through AdvancEd.

Effective August 8th, Monsignor John F. Macfarlane, concluding his service as pastor of St. Elizabeth’s parish in Rockville, Md., will oversee the daily operations of the Secretariat for Education at the archdiocese. Monsignor Macfarlane was ordained to the Archdiocese of Washington in 1966, with assignments at Sacred Heart (Bowie), St. Stephen Martyr (Washington), St. Bartholomew (Bethesda) and Church of the Resurrection (Burtonsville). During his tenure, St. Elizabeth’s doubled the size of its school and growing enrollment to over 500 students. Monsignor Macfarlane was born in Washington D.C., and attended St. Anthony’s Catholic School, Gonzaga College High School, Georgetown University, and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.

“I am pleased to assist the Archdiocese of Washington and the Secretariat for Education. I was educated in Washington’s Catholic schools, and am eager to help in any way I can to continue the fine work that Tom Burnford and his team of administrators and educators undertake to meet the educational and spiritual needs of those we serve.”

A search committee has been formed to identify candidates for the position of secretary. The archdiocesan Catholic Schools Office and Office for Catechesis are prepared to assist its schools and religious education programs during this interim period to ensure the smooth start to the 2016-2017 academic year and transition to new leadership.


The Archdiocese of Washington is home to over 620,000 Catholics, 139 parishes and 94 Catholic schools, located in Washington, D.C., and five Maryland counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.

Chieko Noguchi
[email protected]