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Deacon Steve Greco is a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Orange. He is founder of Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry, and host of Empowered by the Spirit. On this podcast episode, our very special guest is Dr. Erin Barisano, the Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Orange. Together they discuss the life-altering impact that Catholic schools can have on children and families.

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Originally broadcast on 10/23/22


It’s time for another episode of Cathedral Square featuring host Fr. Christopher Smith.

On this week’s show, we welcome Dr. Erin Barisano back to the studio. Erin is the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Orange.

Our topic of discussion today will center on the state of Catholic education in Orange County. We’ll also discuss the importance of integrating our Catholic faith into our daily lives.

Tune in for a fascinating conversation!




Originally broadcast on 12/4/21


The Start of the 2021-22 school year for Diocese of Orange Catholic Schools brings with it some significant positive news. With continued growth trending in the areas of enrollment and test scores, the outlook for this academic year is strong, and leadership remains committed to keeping health and safety at the forefront.

Taking its cues from the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the OC Health Care Agency, the OC Catholic Schools administrative team developed return-to-school guidelines that provide consistency from school to school across the diocese.

“Even with all that we’ve learned from last year, the landscape is shifting as we speak,” said OC Catholic Schools Superintendent Dr. Erin Barisano. “This year, it’s been our goal to take that bur­den off of our principals and sift through the information and guidelines and then be very direct to them so that they can spend their time implementing and not having to interpret.”

The wearing of masks indoors re­mains a requirement for all students, teachers and staff, while masks outdoors are optional. Some of the protocols that were instituted last year at school sites, while no longer required, were deter­mined to be good practice and have been kept in use. Cleaning protocols for desks and lunch tables, the presence of hand sanitizer dispensers and temperature checks at morning drop off are just a few examples of this approach.

A year ago at this time, elementa­ry schools within the diocese were in the process of receiving waivers from the county to open their campuses for in-person learning, an option that was not available at most of their public schools counterparts.

As a result, enrollment numbers saw a significant increase. Mike Schabert, associate superintendent of Catholic schools marketing and enrollment, reported at a recent Diocesan Leader­ship Response Team meeting an 8.77% percent enrollment increase, or more than 1400 students, from the September 2020 census to August 2021. This re­flects the first enrollment increase since 2015. An updated census for 2021 will take place this month.

“Our schools being open last year was a primary catalyst,” said Schabert. “Combine that with the significant effort on the part of both the diocese and the schools themselves, and once people came to our schools and tasted what we were offering, they loved it. And then they spread the word to their friends.”

Additional details show that 29 schools reported a double-digit enroll­ment increase, with 11 of those schools at more than a 20% increase. And for the many families who made the switch to Catholic schools last year, there has been a nearly 95% retention rate.

“What a beautiful opportunity for us to have these families who never would have even considered Catholic school,” said Barisano. “We became a really via­ble option and a desire for these families because we were in person. It’s been a blessing for us.”

In a letter that went out to families at the start of the school year, Barisano re­ported an increase in STAR mathemat­ics scores taken from the spring 2021 testing period. While public schools na­tionally saw a 6-point decrease in Math Student Growth Percentile (SGP), OC Catholic Schools saw an increase of 8 points during the same timeframe. This outperforms other Catholic and private schools nationally that experi­enced just a 1-point increase in Math SGP.

“Sometimes the unsung heroes are our teachers,” said Schabert. “All these new families that came to us got to experience such quality educators. And our teachers themselves are starting to recognize the impact they have on the success of a school, not just academi­cally, but overall.”

An area of excitement on the ele­mentary school campuses is the return of extracurricular activities, specifically after school sports through the Paro­chial Athletic League. After observing how high schools handled the return of sports last year, administration remains confident that these programs can be offered safely.

A spirit of collaboration by all involved in delivering quality educa­tion during this extraordinary time is something Barisano feels has served the team well.

“For Catholic schools, that collab­oration extends into building com­munity, and because of our faith, that then results in communion with one another,” said Barisano. “That’s pow­erful, and I do think that’s something so unique to Catholic schools. Those experiences that these families have, they are very real, and they are trans­formative experiences.”

Both Barisano and Schabert cited the commitment of Bishop Kevin W. Vann and the diocese to invest in Orange County’s Catholic schools as a catalyst for these positive trends. The theme for this school year is HOPE – Healthy Optimism, Positivity and Expectancy – and these words will provide all entities the guidance they need as they navigate another chal­lenging year.

“We really do approach it with gratitude for all that we’ve learned last year,” said Barisano. “With all those unexpected blessings, we then approach this year with hopeful hearts that we can continue to do this good work here in our diocese.”


Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics.

On this week’s show, Rick welcomes Dr. Erin Barisano back to the program. Dr. Barisano is the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Orange.

Our topic of discussion today will center on the state of Catholic education in Orange County. How are things looking as we embark on this new year of 2021?

Listen in, and be encouraged!





Originally broadcast on 1/16/21



Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s show, Rick welcomes Dr. Erin Barisano back to the program. Barisano is the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Orange.

Our topic of discussion today will center on the state of Catholic education in Orange County. How have things been going in regards to ‘distance learning’ in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Tune in, and you’ll surely be encouraged by what you hear!





Originally broadcast on 5/30/20


On this episode, host Dr. Erin Barisano welcomes the mother-daughter duo of Pam Hurwitz and Jyllian Rhodes to the program.

After speaking to families throughout the Diocese of Orange, these longtime youth ministers have found that Catholic women greatly need spiritual nurturing. The duo speaks individually and together to groups small and large throughout Southern California and beyond at back-to-school nights, parish meetings, and in family homes. They also offer a small selection of inspirational resources for parents and families. To learn more, visit their website,

Be sure to SHARE this podcast!





Originally broadcast on 11/16/19


On this episode, host Dr. Erin Barisano welcomes Mike Schabert to the program.

Mike is the Associate Superintendent of Marketing and Enrollment in the Department of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Orange.

Listen as he shares his story and vision for the future of Catholic education for our boys and girls.

Be sure to SHARE this podcast!





Originally broadcast on 10/26/19


On this episode, host Dr. Erin Barisano welcomes Dr. Denise Valadez to the program.

Denise is the Associate Superintendent of Curriculum, Accreditation and Spirituality in the Department of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Orange.

Listen as she shares her story and vision for the future of Catholic education for our boys and girls.






Originally broadcast on 10/12/19


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.  


Today’s important topic focuses on the ‘pastor-principal relationship;’ and, our guests do a splendid job in explaining how this all works.

Let us welcome Fr. Steve Sallot (pastor) and Julie Tipton (principal) of Our Lady Queen of Angels Parish in Newport Beach!




Originally broadcast on 4/6/19