In July, I came to the Diocese of Cleveland to begin my tenure as the secretary for catechetical formation and education/superintendent of schools, succeeding Margaret Lyons, who retired after serving in this role so well for the previous 11 years. As a lifelong Toledo resident who served in a similar role in the Diocese of Toledo for the past six years, I was certainly acquainted with the Diocese of Cleveland, but I didn’t know much about it when I arrived. I had been told by Bishop Richard Lennon that “The people in the diocese are very good and generous people, who love and support Catholic schools.” Now, over four months later, I can enthusiastically say, “Amen!” to the bishop’s statement.
The eight counties of the diocese are blessed to have 90 elementary schools and 14 high schools, which almost 44,000 students attend. As I visit schools in the diocese, I invariably hear the same things and leave my visit with the same observations, a few of which are:
- When I ask students what the best part of their school is, they reply, “It’s like a family here; people know me and care about me”
- We are blessed to have dedicated, loving, faith-filled school leaders, teachers and staff members who are dedicated to their vocation and their students.
- Similarly, we are blessed to have priests who believe in and support Catholic schools and are present and engaged in school life.
- The diocese is enriched by the presence and ministry of many religious orders who sponsor and operate Catholic schools, imparting their uniquely beautiful charism and history to the formation of students.
- Parents are welcomed into a partnership with the school as they work together to guide and nurture students into becoming all that God is calling them to be.
- Each day students encounter Jesus Christ and develop a personal relationship with Him, who is the model teacher and student.
- Community support of Catholic schools is strong and vibrant. Whether it be financially, spiritually, or materially, people clearly believe in and support this vital ministry.
- Every day students are being formed as faith-filled, loving, intellectually advanced, spiritually mature members of their community who become leaders in the Church and civic community.
- Catholic schools are communities of faith, knowledge, service, love, hope and so much more and make a contribution to our community and world that cannot be measured or overstated.
St. Teresa of Calcutta said, “We belong to each other, and are all made to love and be loved.” Visit a Catholic school and you will discover a community where St. Teresa’s vision comes to life every day. Lives are transformed, lifted up and made better by Catholic schools.
Soon, we will be celebrating national Catholic Schools Week. The theme this year is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” Schools typically observe the annual celebration week with Masses, open houses and other activities for students, families, parishioners and community members. I encourage you to visit a Catholic school and, if your children do not currently attend a Catholic school, have them spend a day there; I promise you it will be the beginning of a life-changing experience.
I start each day with a sense of excitement and gratitude to be here with all of you in this great diocese and to be ministering in Catholic education with so many good, faith-filled people. I often recall the theme of the recent diocesan capital campaign, Rooted in Faith — Forward in Hope, and find it so appropriate and compelling as the mystery and wonder of each day unfolds.
Thank you for your generous support of Catholic schools and thank you for the warm welcome I have received since coming to the diocese. I look “Forward in Hope,” through the grace of God, for many good things to come.
Christopher Knight is the secretary for catechetical formation and education/superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Cleveland.