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Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics.

On this week’s show, Rick welcomes Dr. Erin Barisano back to the program. Dr. Barisano is the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Orange.

Our topic of discussion today will center on the state of Catholic education in Orange County. How are things looking as we embark on this new year of 2021?

Listen in, and be encouraged!





Originally broadcast on 1/16/21



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


Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s show, Rick welcomes Dr. Erin Barisano back to the program. Barisano is the Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Orange.

Our topic of discussion today will center on the state of Catholic education in Orange County. How have things been going in regards to ‘distance learning’ in these times of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Tune in, and you’ll surely be encouraged by what you hear!





Originally broadcast on 5/30/20


There may be no better catalyst for growth in life than during times of adversity and change. As our nation works to navigate through the unchartered territory of COVID-19, the Diocese of Orange Catholic schools has met the challenge head on by moving quickly and intentionally to transition all 41 school sites to quality online distance learning. 

On Friday, March 13, after closely monitoring information from the CDC and OC Health Agency, the Department of Catholic Schools, led by Diocese of Orange Superintendent of Schools Dr. Erin Barisano, made the decision to close all elementary and high school campuses effective March 16. 

Immediately that afternoon, an emergency meeting was called with all principals as they began to disseminate the information to their school families and initiate a plan to launch distance learning beginning on March 18 (high schools) and March 19 (elementary schools). 

With only a few days to react, teachers and administrative staff jumped into action to prepare for the transition. In partnership with Loyola Marymount University, online professional development sessions were provided to all teachers on March 17 that addressed distance learning pedagogy and best practices. Teachers and administrators began using the platform Basecamp to share information within schools and across grade levels. 

While the transition from in-person learning to sustained distance learning is still in the early stages, the Department of Catholic Schools has received positive initial feedback and is confident that the level of instruction happening remotely is on par with what students receive in the classroom.  

“We here at the Diocesan level knew that this was going to be a challenge…but our principals and teachers have really exceeded our expectations,” says Diocese of Orange Assistant Superintendent Dr. Denise Valadez. “It’s making them think in new and innovative ways.” 

At the high school level, the nature of coursework development, in addition to online systems already in place, have made the move to distance learning a simpler transition. 

For the elementary schools, many students were already working in a 1:1 technology environment. Platforms such as Zoom, Google Classroom, Seesaw and Flipgrid are being utilized by teachers as they adapt their lesson plans for remote delivery. For the students, being able to interact with their teachers and classmates has provided some normalcy during what can be a scary time. 

“From the feedback I’ve [received]…when the kids saw the teacher (online) and could see their face, and the teacher could see the kids, it was just such a transformational moment,” says Director of Educational Programs Dr. Brad Snyder. 

St. John the Baptist Catholic School and Mater Dei High School parent Jen Cortez-Walters initially had her doubts that a robust learning environment in her home setting would be possible. She and her husband Jesse live with their blended family of two freshmen daughters, sixth and seventh grade sons and her parents. She also watches her two nieces who are in preschool and TK.  

After observing all of the kids actively and productively engaging in distance learning instruction provided by the schools, Cortez-Walters admitted she cried tears of relief and called the experience nothing short of miraculous. 

“[The schools] are not holding back, and they’re still holding them accountable,” says Cortez-Walters. “The word that came to my mind is that my children were thriving.” 

Beyond academics, schools are incorporating ways for students and families to connect through virtual spirit rallies, photo sharing, live stream mass services and daily prayers in an effort to strengthen community. 

“It exemplifies love for one another,” says St. Bonaventure Catholic School Principal, Kim White. “This is an opportunity to elevate academics, faith formation and our family prayer life. When we come out on the other side, you will see a Diocesan community [that will] be better educators for this experience.” 

The transition has not been without its challenges, as teachers and administrators are working around the clock to address issues such as technology safety, preschool programming and learning support. Since Catholic education is based on a partnership with parents, the schools will be continuing to ask for feedback through surveys and will listen to parents as they refine the distance learning delivery to meet their families’ needs. 

While the COVID-19 situation and timeline remain fluid, Barisano is keeping in contact with families through a weekly video message containing updates and encouragement, and she is grateful for a Catholic school community that is willing to journey together through these uncertain times. 

“I’m filled with so much pride in the way that our principals and teachers have stepped up to take initiative and respond to the needs of their school communities in a way that is very intentional, very thoughtful and mission-focused,” says Barisano. “It’s such an honor to serve alongside them.” 



On this episode, host Dr. Erin Barisano welcomes the mother-daughter duo of Pam Hurwitz and Jyllian Rhodes to the program.

After speaking to families throughout the Diocese of Orange, these longtime youth ministers have found that Catholic women greatly need spiritual nurturing. The duo speaks individually and together to groups small and large throughout Southern California and beyond at back-to-school nights, parish meetings, and in family homes. They also offer a small selection of inspirational resources for parents and families. To learn more, visit their website,

Be sure to SHARE this podcast!





Originally broadcast on 11/16/19


LOS ANGELES (CNS)For Catholics, the Nov. 1 solemnity of All Saints is a holy day of obligation, a day the faithful are obliged to receive the Eucharist as if it were a Sunday. 

Students, parents and staff at St. Martin of Tours School in Brentwood had something else reminding them to thank God around the Eucharistic table Nov. 1: Their church, and many of their own homes, had been spared from the devastating Getty Fire. This was their first day back at school since the fire broke out in the early morning hours of Oct. 28. 

Specifically, their gratitude was directed toward Los Angeles Fire Department firefighters, who worked quickly to help evacuate families and protect homes in the Brentwood area from the fire. 

“The firefighters did an incredible job getting this fire contained at a relatively fast pace, and we were able to hold it at 745 acres,” explained Jaime Moore, assistant chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department. 

Moore sat in the first pew at St. Martin during the All Saints’ Day Mass celebrated for students of the parish school, representing the firefighters who had spent the week working around the clock to put out the Getty Fire and help families affected by it. 

But this wasn’t his first time at the church. As a college student at UCLA years ago, Moore used to attend Mass there and even served as an adviser to the Brentwood parish’s youth group. 

“God has mysterious reasons for the things that he does, and it’s almost full circle,” Moore said before Mass in an interview with Angelus, the news outlet of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. 

When St. Martin of Tours pastor Father Paul Sustayta called Moore the night before to tell him about the Mass, the veteran fireman got a funny feeling. 

“I can’t help but think back to when I was a young 19-year-old, sitting in the pews as a college student, wondering and praying as to where my life would go,” Moore recalled. “So, it’s kind of nice to be able to come back and serve my community.” 

At the beginning of Mass, Moore accepted a donation of $1,000 for the fire department from the school community, as well as a thick stack of letters and richly illustrated thank-you cards from students. 

“I want to thank all of you, because I know it was difficult being away from home, worrying about when you were going to get home, especially right before Halloween,” Moore told the children. 

Minutes later, duty called: Moore had to leave Mass early to help residents return to their homes — some of them destroyed — as final evacuation orders were being lifted. 

One of the students affected by the fire was fifth-grader Stella Tesoriero. Her parents woke her up in the early morning hours of Oct. 28 as the wind-driven Getty Fire approached her street. 

The Getty Fire burned within five houses of their home, but thanks to the quick work of firefighters (and some help from “Mother Nature,” in the words of Moore), it was saved. Others were not so lucky: At least eight homes were destroyed and another five damaged, according to fire officials. 

“I wasn’t really panicked, because I knew the firefighters would help us,” said the fifth grader whose family stayed in a hotel that week. “I was just praying that our house and everyone else’s houses wouldn’t burn down, and that no one would get hurt.” 

Principal Debbie Margoulis, who has worked at St. Martin of Tours for 27 years, said she can’t recall a fire that got so close and affected so many families. 

“It’s been a really crazy week because we never knew when we’d be able to come back. We’re just happy to be able to come back today,” said Margoulis. 

She was alerted to the fire by a 3 a.m. phone call from a parent. She then called the pastor and within a short time, the school’s parents had all been notified of the fire and its corresponding evacuation zone, which included the school. 

The principal said the school’s families were quick to help one another. One parent who works at a nearby hotel reserved a block of rooms for school families to stay in that week. Margoulis and several parents opened up their homes for evacuees to stay in. 

“Families got together and stayed with families who weren’t evacuated, so it was really just a rallying point for the community,” she said. 

The principal thought it was appropriate that the children’s first day back at school coincided with the holy day. 

“Today’s a day when we celebrate the heroic virtue of the saints, and the firefighters remind me of that,” she said. “They are true heroes, and they really risk their lives to save property and lives.”  


Host Rick Howick interviews guests on a variety of topics. On this week’s program, Rick welcomes back one of our favorite guests, Dr. Pia DeSolenni. Pia is the Chancellor of the Diocese of Orange, and also the Theological Advisor to Bishop Kevin Vann.

Today, we’re going to discuss a number of items of interest; these include some of the troubling issues regarding parent’s rights in California; and, what is being presented to children in our public schools.









Originally broadcast on 5/5/18


WASHINGTON (CNS) — Students in schools across the country have to navigate their way around classes, exams, relationships, cliques, cafeteria food and crowded hallways. 

They also have to think about what they would do if someone with a gun came into their school, which seems all the more possible after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

The students there now enter brand-new terrain that only students from schools where mass shootings have taken place have any idea about. When classes resume at Stoneman Douglas on a modified schedule Feb. 28, they will face all their usual routines and challenges right up against the horrific memories of the fear and loss of just two weeks before. 

At first, many of these students channeled their raw grief into gun control activism. They gave speeches at vigils and numerous television interviews; they marched and planned bigger marches. They challenged political leaders and businesses associated with the National Rifle Association to do more to stop the carnage they had witnessed. They coined a movement name — #NeverAgain — and spread its message on social media. 

But these students — for all their passion and eloquence on camera – also have admitted to reporters that they have a hard time sleeping, or don’t want to be alone or are afraid of sudden noises. 

And all of that and more is straight out of books and studies on post-traumatic stress symptoms after what they just experienced. 

“What these students have gone through is unfathomable. I think it will be incredibly difficult to cope and move on,” said Rachel Annunziato, an associate professor of psychology at Jesuit-run Fordham University in New York. She said each student will have to find the support they need and to try different coping strategies. For now, she said: “the activism they are showing is heroic and may well help with coping as it could decrease a sense of helplessness and it also strengthens their support network.” 

The high school has provided grief counselors to students and families since the shooting took place and Annunziato said that will need to continue. 

“Some people, miraculously, are very resilient,” she said, but others can have a harder time and need help to connect with others to find healing. 

She also told Catholic News Service that the impact of this shooting extends far beyond Parkland, as also was proven by research after the 9/11 terrorist attacks when those impacted by the events were not just the people who directly experienced it. For example, her own 7-year-old sons in New York have talked about the school shooting in Florida and said the students are scared. 

Marco Clark, president and CEO of Bishop McNamara High School in Forestville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, said his students had “heightened anxiety” after the Parkland shooting and were talking with teachers about what they should do in a similar situation. 

The day after the shooting, the National Catholic Educational Association issued a statement with a link to a prayer service in response to a school shooting and articles about how to talk to kids about these events and turning to God in times of tragedy. 

As students nationwide — and particularly in Parkland — consider moving forward, there is one person with particular insight into this situation.  

Frank DeAngelis, principal at Columbine High School from 1996 to 2014, was principal at the Littleton, Colorado, school during the 1999 school shooting that killed 12 students and one teacher. Recently retired, he is now an international speaker about school violence and its impact on communities. 

USA Today reported that he already has given some advice to Ty Thompson, the Stoneman Douglas principal, telling him: “It’s the things you don’t even think about, things that will trigger the emotions. Teachers won’t know what to expect. It’s a day-by-day experience.” 

And the day before the Florida shooting, DeAngelis, who is Catholic, gave a talk at Gregorian Court University, a school founded by the Mercy sisters in Lakeland, New Jersey. 

He told students and faculty not only about the horror of the 1999 school shooting but also of the long and difficult road to recovery afterward, even for him. 

He said he struggled with survivor guilt — and still does. He wasn’t even sure he would make it after the shooting but was urged on by his pastor, Msgr. Kenneth Leone of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Littleton. 

The priest, who is now retired, told Angelis he had a “spiritual imperative” to rebuild the community. That inspired him at first to stay at the job until 2002, when all the students in the freshman class of 1999 graduated, but he ended up continuing as principal until 2014, when the children who were in their earliest school year in 1999, graduated. 

At the New Jersey college, the retired principal said a key aspect to finding healing at the high school so marred by tragedy was reaching out to those who felt marginalized. 

To illustrate that each student was “loved and included and that they were an indispensable link,” he gave each one a link in a chain that they forged together. 

Today, he said, the chain remains for all to see in a prominent place in the school.  


Sacramento, Calif., Mar 28, 2017 / 08:02 pm (CNA/EWTN News) – The California Catholic Conference has announced that it is sponsoring a bill to help attract and retain teachers in response to the state’s shortage of K-12 educators.

“Additional measures are needed in order to assure that our new teachers are given the appropriate preferential option that supports their development and commitment in their noble profession,” the conference said in a March 16 statement.

This “in turn translates to better service and better education of our youth.”

The conference, tied to the state’s Catholic conference of bishops, is the official voice of the Church in California’s legislative arena. It is proposing a bill which would give greater tax breaks to new teachers in the process of receiving their permanent credentials.

Besides paying back student loans and serving at the lower end of the salary scale, new teachers must “enroll in costly induction and professional development programs aimed at converting their preliminary credential to a permanent or ‘clear’ credential.”

California has suffered from a lack of educators since the recession hit in 2007. The conference says easing a teacher’s financial difficulties would incite greater quality and quantity of new blood to the profession.

The state requires teachers to complete the “clear” credential within the first five years of being employed, but schools or districts are not required to pay for these programs. Local educational agencies have an average annual fee of $2,000, and universities or colleges may charge up to $5,000 yearly to complete the induction programs.

New teachers are forced to pay out-of-pocket, and the legislative groups says the financial strain ultimately affects their students.

The bill, AB 516, would either give teachers working towards a “clear” credential a tax credit or a deduction for professional expenses. Newly accredited teachers would have the option to either claim up to a $500 credit or deduct $2,500 from their state income taxes to balance the fees required for these programs.

Over 310,000 teachers were employed in California, but after the economic recession in 2007, it has dropped to less than 296,000 in the 2014-2015 school year. According to the Learning Policy Institute, a study in 2013 reveals that California’s student-teacher ratio was 24 to 1 and is the highest ratio in the nation compared to the national average of 16 to 1.

The conference cited a study from the Learning Policy Institute that “the number of intern credentials, permits, and waivers it has issued” has nearly doubled between 2013 and 2016. These permits are issued to teachers who have not yet finished their permanent credential. The study also stated that the greatest growth occurred “in emergency-style permits known as Provisional Intern Permits (PIPs) and Short-Term Staff Permits (STSPs),” which are only issued when classrooms have an immediate need.

California not only needs an increase of teachers but a better system “to support, develop and retain qualified teachers,” the conference added.

“The most effective way to achieve this goal of offering a good education is to have qualified and prepared teachers in the educational work force committed to their profession.”



Catholic schools in the Diocese of Orange are undergoing a technological transformation.

In some grade levels of every elementary school and in all high schools, every student is equipped with either an iPad, Chromebook or laptop that they have access to both in the classroom and at home through the one-to-one program.

But Greg Dhuyvetter, superintendent of schools, says that integrating technology into education is not the most important goal.

“What I care about is effective education and technology is one of the many tools that’s doing this,” says Dhuyvetter. “The idea here is that the device is a student’s tool. Whether it is for taking notes, creating, or researching information, that the student has the device available whenever it best fits the need of what they are doing.”

About four years ago, Dhuyvetter and his staff dedicated themselves to implementing the one-to-one program, one device for each student, in all the Diocese of Orange schools by the beginning of the 2015 school year, a goal that was met last fall.

Dhuyvetter says the Diocese of Orange is the perfect size for programs like this; with only 41 schools, teachers and administers are easily able to communicate and work together. Additional staff within the diocese with technology expertise also is part of the collaborative process.

In addition to the one-to-one program, the diocese has the capability to provide Wi-Fi in all the schools in order to support online access for the devices on campus. A content filter was also implemented to restrict access to questionable websites and content. Each of the schools has the ability to recommend adjustments to the filter for their own school or for a particular grade level. In addition, every school uses Common Sense Media, a program that teaches students responsible use of technology.

“Of course nothing is 100 percent so some of it comes down to good judgment, which is taught through the Common Sense Media program,” says Scott Gotreau, director of educational technology at the diocese. “But we also manage student devices at each school site so that they can’t access certain programs and get into things they shouldn’t be using.”

Heather Ambler, a fifth- and sixth-grade language arts and religion teacher at St. Polycarp School in Stanton, finds that having technology as a tool in her classroom helps her hone in on each student’s progress. She uses IXL, a program that includes problems for students to solve and instantly tells them if it is correct. If not, the program explains the correct answer. It also offers medals for high scores and certificates to the teacher for their classroom completing a certain number of problems. The program also sends the teacher data on each student’s progress, which allows her to instantly know when each child needs additional instruction.

“I no longer have to wait two weeks until I grade a test to know that a student is struggling in an area,” says Ambler. “I’m able to focus on what the child really needs.”

Cynthia Garcia, an eighth-grade student at St. Anne’s School in Santa Ana, enjoys the convenience of using her iPad to access Google Classroom and Notability to complete her assignments. Google Classroom is a paperless system designed for students and teachers to discuss learning materials with each other and has a feature for students to submit their assignments.

“It makes it easier to communicate with my teacher,” says Garcia. “I can easily complete my assignments and send it right back to my teacher. If I have a question and she’s online, she’s able to answer. Or if she’s not online, I can post the question on the classroom page and if one of my classmates is online typically someone will respond to it.” She also enjoys using programs like iMovie and Keynote to create presentations for special projects.

“I think that the iPad offers a lot of different apps and different resources that we can use which make learning a lot faster and easier,” says Garcia.

Kelly Botto, a seventh- and eighth-grade teacher at St. Anne’s and also the school’s technology coordinator, is excited about integrating technology into education.

“One of the things that I love about it as a teacher is that there’s no more excuses that they couldn’t complete their assignment because they left their book at home,” says Botto. “They can access their book not just on their iPads but also on their phone or their computer at home.” She says that next year her school is considering using only e-books, which should lighten students’ backpacks and also make school texts more accessible for students.

Botto adds, “I think that what I’ve been able to see with them since we started one-to-one, is that it helped me aid them in growing and strengthening their critical thinking skills and creativity.”

“The idea is that teachers should have a tool box in which the technological tools should be in the tool box but not the only thing in there,” Dhuyvetter says. “You can do an awful lot with a tablet or a Chrome Book or a laptop, but if I were to say that’s the only thing that you’re ever allowed to use we would be losing a lot of education. The idea is this is just one more tool that they have to be able to use to be functional in our society and it makes their learning experiences better.”