BELLE HARBOR — When it comes to supporting Catholic journalism, St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy Principal Chris Scharbach doesn’t hesitate to take the lead.
For the past two years, Scharbach has headed up the drive for his school to take top honors in The Tablet’s Fundraiser for Catholic Schools (formerly The Tablet’s COVID Relief Fundraiser for Catholic Schools).
Thanks to Scharbach’s encouragement and leadership, the students at St. Francis de Sales sold nearly 1,000 subscriptions to The Tablet over the last two years, earning thousands of dollars for both themselves and their school.
Scharbach sees The Tablet as the preferred way to get news about the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“The reality is that the media today doesn’t cater to us at all, but The Tablet has always been the journalism arm that’s rooted in the principles of the Catholic Church,” Scharbach said. He noted that for him the paper is indispensable because it focuses on such topics as faith, morality, and social justice, as well as the activities of the diocese.
Scharbach added that as a Catholic school principal it was important for his students and their families to be exposed to news in such a way and view it all as part of the evangelization process of the Catholic Church. He views the printed page as a valuable tool to promote the message of the Church.
“What The Tablet is able to do that the Daily News, the New York Post, or the Queens Chronicle can’t do is promote our core values and our teachings,” he added.
He also cited the paper’s reporting of local issues, pointing out the fair and unbiased coverage of the incident in which a Hunter College adjunct art professor angrily cursed at pro-life students in a college hallway, and later attacked a journalist asking about the incident with a machete.
Additionally, he commended The Tablet for presenting positive articles that highlight acts of faith and service and always moving to reflect on the diocese in a fair, even-handed, and non-sensational manner.
Scharbach also praised Tablet Jr. as a valuable means of encouraging students to be creative and write, edit, and produce the monthly supplement for youth featured in The Tablet. In fact, in January 2020, the students of St. Francis de Sales produced a copy of the publication.
“What’s really great about Tablet Jr. is that it’s really unique,” said Scharbach. “There are not many dioceses, if any, in the country that publish such a paper. [Many] dioceses don’t even have an adult newspaper, let alone one geared towards younger readers. And what’s really special about it is that it’s not just a monthly crossword puzzle for kids, but rather a full pull-out section that is written for students and by students.”
He emphasized the focus on social justice found on the pages of Tablet Jr. He called it “a learning tool” that encourages students to write, adding that better writers make better readers.
Upcoming Tablet Fundraiser
With two successful Tablet fundraiser wins behind him, Scharbach is looking forward to keeping his school’s winning streak going when The Tablet’s Fundraiser for Catholic Schools kicks off its third campaign on Sept. 25, which will run through Oct. 6. Students in schools throughout the diocese will have the opportunity to act as paper boys and girls selling subscriptions for The Tablet for $25 while earning $10 for themselves and $10 for their schools with each subscription sold.
Diocese of Brooklyn Schools Superintendent Deacon Kevin McCormack called Scharbach a dynamic Catholic educator.
“He’s got an uncanny ability to be able to anticipate concerns before they become problems and he’s able to address them very, very clearly and distinctly,” Deacon McCormack said. “There’s a way to build a community, and clearly the community at St. Francis de Sales is a very strong one. It’s among our finest schools and larger than many of our high schools. Chris just understands the big picture and is someone who is able to optimize situations and make the most of them.”
McCormack added that Scharbach has already started to act as a mentor for other administrators and is helping to shape the next generation.
“In fact, some of the people he is mentoring are a little bit older than him so he’s a natural leader and one of the strongest assets we have in the diocese,” McCormack said.
The Tablet Membership Program
Scharbach’s support of Catholic journalism was demonstrated when he became one of the first to sign up for The Tablet Membership Program as a top tier Founder member. The program allows members to not only support Catholic journalism, but to also become part of The Tablet family.
Scharbach said that he was greatly influenced by a quote from Pope Francis: “We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on clear and unbiased representation of the facts.”
He praised The Tablet as being a means to answer Pope Francis’ call to help young people distinguish between good and evil.
Scharbach epitomizes the concept of a consummate educator whose entire career has been in Catholic education. He is the product of a Catholic education, having attended Catholic schools from fifth grade forward.
He attended grammar school at St. Thomas the Apostle and high school at Cathedral Prep in Queens. He always knew that his vocation would include serving the Church, whether it was as a lector or Eucharistic minister, or in his current role as an educator in a Catholic school.
The married father of two taught for five years at St. Rose of Lima and served three years as assistant principal at Divine Wisdom and will be starting his eleventh year as principal at St. Francis de Sales.
Scharbach comes from a family of educators. “Teaching or being an administrator in a Catholic school is such a huge vocation,” he said.
“It really is a calling and it’s a calling that was instilled in me by my grandparents and my parents.”
He also mentioned that he came from a family that has always supported the Catholic Church.
“I know that my upbringing had a lot to do with why I’m here today in this role.
“We don’t always know why God called us, but God called us. It’s not by chance but all part of His plan,” he added.