By By Dr. Erin Barisano, Superintendent of Schools     10/1/2018

“Grace presents its own terms and provides its own light. The challenge is to learn to see along this light.” 

The quote above is from Dr. Leonard DeLorenzo’s book Witness: Learning to Tell the Stories of Grace That Illumine Our Lives.  As mentioned in last month’s column, we were blessed with Dr. DeLorenzo’s message of grace at our annual Educators’ Convocation.

I have been challenging myself and our principals to continue this reflection of grace as we journey through the school year. As it turns out, not only have I been struck with the presence of grace in my life, but I have also been reflecting on the notion of light this past month. As our schools move forward in full swing, it’s hard to deny the light they shine on our parishes, local communities and the Diocese. I have had the privilege of spending time with teachers and students in prayer, worship and learning. I continue to be awed by God’s gift of grace through these simple moments of encounter.

As we grow in faith and excellence, we are spending time this year adopting new religion standards. As educators, we usually think of curriculum mapping as something that applies to Math, Language Arts or Social Studies. I was filled with joy as I joined our elementary principals and teachers at a training which focused on using our curriculum mapping tool, Atlas Rubicon, to map our new religion standards. It’s important to acknowledge that as a system of Catholic schools our primary focus is on teaching our Catholic faith to our students. Our work with God’s children calls us to be our best selves in service to those we lead and educate. As such, knowing the standards is the first step to intentionally integrate our faith across the curriculum, and understanding the standards will give us all greater confidence and insight to lead our children closer to the Kingdom of God. While there is much work ahead, this is the good work of sharing the light of Christ with our students.

As disciples on this journey of Catholic education, we are blessed with many partners who support our mission. I had the joy of spending two days with the California Catholic School Superintendents a few weeks ago. This group is comprised of the superintendents from the 12  dioceses across the state of California. As a new superintendent, it is a source of great comfort to me that these wonderfully educated and faith-filled diocesan leaders collaborate regularly to share best practices, problem solve and support each other. One of the greatest take-aways for me was the commitment of our bishops to our Catholic schools. Across the state, our schools face many challenges and opportunities, but it was evident that the California Council of Catholic Bishops recognize that our Catholic schools continue to be one of the most effective instruments of passing on the faith from one generation to the next.  As stated in their 2014 document, Our Catholic Schools in California: A Stellar Past, A Robust Future, the bishops stand firm with their commitment to Catholic schools. “Now, more than ever, we are convinced of the importance of Catholic schools and we are committed to forming new disciples of Jesus Christ, to passing on the faith we have received to the next generation, and to educating the whole person through quality education that integrates religious truths and values while respecting the integrity of each academic discipline.” Our bishops are but another source of light along our journey.

While we exist as a preschool-Grade 12 system of Catholic schools, the support from our Catholic universities is evident. We are blessed to have strong partnerships with both Loyola Marymount University and University of Notre Dame through their teacher education programs, PLACE Corps and ACE Program. It was a joy for me to spend time with each group of teachers this past month, and I was so impressed with the love and faith they bring to their students. Their sense of mission is unmatched, and I am so proud that such smart, passionate, and faith-filled young people are teaching in our schools. The PLACE Corps and ACE teachers are a blessing to our diocese and a bright light to all they encounter.

As we journey into the month of October, 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.