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On this episode, host Rick Howick welcomes Mike Schabert to the program.

Mike is the Associate Superintendent of Marketing and Enrollment in the Department of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Orange.

Listen as he shares his story and vision for the future of Catholic education for our boys and girls.

Be sure to SHARE this podcast!





Originally broadcast on 10/17/20


Formal Catholic education in Orange County began in 1910. Over a hundred years later, the journey of faith and excellence continue in 41 Catholic school communities in the region. Below are a few examples on what went on in a few of Orange County Catholic schools this season: 

Our Lady of Guadalupe School in La Habra participated in the Pennies from Heaven campaign and raised over $600 for the La Habra Life Center. The school also participated in the Hour of Code from Dec. 9-15. The school was decorated with “tech the halls.” Students received introductory lessons in JavaScript, Blocky, Scratch, and Python. 

Mission Basilica School students celebrated the season of Advent and Christmas with their Faith Family Program. Each faith family is comprised of students in grades TK – 8. During the season of Advent students discussed the true meaning of Christmas with their faith family. The ornaments on the tree were filled with notes from students, showcasing their gratitude for the season and the gifts they would love to give to Jesus. 

St. Hedwig School in Los Alamitos spread the Christmas cheer at the Seal Beach Christmas Parade, while their 8th grade class went on a class field trip to Washington, D.C. 

St. Columban School in Garden Grove presented a Christmas pageant to the community. The pageant was produced by the drama club and included students from preschool through eighth grade. Besides the pageant, the school community celebrated that their school flag has returned from Antarctica, where it flew for five days with a group of researchers that studied the Adelie penguins. Through Skype, St. Columban students witnessed the Adelieslaying on their eggs. 

Sixth and seventh-grade students at St. Polycarp School in Stanton finished their Christian Service project. They shared their research on the impact pollution has on our well-being and the Earth, while the rest of the student body participated in an art contest made out of recyclables.  

St. Junipero Serra School in Rancho Santa Margarita has an annual Advent tradition. For the past 18 years they have participated in the Adopt-a-Family outreach project to benefit families selected by Catholic Charities. The school adopts over 40 families in need and helps them celebrate a merrier Christmas. “As our theme [this year] reminds us, Grace is a Gift from God, our commitment to the Adopt-A-Family program allows us to share God’s gifts and blessings with others,” shared Angie Trudell, the school’s lead principal.  

As a ministry of the Diocese of Orange, Orange County Catholic schools provide families with an alternative option for the education of their children. The foundation of Catholic school education is the faith-based community which includes individual families, the parish family and the diocesan community. Together it provides an environment rich in Catholic tradition. Within the framework of a small class size, students are able to utilize and maximize their God-given gifts as their education progresses from elementary to secondary to university levels.  

All schools are accredited by the Western Catholic Educational Association (WCEA) and by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). For more information, go to


The Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph was begun around the year 1650 in small communities established in the area of Le Puy, France by women of whom we know little more than their names, and by a Jesuit priest, Jean-Pierre Medaille, who had a unique idea about religious communities of women. Father Medaille had a vision to go out into the city, divide up the neighborhoods, discover the needs of the people, find ways to meet them, and identify lay partners who want to do good works in collaboration.

Today, the Congregation’s commitment to education is expressed in a variety of forms including elementary, secondary, university and other adult education. The commitment to extend the healing mission of Christ is expressed through acute care hospitals, rehabilitation programs, home health care, community education, primary-care clinics, and wellness programs. The works of the Congregation have expanded, however, beyond education and health care to also include helping new immigrants, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, and fostering spiritual development.

This commitment by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange to recognize and respond to community needs, led to the creation of the CSJ Educational Network in 1988. The CSJ Educational Network, collaborates in the Church’s mission of education through a network of affiliated Catholic schools throughout California. Empowered by the Sisters’ charism “that all may be one” (Jn 17:21), the CSJ Educational Network is committed to being builders of unity and instruments of reconciliation in the affiliated school communities.

The CSJ Educational Network provides programs and services that focus on the spiritual and professional needs of the educators in the member schools. Member schools have access to the faith-based, educational resources, and professional experience and expertise of personnel of the Educational Network. The Ministerial Formation Program for Educators offers all Educational Network members opportunities to grow in their knowledge of the Catholic faith, deepening their spiritual life and sharing with others how to promote and build a Catholic identity within the classroom. The Peer Leadership Program is a peer-learning experience that engages school leaders in an environment to reflect and address critical leadership learning opportunities as the spiritual and academic mentors of Catholic school ministries. In addition, in-service opportunities and faculty retreats help renew the call and commitment to the teaching mission of Jesus through prayer, personal integration and community building.

The CSJ Educational Network core values of Catholic identity, excellence, justice and dignity reflect its mission and vision for Catholic education in the 21st century. By empowering school leaders to form students as proactive instruments of unity and reconciliation in the Church and a global society, the CSJ Educational Network extends and fosters the teaching ministry of Jesus in the tradition of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Orange, by nurturing and supporting relationships that influence Catholic education. Such relationships help educators to form and transform a Catholic school’s academic and social mission, into a community of faith where Jesus, as the Master Teacher, is the inspiration for all.

For more information on the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange and the CSJ Educational Network please visit and


Summertime is often a much-needed extended holiday for Catholic high school teachers. But this June and early July, teachers from Santa Margarita Catholic High School and Mater Dei High School were working overtime with Catholic scientists, philosophers and theologians to meet a crucial need: the integration of faith and science in their classrooms and throughout the high school curriculum. 

The Science & Religion Initiative (SRI) of the McGrath Institute for Church Life (MICL) of the University of Notre Dame welcomed participants from the Diocese of Orange and many others to week-long seminars at the Notre Dame campus.  

Maria Andrade Johnson, Thomas Lau, Linda Nguyen, Jorge Ledezma, and Michael Omlin represented Santa Margarita Catholic High School at the week-long Foundations Seminar, while Marla Utley, James Reynolds, and Alec Sixta represented Mater Dei High School at the advanced Capstone Seminar, offered by SRI.  

“The participation by our science and religion teachers in the initiative confirms SM’s commitment to providing the most innovative and well-rounded education possible for our students. As a result of this professional growth, our teachers will be able to effectively communicate to our students the relationship between science and religion and integrate the two curriculums when appropriate,” said John Hayek,assistant principal of curriculum and instruction at Santa Margarita Catholic High School. 

Since 2014, Catholic educators have joined with peers from Catholic schools across the country for the sake of building “a synthesis of faith and culture, reached by integrating all of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel,” as called for by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education. Since then, more than 400 high school teachers nationwide have participated in Foundations and Capstone seminars in an effort to create a new approach to professional development and classroom implementation.  

SRI gives teachers official Church resources and insights to draw upon for big-picture discussions and lesson plans that break down the walls often isolating religion education from science education. The initiative equips educators to convey the complementarity of faith and reason, science and religion. The approach received international recognition in 2018 with an Expanded Reason Award bestowed by the Vatican Foundation and the University of Francisco de Vitoria.  

Selected participants probe ways to help students “see scientific investigation and discoveries in the light of the Catholic faith,” said Chris Baglow, director of SRI. “To be able to connect [scientific learning] to their faith is a way of helping young people to see the glorious harmony between the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture, which both reveal the Creator.”  

Addressing the teachers at one of this summer’s seminars, Baglow suggested “bringing home to your students that, without a holistic view of the world, they’ll find it very hard to understand themselves and find it very hard to know how to act and find meaning in that world.”  

They need to see how “Christianity is offering answers” in a world where divine principles endure but “there are always new horizons” for any field of knowledge to explore, Baglow said. Theology is defined as “faith seeking understanding”; that is, “it’s an activity” in which students can feel engaged.  

One teacher responded to the seminar by commenting that students “shouldn’t think it means they’re less Catholic” if they have questions that go beyond their catechetical learning. In embracing questions, “they come to understand God better.”  

SRI is funded by a generous grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The initiative’s summer seminars on the campus of the University of Notre Dame and at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, along with “Institute Days” held for teachers in particular dioceses, assist Catholic schools with innovative professional development and interdisciplinary collaboration. 


St. Junipero Serra Catholic School (SJSC) kicked off Catholic Schools Week with its annual CSW Mass and TK/K prayer service. SJSC was honored to have the Most Reverend Thanh Thai Nguyen, Auxiliary Bishop of Orange celebrate his first Mass at St. Serra. As is customary at every Mass, students sat together with their Bear Prayer Partners – a tradition where students in middle school are paired with students in lower grades as part of a mentoring program. Prayer Partners attend Mass and other school events together, forming strong relationships that will last throughout their SJSC journey. 

The Catholic Schools Week celebration continued on Sunday, January 27 as many SJSC current families, along with potential new families, filled the campus for Open House. They visited classrooms, the Book Fair, checked out the school bus program, and more. Visitors were welcomed by the school president and principals, along with student leadership and parents, who were on hand to answer questions and guide visitors around the beautiful 10-acre campus. 

Visitors were also able to visit the new St. Serra Chapel and Rosary Garden. Also new to explore was the Student Creation and Leadership Center, SJSC’s commitment to STEAM education, which houses a production studio with video equipment and green screens; a Think Space with writeable walls for sharing and projecting ideas; a Performance Room to support the school’s music and theater programs; and two SmartLabs from Creative Learning Systems. 

Following Open House, St. Serra held its 6th Annual Seasons Tuition Assistance Luncheon. This heartwarming yearly event not only brings together current and past SJSC families for a delicious luncheon, but also supports the tuition assistance program at St. Serra and urban schools within the Diocese of Orange. Since its inception the luncheon has raised in excess of $470,000, helping families struggling financially to send their children to Catholic schools.  

At the luncheon, Mr. Dave Hanna, owner of Hanna’s Restaurant and Bar, was awarded the 2019 Our Lady of Guadalupe Award of Commitment for his dedication to Catholic education. Dave’s heartfelt acceptance speech was peppered with humorous anecdotes about his own experiences as a Catholic school student, ending with inspirational words he learned as a result, of his Catholic education, “What you are is a gift from God. What you do is a gift to God.”  

During Catholic Schools Week, SJSC students celebrated a week of themed activities, including a boisterous pep rally. Students also demonstrated service (one of the four components of Catholic education) with a Rubber Duck & Bake Sale supporting victims of the recent wildfires, and a toiletries collection for Catholic Charities of Orange County. 

According to SJSC President Angeline Trudell, “St. Junipero Serra Catholic School continues to enrich the spiritual and academic lives of the children we serve…we move forward in joy and hope for the future of Catholic Education.” 

To find out more about St. Junipero Serra Catholic School visit, follow them on Facebook or Instagram, and plan on attending their Family STEAM Night on March 12, 2019 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.


The Catholic community holds up its formative education programs as a model for the rest of the nation, and that pride is not unfounded. According to the latest Nation’s Report Card, Catholic school fourth and eighth grade students outperformed their public school counterparts in math and reading.  

Also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), it is administered by the National Center for Education Statistics, within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Services. It is the largest nationally representative assessment that measures student achievement levels in various subjects at four-year grade intervals. NAEP data can be found at 

The four achievement levels are below basic (less than partial mastery), basic (partial mastery of fundamental skills and knowledge), proficient (solid academic performance) and advanced (superior performance). The scale score of 0-500 is determined by the student test results of all levels of achievement.  

In math, Catholic school fourth grade students have a scale score of 245 compared to the public schools’ score of 239. Eighth grade Catholic school students scored 294 compared to their public school counterpart score of 282.  

Catholic schools continued to earn high marks in reading as well. Catholic school fourth graders earned a scale score of 235 compared to their public school counterpart score of 221. Catholic school eighth graders earned 283 while public schools scored 265.  

So, why do Catholic schools perform better than public schools in national assessments?  

For Catholic schools in California, including the Diocese of Orange, one reason could be a result of many of its dioceses adopting the STAR Assessments for reading and math skills and abilities testing needs. Students are assessed in September, January or February and May.  

“The results of the test, the data is used at the school, classroom level and at the individual level to adjust instruction as needed to a very individualized level so that students are getting what they need,” said Diocesan Superintendent of Schools Dr. Erin Barisano. “The benefit of giving it three times a year is that the data can be used right then and there to adjust the lesson tomorrow for the kids. It’s the immediacy of the feedback that has been really instrumental in student achievement.”  

The data allows teachers to challenge high-performing students and also adjust instruction or provide intervention for students who are struggling in order to bring them up to grade level.  

A 2017-2018 report by NCEA (National Catholic Education Association) shows that non-Catholics are recognizing the benefits of a Catholic education. The NCEA conducts Catholic education research and publishes an annual report of statistics that include enrollment, staffing, schools, tuition, student race and ethnicity.  

Their enrollment research shows that although there’s been a decline in the U.S. since 2007, non-Catholic enrollment has gone up from 2.7 percent in 1970 to 19 percent today. Catholic schools have worked hard to turn around enrollment numbers.  

“One of the great things about our schools is that we were the first diocese to roll out the one-to-one device program at the diocesan level,” said Barisano. “Introducing technology into an already-strong existing curriculum is something that I think today’s parents are really interested in. We have a number of our schools that incorporate blended learning, which utilizes technology as another instructional tool, again to deliver curriculum in a way that is relevant to students and helps prepare them.”  

Barisano added, “Another area that is really attractive to parents and something that we will focus on, is really promoting the values-based education that we are founded on, specifically in the context of Catholic schools, the gospel values and our Catholic identity. Ensuring that is at the forefront of everything that we do in a way that is very inclusive of our non-Catholic families and also very clear in our Catholicism.”  

Gabriella Karina, the Diocese’s manager for Catholic Schools Enrollment and Marketing, assumed her position in June and began visiting schools to learn more about them. She says her meetings with principals and staff in each school have been an informative experience.  

“I think so many times when people think of Catholic education the first thing they think about are the barriers, the finances, but there are, at the same time, so many beautiful stories,” said Karina. “I’d visit a school and the principal is in tears because a student who has special needs, who had been struggling in public school, came to her school and now is doing so well.”  

Catholic schools are finding more ways to provide financial aid to students. In the Diocese of Orange, the Orange Catholic Foundation raises funds to provide tuition assistance for families who can’t afford a Catholic education. The foundation has also been generous in providing grants for technology professional development for teachers. The foundation organizes the Conference on Business & Ethics every year and invites business, religious, academic and philanthropic leaders to a forum that reinforces a commitment to ethical practices. This year’s sold-out conference raised $600,000 for elementary tuition assistance.  

In addition, schools are developing strong community and alumni relationships whose donations are also helping to build the next generation of Catholic school students. 


Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s program, Rick welcomes back some familiar faces to the show. Daryl & Esther Sequeira are a father-daughter team who are both involved on the teaching side of Catholic education in southern California.

Join us for a truly engaging conversation today!







Originally broadcast on 4/21/18



Santiago, Chile, Oct 19, 2017 / 12:04 am (CNA/EWTN News) – Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, proposed last week five keys for pastoral education “to respond in depth to the current challenges of society.”

The cardinal participated in Chile’s Sixth National Congress on Catholic Education, Oct. 12-13, organized by the Chilean bishops’ conference and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

In his keynote address,  Cardinal Versaldi explained that education “must be careful to avoid  two  extreme and opposite dangers: that of an educational program imposed on the student without respecting his autonomy and requirements; and an educational program that simply goes along with whatever the  students ask for, or without any consideration for their personal growth.”

The cardinal then proposed five keys for education in Catholic schools:


Proclamation of the Christian life

“The Catholic school has both the right and duty to not only teach in consistency with its own values, but also to have an inner dynamic of  proclaiming and living the Christian life,” Cardinal Versaldi said.

“Such an educational program  becomes for believers in Christ an opportunity for  growth and the  integration of faith and reason and also for living out the life of the Church.”

For non-believers it is “an opportunity to better know the authentic Gospel message which their conscience has to then consider and  which they’re always  free to accept or not,” he said.

“It would be unjust to ask, in the name of tolerance for Catholic schools to take a neutral approach  in what they teach  and to not to be able to foster a religious way of life, while still respecting  people’s freedom, since the students  have decided to go to an  institution they already know is Catholic.”


The witness of charity

Cardinal Versaldi said a school community’s  witness must be “obviously noted for” its charity, which makes “the values conveyed through its teaching credible and attractive.”

“A Christian school community imbued with this charity is in and of itself the best means of pastoral ministry.”


Ongoing formation of teachers

The ongoing formation of professors in teaching methods and especially in “their spiritual growth  and their truly living out their faith … is not a waste of  time or effort which takes way from their actual  teaching,” Cardinal Versaldi said.

Such formation can make both the faculty and the administration able to “credibly engage with and also to be a partner in dialogue with civil society and the state schools in order to create a Chilean society founded on the  shared values of respect for cultural and religious diversity.”

Working together with the Church

Cardinal Versaldi said the school’s pastoral ministry must work side by side with the local Church and parishes so that they “mutually help each other out in their different  roles” without “imposing  on the school the responsibilities that mostly belong to the parish or vice versa.”

In addition “it is important to foster a consistent witness, including that of their lives outside the classroom, such that the Church community would think the school a living example of her realities.”


Providence as a guide

“Schools need to deepen their knowledge of what’s going on in society in both its positive and negative aspects, discerning  the signs of the times, animated not by a paralyzing pessimism but rather with Christian hope founded on the faith that human history is always guided by Divine Providence despite people’s free will,” the cardinal stated.

“It is important to maintain this faith and translate it into the work of education as an overriding way of acting in order to become protagonists in a true renewal of the social scene without letting oneself be manipulated by the various political factions.”

“Thus the Catholic school will always be on the forefront of dealing with the new challenges that the world must face such as care for the environment and immigration that politics in general tends to discount, marginalizing more people and creating dangers for future generations,” Cardinal Versaldi concluded.


Before parents make a decision about the right elementary and/or high school for their children, they should consider enrolling them in a Catholic school.

“The benefits of a Catholic education are very, very clear,” said Greg Dhuyvetter, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Orange. “It provides that exceptional balance that’s not available anywhere else.

Dhuyvetter, who oversees 41 elementary and secondary schools that serve 15,000 students, recently sat down with OC Catholic TV to discuss the Catholic school system in advance of Catholic Schools Week, which takes place from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6.

“Students are in an environment where the signs and symbols remind them of their Catholic faith all the time,” he says. “The whole environment, the behavior code, the way people act towards one another – are built upon Catholic teachings. All of these are important elements of why Catholic schools are the best place where students can have their Catholic faith supported, grown and developed over time.”

Academically, Catholic schools in Orange County are equipped with the latest technology and up-to-date instruction methods.

“Based upon our test scores, I would put our schools up against any public school in relation to academic achievement,” says Sally Todd, associate superintendent of schools. “Our schools are extremely strong, Our parents will attest to that.”

Parents also say that their children feel safe on campus, Dhuyvetter says.

“And that’s something bigger than just the buildings,” he says. “It has something to do with the way they are run, the way people support each other, the way everyone acts.”

But with 41 Catholic schools in the county, how does a parent choose?

“Although they all have some excellent academic opportunities in a faith-based and growing environment, they’re all different,” Dhuyvetter says. “If I were a parent considering a Catholic school, the most important thing, and what I would stress above anything else, is that they need to visit the school and get a feeling for the environment.”

He suggested families consider the school that serves their parish, then look at other schools. He also suggested touring the campus and meeting the principal. Is the child comfortable at a smaller or larger school? Is there specialized art or science program that interests the child?

Todd recalled one parent who ended up placing one child at Rosary Academy in Fullerton, another child at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, and a third child at Servite High School in Anaheim.

“It was because that individual school fit the needs of the child,” Todd says.

Servite and Rosary, in addition to Cornellia Connelly High School in Anaheim, are single-sex schools, a variation that newly selected Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King wants to increase in her district. She recently cited single-sex schools as one way to improve academic achievement.

While single-sex schools may be a preferred option for some students, it may not be the best fit for all students, Dhuyvetter notes. “It isn’t for everyone, just like coed school isn’t for everybody,” he says, adding that it is fortunate that the Diocese of Orange offers both options for students. “This is where a family needs to be visiting multiple schools and seeing what environment works best for their students.”

Whether it’s for an advanced learner or a child with special learning needs, there’s a Catholic school for that child, Dhuyvetter says.

“There’s a fit for a family in one of our schools that would serve the needs of their children,” he says. “We consider it a great opportunity for every Catholic family.”



Each year about this time, around Catholic Schools Week, I thank God for two teachers who remain indelible in my educational memory. Both were nuns who made me decidedly uncomfortable—for distinctly different reasons—but whose lessons stuck.

The first was a towering Holy Cross sister. She was a monolith of black and white topped off by an aggressively starched fluted headpiece, a unique bit of garb that we all imagined was meant to simulate a halo but which looked to us more like a corona of flame when her eyes narrowed. I fell into a deep funk of despair when I learned that she was to be my sixth grade teacher. Rather than drawing the jolly Sister Sebastian or the young, sweet-natured Sister Donald Mary, I got Sister Michael Joseph, the Vince Lombardi of St. Barnabas School.

We learned one bedrock fact very quickly in Sister Michael Joseph’s classroom: if you found yourself in her good graces, life was sweet. Birds sang, the air smelled of honeysuckle and even your sack lunch tasted better. If you managed to get on her bad side, however, everything shriveled to a cinder. I managed to spend the majority of my time nominally in her good books, and when I was sent to public junior high school the next year (over my objections), I found myself an entire year ahead of the curriculum—thanks to Sister Michael Joseph.

The next time I had a nun for a teacher was in college, when Sister Claire presided over my freshman English lit class. She was young, breezy, energetic and knew her subject down to the ground. We would plow through a book nearly every week, but we studied one particular work throughout the entire semester as an ongoing project: James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

“Ulysses” is not necessarily a book one reads for fun, and it would never in a million years have made it into Sister Michael Joseph’s class. It contains some very Joycean sex scenes. They kept me from falling asleep when reading them late at night at my dorm room desk, but when the time came the next day to discuss them in a class taught by a nun…

Naturally, the most comfortable person in the room was Sister Claire. Audacious as some of the scenes may have been in their time, she told us, Joyce was not writing about sex simply to titillate, but rather to illustrate character, flesh out the story (forgive me) and advance the plot. “Ulysses” was, she asserted, a landmark of modernist literature and worthy of our attention, even if it did create quite a kerfuffle when it was first published in its entirety in 1922. Slowly, with Sister’s easygoing encouragement, we came around, and discussions became brisk and enlightening. We began to see literature through mature analytical eyes.

I have had many teachers who were easy to forget, and a few who remain unforgettable. The pair of nuns who graced my education in the most unexpected ways are always before me.


Patrick Mott, Editor, Orange County Catholic