By Dr. Erin Barisano, Superintendent, Diocese of Orange Catholic Schools     9/9/2019

Welcome to another wonderful school year in the Diocese of Orange! I am blessed to continue my service in this diocese during an exciting time of growth, and I look forward to all that lies ahead.  

The Diocese of Orange is a growing Catholic community in Orange County, on a journey of faith together. With the dedication of our new cathedral we stand in a unique season of opportunity and grace. We are fully committed to the newly crafted mission of our Catholic schools, which states: As a ministry of the Diocese of Orange, in partnership with our parents and parish family, our schools are committed to making disciples of Christ. Through Catholic faith formation, academic excellence, and service to others, our students transform the world. 

Our faith is rooted in centuries-old tradition. Through the Liturgy and rituals of Catholicism, we practice and live out our faith in the same way that those before us did. Yet we embrace innovation, and we recognize that in the current state of our society, the message of Christ and the truth of the Gospel are more relevant than ever. 

As Catholic educators, we recognize that parents have the first right and responsibility for the education of their children (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2223). Through the experiences at home, parents bear witness to their faith. In our Catholic schools, teachers help reinforce those virtues and values while at the same time maintaining the highest standards of academic excellence. The recent implementation of the California Healthy Youth Act in public and charter schools has caused a stir for some Catholic parents in our local communities. The Diocese of Orange Department of Catholic Schools continues to support parents in their right to educate their children. As such, I am pleased to direct parents to the guidelines from the California Catholic Conference, reinforcing parental rights and responsibilities. Additionally, I reaffirm that our Catholic schools offer an environment where students may live and witness in the secular world through the lens of Catholic spirituality. The opportunities for our students to integrate prayer and to explore the Catholic intellectual traditions help the next generation to be vessels for the love of God in their future vocations and professions. 

There are many ways to form missionary disciples; we want to find God’s way. This year, our schools will focus on the Year of Prayer. Ministries in our diocese will be going deeper into how we pray. Each person is invited to discern who our Lord is calling us to be and to form missionary disciples. As Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium, “…in virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples.” Through our work in Catholic schools we have the opportunity to teach and accompany our students as they learn to be contemplatives in action.  

As we journey together this year, I will be sharing our Catholic school stories from within our diocese and highlighting the impact our schools have on the broader community. As a kick-off to our school year, our school presidents, principals, and teachers gathered on Aug. 23 at Santa Margarita High School for our annual Educator’s Convocation. Our keynote speakers were Fr. Tim Donovan, Pam Hurwitz, and Jyllian Rhodes.  

Fr. Tim Donovan was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Orange in the summer of 2017. Before entering the seminary, he was a youth minister and continues to have a heart for young people and their families. He is passionate about serving God’s holy people and looks forward to his new position as chaplain at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. 

Pam Hurwitz and Jyllian Rhodes are a mother-daughter duo and co-founders of Faith + Family Collective. They share over 30 years of ministry with children, teens, parents, and families in the Diocese of Orange. Through real-life, laughter, and tears, they love to lead others to the arms of Christ.  

With our new cathedral and a new chapter in our diocese, let’s allow ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit and pray that this historic moment will call us to deepen our faith and the sense of Catholic identity and community within our diocese.  

As we begin another school year and the Year of Prayer, I invite you to pray for all those involved in the ministry of Catholic education. We are committed to living out the evangelizing mission of our Church through our Catholic schools and creating future leaders for our Church and our world.