“I haven’t been back here in a long time,” Chuck Kyle told Holy Name School students, faculty, staff and parents who gathered Jan. 30 in Holy Family Church in Parma for Mass, his talk and a student awards presentation. The event helped kick off Catholic Schools Week across the eight-county Diocese of Cleveland.
Kyle, the longtime Saint Ignatius High School coach and teacher, is a 1965 graduate of Holy Family School.
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He recalled being chosen president of altar servers when he was in eighth grade. “This church was just being built. I remember the date – Nov. 26, 1964 – when the cornerstone was laid. I had on a cassock and was holding the holy water,” Kyle said.
After Holy Family, he graduated from Saint Ignatius in 1969 and John Carroll University in 1973. “I only attended Catholic schools. I’ve been involved with Catholic education for 65 straight years and I wouldn’t trade a minute of it. That’s who I am,” Kyle said.
For the past 50 years, he’s been a football coach and English teacher at Saint Ignatius, he said, explaining he returned after JCU because “I wanted to teach English and coach some football.”
And he’s done both, starting as an assistant football coach while still in college. He also coached track and field at Saint Ignatius.
In his half-century as a football coach, the Wildcats have won a record 11 Ohio State Athletic Association state championships, four national titles and amassed 369 victories. Kyle was Nike National Coach of the Year in 2001, Schutt National Coach of the Year in 2008, Ohio Associated Press Coach of the Year four times and in 2013, he was inducted into the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame. MaxPreps named him the sixth-greatest high school football coach of all time in 2018.
In addition to his football successes, under Kyle the Saint Ignatius track and field program won two state titles. He also received Saint Ignatius’ prestigious Magis Award, the school’s highest honor, in 2012.
Kyle will retire from teaching and coaching after completing the 2022-2023 academic year at Saint Ignatius.
“As long as I coached football, I wanted to teach our young men to prepare mentally, physically and spiritually for any challenge,” he told the Holy Family community.
Picking up a football and tennis ball, Kyle asked the students which way they would bounce. The students said the tennis ball would bounce up and down.
“But what happens with the football? Will it go right or left? We don’t know,” he said, telling the students they must be as prepared as they can be. “That’s why we go to school – to be as knowledgeable as you can.”
He dropped the football and it went to the right.
“That can happen in life, too. The ball may not bounce your way, but are you going to give up? No. Because of your Catholic education, you have to have faith. The ball may bound wrong, but have faith. People will be relying on you. Don’t give up. I have to be prepared when the ball bounces my way to do the right thing,” Kyle told those gathered.
“Attend Mass and pray that God will give you the strength to do the right thing,” he added.
Speaking to the parents and teachers, Kyle said teaching in a Catholic school provides an opportunity to share the faith.
To illustrate his point, his read a passage from Earnest Hemmingway’s classic book, “The Old Man and the Sea.” Although the old man was a great fisherman, he hit a dry spell and hadn’t had much luck. Casting out alone one day, he caught a giant fish. He wrestled with it for three days before tying it to the boat and heading back to shore. But the sharks kept attacking and eating the fish. He got back to shore alone, late at night while the town slept. There were only remnants of the fish left, but everyone realized he was the greatest fisherman.
Kyle used the story to explain that teaching in a Catholic school allows an opportunity to go more deeply into the story and its connection to Christ.
“The fisherman went through a crucifixion. He lost his fish, but everyone knew who he was. Students, you have a gift,” Kyle said, telling them there will come a time when this will become meaningful to them.
Kyle’s visit was arranged by kindergarten teacher Kris Riley who said she reached out “as a shot in the dark,” sending an email one Saturday morning to see if he’d be interested in addressing the students after Mass during Catholic Schools Week as the alumni speaker. Riley said she didn’t proofread the message before sending it and later realized she had used incorrect punctuation and was afraid the longtime English teacher would reject the invitation.
“I am so appreciative that you agreed to come. Thank you for saying ‘yes’ to us and for coming to our little corner of Parma,” Riley said.
“When I was at Holy Name High School I hated that story,” quipped Tom Brownfield, Holy Family principal, referring to Hemmingway’s book. He acknowledged there was a lesson to be learned and he thanked Kyle for taking time to visit and talk to the students. Brownfield also expressed appreciation to Riley for arranging the event.
Mass was celebrated by Father Ken Wallace, Holy Family’s senior parochial vicar.
Catholic Schools Week is being observed throughout the diocese and the country this week with liturgies, speakers and special events to celebrate Catholic education. Click here for more information.