Guest Columnists

St. Francis de Sales School Spreading the Good News

By Chris Scharbach

When I first became Principal of St. Francis de Sales Parish school in 2013, I took a few days to read about our school patron saint, St. Francis de Sales, and was surprised to discover that he was the patron saint of journalists.

In 1923, Pope Pius XI designated St. Francis de Sales as the patron saint of writers and journalists, citing his use of fliers and books to guide people and convert Calvinists spiritually. That moment of discovery came full circle this March when all of the schools in the Diocese of Brooklyn were invited to participate in The Tablet’s COVID-19 Relief Fundraiser.

The campaign allowed students from our diocesan elementary schools to participate in a contest in which they would sell The Tablet subscriptions to help raise funding for our schools while also earning money themselves. The fundraiser was a “win-win” for our schools and The Tablet and De Sales Media by allowing our students to raise money for their school; earn incredible cash rewards, and support The Tablet and Catholic journalism in our diocese.

Over the last few years, our school, like many schools in the diocese, has formed a strong partnership with DeSales Media and The Tablet. Schools like St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy have been given iPads and Chromebooks for students to use, which was crucial in switching to remote learning last March. Also, many of the schools in the diocese have trained Diocesan Technology Institute (DTI) coaches.

These DTI coaches are teachers in our schools who go through hours of training and professional turnkey  development that helps teachers integrate technology into their classrooms. Finally, each month The Tablet invites one of our schools to put together a mini-newspaper, “Tablet Jr.,” which is published monthly as a centerfold in The Tablet, giving students the chance to become published journalists in one of the country’s most prominent Catholic newspapers. All of this has been made possible from the partnership and generosity of DeSales Media.

It seemed only fitting that our students and families would go out and sell subscriptions to The Tablet as a way of evangelizing our Catholic faith. There has been so much made about the media over the last few years, and it is excellent for our students and their families to know that there are outlets such as The Tablet. Last summer, Pope Francis was quoted as saying, “We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to understand the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home.” It is significant that our families and students have access to this type of media via The Tablet.

During the contest, we stressed to our students and families that the Church expects her elementary schools to be a place of instruction and ministry and be an agent of the New Evangelization.

One of the pieces of Scripture we spoke about during our morning announcements while promoting the fundraiser was: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16.15)

When we heard the news that we were one of the top schools in the campaign we were overjoyed, and plan on using the money raised to help alleviate some of the COVID-19 expenses incurred while keeping the school open for in-person instruction during the 2020-2021 school year.

However, the most important thing for our school community is that we could assist in spreading the good news, just as our school patron Saint did over 400 years ago.

Chris Scharbach is the principal of St. Francis de Sales Catholic Academy in Belle Harbor.