Message From the Office of Catholic Schools  

Mary Fiala w caption 

 By Mary Fiala

Special to the Exponent


      Each January 4, the Church celebrates the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton – a fitting celebration for the Church and for Catholic schools, in anticipation of our annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week.         

     While St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as a wife and mother and the foundress of the Sisters of Charity, was marked by decades of ministry to the needs of others, her acceptance of the invitation of Bishop John Carroll to begin a school laid the foundation for the Catholic School System in America. Mother Seton’s schools served students from all families, providing free education for the poor while also accepting tuition from those who could afford it.

          Our Catholic schools have been serving students and families ever since, providing them with an integration of faith, mission, academic knowledge, and social justice within the curriculum and the unique “lived community” formed at each school. Our students do not live in a bubble; they are exposed to all of the issues and tensions that exist in our culture. Our schools help students to analyze and navigate the culture through the lens of the Gospel.

          Many of the current leaders in our communities trace their education back to our Catholic schools. These leaders are nationally known, impacting the world; for example, six of the nine current Supreme Court justices. And they are the quiet leaders we meet daily in our local communities, working to make a difference for the common good. Our ministry of Catholic education assists our students in recognizing their God-given gifts, supporting them in necessary knowledge- and skill-building, and giving them the opportunities to see that they can make a difference in the world. We need and are counting on our young people to be the leaders of tomorrow; to be the ones grappling with issues that have the power to cripple society. We need faith-filled, hopeful, innovative, thoughtful, courageous, and confident people to work toward building the Kingdom of God.

          Our Catholic schools have also partnered with families throughout our history to pass on our faith traditions of prayer and service. Repeated opportunities for exposure to the prayers and religious practices of our faith is a gift that our Catholic schools can provide to the future of the Church. As we face the very real concern of declining weekend Mass attendance, our Catholic schools offer repeated opportunities to evangelize both the churched and the unchurched, and they take this charge seriously.

          “We treasure each day not by the harvest we reap, but by the seeds we sow.” While this theme was used by one of our schools in its annual fund-raising appeal, it applies to the work that all of our schools do for the future of the Church. Our school leadership has studied the Diocesan Pastoral Plan and developed supportive strategies that can be implemented within the schools.

          One of the most important challenges facing the continued mission and ministry of our schools is their affordability. As noted above, Sister Elizabeth Ann Seton also grappled with this challenge from the beginning. We know that continually rising tuition and parish subsidy costs cannot be sustained. The solution will be multi-faceted; a single, simple solution does not exist. Fortunately, we have many people in our schools and parishes who are searching for creative ways to address this issue.

          As we celebrate Catholic Schools Week 2016, I express my thanks to Bishop Murry and to the many pastors, parishioners, parents, religious, members of our various boards of directors, community members, diocesan and parish ministers, and school employees who work tirelessly to find the solutions we need to continue our needed ministry of Catholic education. I am exceedingly grateful to the parents who entrust their children to us and to the teachers and administrators who make the day-to-day reality of our Catholic schools possible. Together we bring hope to the children and families we serve and will serve in the future.

          St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.

 Mary Fiala is diocesan schools superintendent.








Message From the Office of Catholic Schools

Mary Fiala w captionCatholic Schools Prepare Children to Be ‘For Others’  By Mary Fiala

Published in the January 16, 2015 issue of The Catholic Exponent

“Catholic schools in the Diocese of Youngstown are valued for their clear Catholic identity, academic excellence, safe environments, and ability to inspire passion for learning and service within every student. Our philosophy of care for the whole child (“cura personalis”) will nurture and sustain the unique God-given gifts of every student to enable each one to pursue and strengthen the Kingdom of God.”
Thus proclaims the Vision Statement for the schools in the Diocese of Youngstown. While the wording and the methods may have been different through the years, this same care for the whole child continues to guide our Catholic schools in our diocese and in our nation. Our schools have educated millions of young people through the years, partnering with families, whom the Church acknowledges are the primary educators of their children. The success of Catholic schools in handing on the faith, generation after generation, is a bright light in the history of the Church in the United States. As a ministry of the Church, our schools play an important role as they share in the mission of evangelization and catechesis.
The theme for National Catholic Schools Week 2015 is “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” The theme encompasses several concepts that are at the heart of Catholic education. By focusing on faith, knowledge and service, Catholic schools prepare children to use their God-given talents to the fullest later in life as they grow to be people who are “for others.” Faith, knowledge and service are integral components of a Catholic education and the measures by which any Catholic school can and should be judged.
But perhaps the “glue” that holds faith, knowledge, and service to others together is “Community.” Our schools are small communities that are also a part of larger communities of the parish, Church, city, nation, and the world. Most importantly, they are communities of faith.
Pope Francis has spoken about “creating a culture of encounter.” Our Catholic school communities are called to be places in which the living God is encountered. In their 1972 document , “To Teach as Jesus Did,” the U.S. Catholic bishops wrote that one of the purposes of Catholic education is to form “persons-in-community.” Relationships are the heart of a community, and we are called to be in a loving relationship with God, self, and others. By embracing the reality that each person is made in the image and likeness of God, people in community have the potential to reflect Christ to one another.
With this community in place, our students have the opportunity to discover the knowledge of the world around them and the skills that they will need as they grow to adulthood. They have the motivation and the experience of engaging in ventures with others to provide service for others. They will learn to be critical thinkers who can use faith-based values to distinguish what is good from what is evil. They will be able to make a difference in the world for good and make a positive contribution towards addressing challenges. They will be able to use their special gifts to strengthen the reign of God here on earth.
There are so many people in our community to acknowledge and thank for their role in working together to fulfill the mission of our schools. Bishop Murry, along with our pastors and school administrators, provide the leadership, vision, and support to strengthen Catholic education in our diocese. Our teachers exemplify a tremendous commitment to the students and families that we serve. There are many people who share in our mission through their volunteer service and generous financial gifts.
A very special word of appreciation goes to our parents who have chosen our schools to be partners with them in the education of their children. We take that trust seriously as we endeavor to continuously grow our schools in all aspects for the children we serve today.

Mary Fiala is interim diocesan schools superintendent.