The First Friday Club of Greater Akron had a full crowd at its Oct.1 lunch program featuring Frank O’Linn, superintendent of schools for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland.
His topic was Catholic schools and how they are evolving the Church.
More than 50 students from high schools and elementary schools in Greater Akron attended the luncheon along with principals, school presidents, parents and supporters. In addition, O’Linn welcomed Chesterton Academy of Akron, a new independent Catholic high school whose motto is inspired by Pope St. John Paul II’s Cultura Vitae, which means the culture of life.
“Our Catholic schools are the biggest youth ministry program of the diocese,” O’Linn said, quoting Bishop Edward Malesic. Those in attendance are products of the evangelizing mission of the Church, he added.
O’Linn took the group back in history displaying black and white photos from Akron in the 1800s. The pictures showed some of the first Catholic immigrants who settled in Akron after finding work building the Ohio and Erie Canal, which connected Akron with the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. He explained that these settlers prompted the first Council of Catholic Bishops to ask parishes in the area to fill an important niche and develop schools for those living and making their homes in the Akron area.
Shifting to current times, O'Linn shared recent statistics from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, a national nonprofit research center affiliated with Georgetown University that conducts social scientific studies on the Catholic Church.
“The findings support that students of today’s millennium are more likely to attend church as they mature if they attended a Catholic school. School is the way to invite families into the Church,” O’Linn said.
“So how do we do that?” he asked. O’Linn focused on Catholic schools welcoming all with diverse enrollment options. He explained that state funding and school choice continue to be keys to closing the gap between the cost of education and what families can afford. In the Cleveland diocese, more than a third of students enrolled receive a scholarship from one of the five options offered by the state.
O’Linn closed his presentation by providing an outlook for the future and highlighting the work of Keeping the Faith, the newly formed strategic plan task force for K-8 schools.
“Just as the early founders answered to the call to meet the needs of the Church 150 years ago, the same is today,” he said. Catholic schools are the most diverse in economic background, race and how the goals of the strategic plan focus on areas that demonstrate collaboration, ensure authentic Catholic environments and provide quality education while forming the whole person, O’Linn added.
Listening sessions with members of the Keeping the Faith K-8 task force will take place regionally in November, December and January.
Click here for more information or to listen to the task force podcast for regular updates.
T.K. Griffith, Archbishop Hoban High School principal, will be the speaker at the next First Friday program at 11 a.m. Nov. 5 at Our Lady of Cedars in Fairlawn. More details are available here.