Catholic Schools Week: Evangelizing Their Pastor

Author: Fr. John DeRiso, C.S.C.

Fr John DeRiso, CSC, teaching the rosary

Our celebration of Catholic Schools Week continues today with the perspective of one of our dynamic, young pastors, Fr. John DeRiso, C.S.C., who shepherds St. Joseph Parish and School in South Bend, IN.  Under his leadership, St. Joseph has reached record enrollment and is one of the leaders in the whole state of Indiana in terms of its students' achievements.  Today, though, Fr. John shares how it is not just the children who are learning at St. Joseph Grade School.

I visited one of our parish school kindergarten students in the hospital today.  It seems he came down with a bad case of the flu.  While he was in good spirits considering where he was, he was a far cry from the little guy who makes a mad dash to greet me whenever I stop by his classroom.  After visiting with him and his father for a few minutes, I suggested we say a prayer together.  The sick little kindergartner immediately sat up in his bed and reverently folded his hands.  We recited the Our Father.  Then, just as we began the Hail Mary, he said, “I’m good at this one.”  And he was.

Another of today’s hospital visits was to see an adult parishioner in intensive care.  His family – including his son who is an eighth grade student in our parish school – has been keeping vigil by his bedside.  When the time came to pray, the eighth grade boy immediately got up from his chair and reverently folded his hands.  Just like in the kindergartener’s room, our prayer included reciting the Our Father and the Hail Mary.  While he didn’t feel compelled to mention so, our eighth grader was good at saying his prayers too!

Fr John passing out St André prayer cards

Kindergarten through eighth grade, our parish school provides children with a solid Catholic education.  In addition to receiving outstanding academic instruction, our students are immersed in a Catholic culture of prayer and devotion where they encounter the living God and grow in friendship with the Lord. 

The father of the praying kindergartener looked on his son with tenderness and affection.  The mother of the praying eighth grader looked on her son with love and admiration.  Without even trying, these St. Joseph School students were helping to evangelize their parents.

Fr John DeRiso, CSC with 8th grade students

As I witnessed these two children praying with sincerity and devotion in time of trial, I was filled with gratitude to God to be a Holy Cross priest at a parish with a school.  I was filled, too, with the desire to lead a life characterized by all that is good and true.  Without even trying, these St. Joseph School students were helping to evangelize their pastor, too.

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