By Erin Barisano Superintendent of Schools Orange County Catholic Schools     1/24/2019

My dear Catholic school educators,

May God’s blessings surround you this new year! During this time of New Year’s resolutions and improvements, let us not forget the beautiful opportunity that our God has given us to hit the reset button on our spiritual lives.  As we look ahead to the busyness of Catholic Schools Week, high school/ college recommendations, new student recruitment and registration, current student retention, and everything in between, it is easy to lose sight of the mission of Catholic schools, which is to evangelize to all of it stakeholders: staff, students, parents, and community members (USCCB, 1988).  A wonderful way to remember our mission is to reflect on the saints that have gone before us.  During this month, we encounter four saints with a significant connection to Catholic schools.  The following reflection is from a blog post written by Dr. Kathleen Cepelka, superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.  It is a beautiful summary of the saints’ impact on Catholic schools to reflect upon as we journey throughout the month.

On January 4 we celebrated the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774 – 1821), the founder of Catholic education in the United States.  After her husband’s death from tuberculosis, she accepted the invitation from a priest in Baltimore to start a school in his parish and went on to found the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph.  With her canonization in 1975, Mother Seton became the first native-born saint of the United States.

The gate of heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it.” – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

The next day, on January 5, we turned our attention to St. John Neumann (1811 – 1860), the fourth bishop of Philadelphia and the founder of the first network of parochial schools in our country.  Bishop Neumann, who also established a teaching order of sisters, was canonized in 1977.

Everyone who breathes…has a mission, has a work.  We are not sent into this world for nothing.”  –St. John Neumann

January 24 is the feast of St. Francis de Sales (1567 – 1622), doctor of the Church.  It was the goal of St. Francis to renew the Church by raising the level of spirituality among the faithful. 

The measure of love is to love without measure.”  –St. Francis de Sales

On January 31, we celebrate the feast of St. John Bosco (1815 – 1888) a priest who had felt called from his earliest years to care for poor and “unruly” boys. After his ordination, he organized classes to teach practical skills and prepare young men for employment. Eventually he formed a new congregation, named after St. Francis de Sales, that became another highly influential teaching order in the Church. 

I have promised God that until my last breath I shall have lived for my poor young people.”  –St. John Bosco

As we remember, admire, and strive to imitate these four saints, among countless others who are our “ancestors” in Catholic education, let us pray, especially during the upcoming Catholic Schools Week, to be worthy of their profound legacy, now entrusted to us.  In particular, we call to mind those women and men who, by their own saintly lives, laid the foundation for the remarkable Catholic school communities in the Diocese of Orange we continue to lead, teach and love.

As always, please continue to pray for all those involved in the ministry of Catholic education.  In the busyness of our lives, it is sometimes difficult to recognize those moments of grace and light that surround us. May we all strive to recognize the blessings that surround us and see along the light of God’s grace.

Erin Barisano

Superintendent of Schools

Orange County Catholic Schools