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School of Faith: Making an Impact in Catholic Schools

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John Leyendecker instructs 2019 School of Faith pilgrims just behind the Church of the Visitation in Ein Karem, Israel.

by M.D. Pitman

Holy Family School of Faith (commonly called School of Faith) expanded into Cincinnati just six years ago, but it is already impacting hundreds of Catholic school administrators, faculty and staff across the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Theologians Mike Scherschligt and Troy Hinkel founded School of Faith in 2005, intending to strengthen people’s Catholic faith by sharing the love of Jesus Christ and the Blessed Mother through the New Evangelization. Today, they reach more than 10,000 people every year virtually through podcasts and YouTube, as well as through live events and pilgrimages. John Leyendecker is the Director of Mission with School of Faith Cincinnati, a branch of Holy Family School of Faith in Kansas City, KS. He describes School of Faith as “a movement of family and friends that are trying to draw people closer to Jesus.”

An important prong of their mission is to minister in schools. Leyendecker and Dave Staples, a School of Faith instructor, partner with 23 grade schools and high schools in the archdiocese from as far north as Lehman High School in Shelby County, to schools peppered around Cincinnati’s East and West Sides. Catholic schools and School of Faith partner to form administrators, faculty and staff more deeply in the faith so they can radiate Christ to their students.

An aspect of this work is an annual pilgrimage to the Holy Land designed to facilitate an encounter with the tangible reality of Christ. To-date, more than 180 school personnel have accompanied Leyendecker on pilgrimage.

Vickie Geckle, who teaches at St. Ignatius of Loyola School in Monfort Heights, was on the first pilgrimage in 2015. “In the Holy Land, I encountered Jesus and His Blessed Mother in a much more personal and overwhelming way than I ever had before,” said Geckle. “Ever since, I feel a responsibility and desire to share the experience of Jesus, the sacraments and our whole faith with everyone in my life, especially my students.”

Over the past school year, School of Faith has worked with more than 750 teachers, staff and administrators. Leyendecker said he hopes to add another five to 10 schools over the next few years.

Archbishop Dennis Schnurr formally endorsed School of Faith in February 2015 to minister within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

“We are living in a culture that is very challenging in many ways; it’s not very accepting of the Catholic faith,” Archbishop Schnurr said in a video about School of Faith receiving the Lumen Vitae Medal from the monks of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Kansas. “The School of Faith is bringing a light into that darkness, and so School of Faith is helping people – starting in our schools – not only know the faith but to witness to the faith.”

The Cincinnati branch of School of Faith has started offering classes and missions in parishes around the archdiocese. A big part of that is praying the Rosary, which is complemented by the School of Faith website, DailyRosary.net. Leyendecker said it provides meditation on the Rosary, offering some aspect, virtue or doctrine of the faith “that’s really broken down in a human way for people to reflect on.”

They also offer “Rosary on the Road,” where people can organize a discussion group in their home, and Leyendecker or Staples will lead the discussion and reflection through fellowship and conversation.

“It’s really been powerful,” Leyendecker said. “We have several thousand people all over the world praying this [online] daily Rosary with us, and starting these kinds of groups where they’re tying people together to have good conversation and friendship.”

“That’s at the root of the Gospel,” he said. “People have to get back to sharing their lives together and focus on Jesus, and consider what the Church has to say. You can trust this 2,000- year old treasure trove.”

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