Dear Catholic School Community in the Diocese of Syracuse,

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones in good health and spirits.

As we begin yet another school year, we search for the path to navigate the global coronavirus pandemic, knowing that nothing will deter us from the pursuit of our mission, even temporarily. Recovering from the pandemic and leading our Catholic schools is part of our mission. We are “Catholic Schools Strong” because of a deep faith and our kindred community — families, students, professionals, and religious — all united to a common cause.

We celebrated the Mass for the Opening of Catholic Schools Sept. 3. The name alone noted the massive amount of strategic thought and action, as well as relationship-building, that has taken place over the past months. Our principals, chancery staff, select teachers, and support staff, committed to reopening our schools during this time, were presented with a mountain that none of us had ever dreamed of summiting. This invisible threat has left an epic and indelible imprint on our lives that will be discussed for years to come.

It is important, particularly at this time, that we recognize that we are all in this together, and that we all have a societal responsibility to act accordingly for the safety, well-being, and good of our Catholic school community. I’m confident that, if we all commit to caring for others in the ways we teach through our Catholic social teachings, we will be successful in conquering this pandemic and in offering the Catholic school education that is expected and desired by the students and families in our 22 schools across our diocese. Through perseverance, faith, hope, and courage, our collaborative efforts will show lasting results.

Our principals, teachers, and support staff are to be commended for advancing the call for our families. Our professionals are able to bring our schools to life with in-person school classrooms in the coming days. I’ve seen and heard countless stories of the planning and preparation that all of our heroic teachers have been putting in place for our reopening. One such teacher, Hannah Heppeler, a fifth-grade teacher, is beginning her teaching career at her Catholic school alma mater, Blessed Sacrament in Syracuse. What a wonderful testament to her faith and commitment to education. To Hannah and all of our teachers in our diocesan schools — all who have been working tirelessly over the past weeks to make everything just perfect — I welcome you and wish you great success and blessings as you begin your journey.

Parents are the first and primary teachers of their children. We continue to be passionately committed to partnering with all of our families as we prepare to breathe life into our schools, albeit while wearing a face mask. For those families choosing to engage virtually and experience remote learning, we look forward to continuing to serve you in our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Syracuse.

I want to offer special thanks to Bishop Douglas J. Lucia, our priests, deacons, sisters, and all religious who share a strong commitment to Catholic school education, reinforcing the mission of our diocese and the greater Roman Catholic Church: to evangelize — knowing, living, and sharing our faith each day in our schools and in life.

In “Facing Change With Courage and Vision: A Letter From Jerusalem,” Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of Jerusalem, stated, “This new situation brings us back to the core of our faith and invites us to trust in God. … We thought we were the only architects of our destiny, that we did not need anything or anyone else. The reality is not so. … We need God because alone, we are lost.”

We also need each other in our communities — from our county health departments and our local hospitals providing assistance, to our corporate partners for providing online instruction and training to assist in delivering a previously foreign means of teaching and learning. Our schools have worked closely with each of these entities to assure our school communities that our plans are reinforced with the relationships of professionals we can rely on should the need exist for a call to action. We need a reality of flexibility and an openness to embrace the change that is before us.

Archbishop Pizzaballa states, “We need to prioritize ourselves, to review with the courage of vision what we do and ask ourselves what is essential and what is not. We will need to rethink our future radically, not with works that announce our power, but a faith that becomes a gift of life through our works.” I believe that we have the courage to embrace that vision. We have the support and fortitude to commence this new, reimagined school year with an indomitable spirit.

Blessings and peace to all those in our Catholic school community and throughout our diocese as we fearlessly welcome this new vision, knowing that nothing is impossible for God — He does not abandon us.

William W. Crist

Superintendent of Schools

Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse

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