Bishops offer gratitude as schools operate in ‘demanding circumstances’

Vanessa Fite calls the objects her kindergartners are looking for during a game of bingo at Visitation Catholic School in Kewanee. In a letter to principals, faculty and staff dated Jan. 10, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, said he and Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka appreciate everything they are doing “in very complicated and demanding circumstances” as COVID-19 continues to surge. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

As principals, faculty and staff at Catholic schools around the Diocese of Peoria returned to the classroom after Christmas break, they received words of encouragement from Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, who said he and Coadjutor Bishop Louis Tylka “deeply appreciate all that you are doing today in very complicated and demanding circumstances.”

“We know that almost on a daily basis you must improvise in the face of uncertainty,” wrote Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC.

“We know that almost on a daily basis you must improvise in the face of uncertainty over which teachers, staff, and students will even be able to show up,” he wrote in a letter dated Jan. 10. “You are now involved in everything from cleaning buildings to advice on health care, added to all your normal professional responsibilities.”

He assured them that he and Bishop Tylka were remembering them daily in their Masses and prayers.

Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of diocesan schools, said the letter grew out of a conversation she had with Bishop Jenky about the challenges faced by Catholic educators and administrators as the omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to surge.

“I was letting him know that this is very, very stressful for our principals,” she told The Catholic Post. “Their staff is getting sick. . . . That might cause the principals to have to scramble to find someone to cover the class or cover the assigned duty.”

If it’s the custodian who becomes ill, the school leaders are cleaning toilets, throwing out trash, and asking teachers to help.

“They go home exhausted at night and many of them are mothers and have children,” Weiss said, so they have to be present in the home, as well.

“It’s just overwhelming, as they’re telling me,” she added.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

Weiss said that as a student and teacher of history, Bishop Jenky was able to add important insight into the times we’re living in.

“It is important to remember that our impressive school system was first established during the 19th and early 20th centuries in similar circumstances as those of today,” Bishop Jenky wrote. “Infections and fevers of all kinds and periodic economic crises were all taken for granted, but so as well was the unshakable conviction that Catholic schools were an irreplaceable component of Catholic life.”

He cited “courageous families, zealous priests and especially consecrated religious women” for doing whatever was necessary to keep schools open. In addition, the Church accepted the responsibility for preparing young people for life in this world and the world that is to come.

“May Almighty God bless and inspire your ministries, keep you strong, safe and healthy, and give you every consolation of our Faith,” Bishop Jenky said.

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