How Pope Francis Made It Safe for Me to Come Crawling Back to Church

It was in second grade that I first suspected I didn’t belong at St. Cecilia’s.

I was only 7, but when I looked into Sister Mary’s unfeeling eyes I knew, as clearly as only 7-year-olds can, that whoever she was working for wasn’t worth my Sunday morning. I brought my concerns to my mom, hoping for a quick “Jesus Loves You!” Band-Aid to ease the impending existential crisis.

Now, I realize this was a mistake. My mother is a wonderful, empathetic, kind-hearted woman, but comforting white lies aren’t really her strong suit. Santa died early in our house, and the Easter Bunny wasn’t far behind. The Tooth Fairy, well, she never stood a chance on Hoffnagle Street. This is what it sounds like when a child asks Joan if we’re floating on, all alone, through this vast, indifferent universe:

“How do you know God is real?”

“Well, I don’t.”

“Oh. Do you think he is?”

“I’m not sure.”

“So … where do we go when we die?”

“Nobody really knows.”

“Where did Smokey go?!?”

“He’s in the flower bed, honey. Now brush your teeth – Wings comes on at 8.”

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Bruce Robinson: Neumann-Goretti’s Turnaround Artist

Bruce Robinson wants Neumann-Goretti to be a preeminent college-prep school. Photograph by Gene Smirnov

Bruce Robinson wants Neumann-Goretti to be a preeminent college-prep school. Photograph by Gene Smirnov

Inside a near-empty auditorium at Saints John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School in South Philly, roughly 100 adults are sitting in a sea of burnt-red seats beneath a statue of the outstretched Christ. Standing before the group, Bruce Robinson no doubt hopes a divine presence is watching over him, too. Read more »

DISPATCHES FROM PENNSYLTUCKY: PA School Teacher Says He Was Fired “Because I’m Gay” [UPDATED]

michael griffin pa school teacher fired for being gayIt takes a lot to drag me to the keyboard to blog on a Saturday, but I heard some news this morning that was so infuriating I had to share. Chris Covone, one of our LGBT Six-Word memoirists, emailed to tell me about a former teacher of his at Holy Ghost Prep in Bensalem, Pa., who “was abruptly fired after filing for a marriage license with his partner of 12 years.” ABC News reports:

Michael Griffin [who has taught French and Spanish at Holy Ghost Prep for 12 years ] says he emailed the principal of Holy Ghost Prep earlier in the week saying he may be late Friday, that he was applying for a marriage license. After an in-service day he says he was called into the office of School President Father James McCloskey, along with Principal Jeffrey Danilak.

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WATCH: Students Brawl at Archbishop Ryan High School

View more videos at: http://nbcphiladelphia.com.

NBC 10 reports: “A cell phone video of a fight between two students at a Philadelphia Catholic school is making the rounds on the Internet. The video shows two sophomore girls at Archbishop Ryan High School fighting in the school’s cafeteria. The fight lasted for four minutes before another student stepped in to stop it. As officials continue to investigate, many are wondering why no school employees stepped in to stop the fight.

“The mother of one of the girls involved in the fight spoke exclusively to NBC10. The woman says that while she met with administrators, she doesn’t believe the school did enough to resolve the back and forth bullying that she says led to the scuffle. The woman’s daughter is now suspended along with the other girl involved.”

Bucks’ Caroline Pla Didn’t Get Banned From CYO Football Because She’s a Girl

Caroline Pla from Bucks County is the catalyst for what is quickly becoming a national cause celebre, and she’s handling the spotlight impressively. Poised and eloquent, the 11-year-old Pla seems well aware of the stage and her role. The TV anchors and newspaper headlines claimed she was banned from playing football because she is a girl. Let me make an important clarification: Pla was banned from playing football because she is a girl and she is good. Read more »

Foundation Names New Executive of Philly’s Catholic High Schools

Back in August, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced it was turning control of its 17 high schools and four special education facilities to an independent foundation. On Monday, the Faith in the Future Foundation is scheduled to introduce the first chief executive of Philly’s Catholic high schools. Samuel Casey Carter—author of No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing, High-Poverty Schools and president of an education consulting firm near D.C.—will be introduced at SS. John Neumann and Maria Goretti High School in South Philly.

Carter already had what he said was an inspiring meeting recently with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput. He plans to immediately embark on what he’s dubbed his listening tour. He intends to visit all the archdiocesan high schools and special education schools by Thanksgiving.

The resume for Carter’s extensive career includes serving as president from 2005 to 2007 of National Heritage Academies. The Michigan-based education management firm operates 76 elementary charter schools in nine states. None are in Pennsylvania. [Inquirer]

Trial Rescheduled for Priest, Teacher Accused of Abuse

A trial has been re-scheduled for two men accused of raping the same boy at a Northeast Philadelphia parish in the late 1990s. The Rev. Charles Engelhardt and Bernard Shero, a former teacher at the parish school, were originally expected to face trial this week—but that fell through when a defense attorney reported two deaths in his immediate family. But their reprieve won’t last long: Engelhardt and Shero are now expected to face a jury on Oct. 22. Former priest Edward Avery—already convicted in the same crime—is expected to take the stand as a prosecution witness. [AP]

Archdiocese Gives Control of Secondary Schools to Independent Foundation

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia, today, announced that an independent foundation will take over management of its secondary and special education programs. Faith in the Future Foundation is the recently incorporated organization that will run the programs and look to grow a Catholic school system that has been hit hard by financial ailments and closings. The move makes the Philly schools the first independently-managed Catholic school system in America. [Inquirer]

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