Rev. Mark S. Bialek: Pastor, Catholic School Ambassador
Cherish the pastor who understands the Catholic school business. Beyond viewing the school as a mission of the Church and parish, he appreciates his personal role in helping to create the experiences that the school promises. He is present in the school as its spiritual leader. He deliberates on the Board of Specified Jurisdiction, casting a vote along with other members. He advocates for the school and speaks often to help promote its successes and the value of the education.
St. John Catholic School (Westminster, MD) relishes having such a partner and school ambassador in Rev. Mark S. Bialek, Pastor, St. John Roman Catholic Church. “Father Mark wants our school to grow and succeed and has been one of our biggest champions,” said Jo Marie Tolj, Principal. “He supports us in every way possible – from leading us in prayer, to attending events, to building relationships with the parish and larger community that ensure financial support. It’s so nice to work with a pastor who remains this connected to our school.”
“At the heart of every Catholic school is the living word of the Gospel. Pastors certainly take on the fundamental role as educators in faith formation. In addition, we can be a bridge between the school and parish and also the local community.” – Rev. Mark S. Bialek
Fr. Mark described his role, as called upon by Pope Francis, as missionary disciple in helping others to “live the joy of the Gospel, encounter Christ and live out their faith.” He models that joy as he promotes St. John School.
Parish and Community Connections
Fr. Mark joins the principal and advancement director in adopting many Healey practices for Cultivating the Parish Community (PDF). In particular:
- In welcoming new parishioners and updating the parish community, Fr. Mark talks regularly – in person and from the pulpit – about St. John School. He also promotes the school regularly through Facebook.
- He encourages parish endeavors that support the school. The annual Christmas bazaar, a joint effort between the parish and the school for over 40 years, earns $30K on average for the school, including tuition assistance. Parishioners help paint the school and keep the grounds and are involved in activities at the school.
- The principal and pastor work together to promote and participate in collaborative parish and school events such as Trunk or Treat and the Annual Downtown Westminster Memorial Day Parade.
- The school provides regular updates in the parish bulletin.
- The teachers and catechists from school and religious education programs coordinate use of their shared space and mutual activities. Students from the school and parish programs write buddy letters to each other.
“We’re also making a conscious effort to be involved in the local community,” Fr. Mark said. “We’re reaching out to the Chamber of Commerce, business owners and other charitable organizations. These are relationships that are going to matter for the parish and the school over time.”
Dianne Wrobel, the school’s Advancement Director, reported that 75% of new student enrollment results directly from St. John’s parish, referrals from the community and partnerships with local parishes.
“We are grateful that so many pastors like Fr. Mark understand the importance of the parish’s and Church’s investment in Catholic schools,” said Jason Morrison, Vice President of Operations, Healey Education Foundation. “By strengthening our school communities, pastors are engaging more children and families in the life of the Church.”
APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION EVANGELII GAUDIUM OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS TO THE BISHOPS, CLERGY, CONSECRATED PERSONS AND THE LAY FAITHFUL ON THE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL IN TODAY’S WORLD, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (PDF)
In Defense of Breakdancing Priests, Fr. Damian Ference, July 26, 2017 (Word On Fire Blog)