The blessings of our Catholic Schools

By Dr. Erin Barisano, Superintendent, Diocese of Orange Catholic Schools     12/12/2019

During this season of Advent, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the blessing of our Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Orange.  As Catholic schools across the country experience the challenges of declining enrollment and gaps in school funding, I am proud to shift the narrative and share some accomplishments in our OC Catholic schools, as guided by our Strategic Plan and supported by our Bishops.  

Since summer 2018, we have reorganized and expanded the Department of Catholic Schools to better support and serve our 34 elementary schools and 7 high schools. We have focused on leadership formation for our principals and aspiring principals to ensure that school leaders are nurtured and supported at every stage of their journey. Catholic Identity and Faith Formation are always our priority. As such, we have experienced successful collaborations with our Office of Evangelization and Faith Formation in the form of retreats for our school principals and teachers.  

We celebrate that we are slowing down the enrollment decline and engaging schools with intentionality in retention, enrollment, and marketing. Throughout our diocese, our Catholic schools continue to educate over 17,500 students in faith, academic excellence, and service. What a blessing for our Church and our world! 

In Bishop Vann’s recent pastoral letter, he reminded us that, “…prayer is essential to our relationship with God and the necessary foundation of all our endeavors.”  We are blessed with the opportunity to engage in prayer with our schools. Catholic schools are where our students want to spend their best days and their worst days because our schools are sacred spaces where children encounter Christ. In an effort to pray specifically for schools during our Year of Prayer, the Department of Catholic Schools team chooses one school each week for focused prayer. During the week, we pray individually and as a group for the intentions of the school. Our team is also committed to visiting the school or attending Mass at the school during the week of prayer. Please join us in praying for our OC Catholic schools! 

This Advent season, I am extremely grateful not only for the blessing of our Catholic schools, but for the opportunity to serve our Church in this important mission. When we express gratitude toward God, our intentions move beyond our own wellbeing toward the wellbeing of others. Gratitude is an essential Christian tool for positioning ourselves toward the kingdom of God with hope, longing, and joy.  

David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, expressed this relationship perfectly by reminding us that, “The root of joy is gratefulness…It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful.” As we await the birth of our Lord, may we remember to be people of gratitude for all those involved in the ministry of Catholic education.   

This Christmas season I pray that we all strive to recognize God’s presence in our lives and the graces that illuminate our world.