Reflections from the Chief Mission Officer

View More: Friends,

I’d like to get back to blogging.  I started to blog regularly probably about 2008, but for some reason I don’t remember, I stopped about a year later.  Maybe it coincides with the problems I had with my knee or maybe there was a drought of thoughtful material.  Anyway, I haven’t written a blog for a very long time.

I was thinking recently about how often I worry about the future of the Network.  More specifically I worry about our being faithful to the mission of the Network.  I keep recalling that every Catholic school was founded originally to serve the needy, just like our Network schools.  But then I ask myself how did they end up in the suburbs.  How did they get off track in regard to the people Catholic schools serve?  My biggest nightmare is that the same fate awaits our Network schools.

I heard about a graduation at one of our schools just last month.  When the guests and new graduates left the auditorium and went out to the parking lot, there for everyone to see was a car with a huge red bow on top of it.  How did a student whose family could afford to buy him/her a car as a graduation present ever get admitted to a Cristo Rey school?   How is that being faithful to our second Mission Effectiveness Standard:  “A Cristo Rey school serves only students with limited economic resources…“?  The one in charge wasn’t watching the door!  When I asked someone who has a lot of responsibility at that school if they had seen the car with the red bow in the parking lot, he said he had “and it really p—– me off.”  Personally, I like that reaction.  I hope it makes us all mad that someone didn’t do their job about who is admitted to one of our schools.  Someone is hurting our brand!

While I’m on the subject, another thing that I am beginning to suspect is that having a hefty endowment is not always an unmixed blessing.  I get the impression that some schools are looking for ways to spend it.  (It’s more than a suspicion!  I’ve heard people say that if a school has money, it might as well spend it!)  So it turns out that we build something because we have the money, not because we really need it.  From my own experience, I can testify how tempting it is for one’s ego to build a brand new facility.  I’m certainly not saying that we should never do any building; I’m saying that it should only be in response to a real need for the students.  Our schools are meant to offer a new financial model.  It takes vigilance and discipline to run a lean economic operation.  Just because we have the money is never a reason to spend it.

On a final note, a few months ago I learned a new English word:  swag.  Someone from one of the new schools was looking for advice on what swag the school should have.  Does anyone keep an eye on how much is bought and sold at one of our schools?  Where do the profits go?  I agree that some expression of school colors and school spirit can have a positive result, but many years ago I learned from someone at a high school in Peru that it was better not to sell anything.  Putting things up for purchase inevitably divides the student body into “haves” and “have-nots.”

If you have read this far, thank you for listening.  I think I am finally beginning to understand my role as Chief Mission Officer.  I think we have to be diligent about making sure our Cristo Rey schools don’t end up in the suburbs.  Remember the second reading for the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time.  It was from 2 Corinthians and talks about equality:  Whoever had much did not have more, and whoever had little did not have less.  May Christ our King help us to be vigilant in our stewardship of the Cristo Rey movement.

John P. Foley, SJ



Leadership Voices: A Message from Fr. Joseph Parkes, SJ


This message was originally published in a Cristo Rey New York Spring newsletter on May 8, 2018.

Dear Friends,
As we enter into my final spring here as President of Cristo Rey, I am reminded of how far we have come since our opening fourteen years ago. I am reminded of the building itself, how it has been transformed over the years from two small, brick 19th-century buildings to a beautiful, cohesive 21st-century facility. I am reminded of our very first students, the 99 individuals who made up the Class of 2008, and all of the hard work they did to set  a precedent for the classes to come. Most importantly, I am reminded of all the extraordinary things this class has gone on to do because of the opportunities they found here:

  • Amaidani Boncenor: Fordham University ’12, University of Wisconsin Law School ’17; Director of Admissions at Cristo Rey Milwaukee
  • Abiezer (Abe) Mendez: Fordham University ’12; Assistant Vice President at Barclays in London
  • Ana Rosado: Swarthmore College ’12; PhD student, nineteenth century African-American history, Northwestern University

This class set the bar high, and I am proud to say that each subsequent class has worked to raise that bar even higher. Flash forward to today, and we are among the highest performing schools in the Cristo Rey Network. Just like the Class of ’08, our current students are succeeding at work, in the classroom, and beyond.

Ten classes later, here’s a look at some of the places the Class of 2018 will be off to in the fall:

  • Fernando Sanchez, Columbia University, and Cynthia Reyes, Williams College; both with full tuition, room and board scholarships as QuestBridge Match Scholars
  • Denzel Capellon, Hamilton, and Roberto Gabriel Brito, Dartmouth, were named QuestBridge Scholars
  • Chris Gonzalez, Franklin & Marshall, with a full tuition scholarship as a Posse Scholar
  • Twelve seniors are committed to Fordham University so far, continuing the strong relationship we have had with the university since our founding

Cristo Rey is filled with excitement and anticipation as the year comes to a close with a lot of change on the horizon. While this season means I will be stepping down from my position as President of CRNYHS, it also means the welcoming of Dan Dougherty, the next president of Cristo Rey, who will transition fully into role on July 1, 2018.

The joyous spirit of the season is evident everywhere at Cristo Rey, with so much to be proud of and so much to look forward to. Thank you all for joining us on this journey and supporting us through it all. It has been an honor to be President of this school for the last fourteen years, and I am so looking forward to staying connected to you all in the future.

With gratitude and prayers,

Fr. Joseph P. Parkes, SJ


Leadership Voices: A Lenten Message


This blog post was originally published by Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School on February 14, 2018.

Dear Friends,

Today, as the western Christian world celebrates Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the season of Lent, we are confronted with one of simplest signs left in our common life: that dark smudge of ash on our forehead.

The very idea of a sign, a thing that is used to signify something else and make it present to us, is a difficult concept.  Signs explain and establish relationship.  We know this when we use words like a subtraction sign or an addition sign.  They are words the point to a new value based on the relationship of what they mediate.
Many of us will observe this Lent by the sign of subtraction – we will choose not to drink or look at social media or eat chocolate or eat meat.  Some of us will observe this Lent by the sign of addition – we will be more diligent in prayer or we will read spiritually edifying books or we will be intentional in giving to the needy.
However, at their root, these are signs of conversion and anticipated transformation.  These signs are to indicate the relationship between who you are now and who you might become. They are signs of a change of heart and a change of mind. We are to fast, to pray, and to do righteous work; visible reminders that call us to examine ourselves and to make amends for the sinful and broken areas of our life, to move beyond self-righteousness and self-sufficiency, and to reconcile those areas of our life where we have not accepted God’s grace.
These are not the only signs of transformation in our lives and that of our communities.  Education, too, is a sign of transformation; it points to a new future different from the past.  That is our goal at Holy Family Cristo Rey Catholic High School: to be a sign of new and flourishing relationships for our students and our community.
With my prayers for a peaceful and productive Lenten season,
Fr. Jon Chalmers

Teacher Voices: Patrick Schmidt

808e0a54-4265-4e78-b004-9904af9251c3This piece originally appeared in Cristo Rey Detroit’s Fall Update on October 22, 2017.  

In the summer of 2012, I finished my first year as a teacher. I was a volunteer at a Cristo Rey school – Arrupe Jesuit High School in Denver, Colorado. Throughout that year I learned about  lesson planning, collaborating with other teachers and supporting students in unique ways to fit their needs. However, the most important lesson I learned was how to be a member of the Cristo Rey community and the importance of everyone in that community to the accomplishments of our students. I learned that it takes all the parents, teachers, work partners, administrators, benefactors, etc. to uphold the Cristo Rey mission and to create schools that provide countless opportunities for our students.

Now, in my 6th year as a Mathematics teacher at Detroit Cristo Rey (a place I dearly call home) I continue to deepen my understanding of that lesson every day and try to spread it to new teachers and school members as they become part of our family as others did to me. From Fr. Menard at Arrupe to Fr. Jose at Detroit Cristo Rey, the message of family and community holds strong throughout the network of schools and the impact can be seen nationwide. As I continue on my educational journey, I will take time to reflect on the community and family that worked together to give me opportunities for a better future because I know none of us get where we are on our own. I want to personally thank you all for being a part of that community for our students in whatever way you contribute to their current and future lives.

As I continue my education, it is important for me to reflect on everyone who has contributed in large or small ways to my successes in life. It is important for everyone to recognize that they did not get where they are in life without the support of family and loved ones.

10 years of changing lives in Indianapolis

providence3-300x200By (Originally published by Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.)

In 2005, the Archdiocese of Indianapolis approached religious congregations who had served in the Archdiocese to come to the table to discuss the possibility of sponsoring a Cristo Rey school. One by one, the congregations declined, noting that they did not have either the funds or personnel to make it happen. The Leadership Team of the Sisters of Providence of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods felt likewise. Yet they also sensed a strong call to do as Saint Mother Theodore had done some 165 years before: to risk for the sake of Providence.

The Cristo Rey model had been born in Chicago by the Jesuits. It offers students who could not otherwise afford a Catholic school education the opportunity for a quality education in a faith-based environment. Students study four days per week. On the fifth day they go to work in a variety of professional jobs. The model was unlike that of other Catholic schools.

The model was so much in keeping with the Sisters of Providence tagline “Breaking boundaries, creating hope” that the SPs could not say no. And so it began. Endless hours and days were spent pounding the pavement looking for donors, for work study opportunities for the students, and for a building. In July 2007, the first students arrived at Providence Cristo Rey High School (PCRHS).

Ten years have passed since that glorious opening day! As the school marks the end of its 10th year of operation, it seemed only fitting that we share some of the many “success stories” of its graduates. Read more.

Message from Cristo Rey Leadership: Elizabeth Goettl

Elizabeth GoettlAs the new President and CEO of the Cristo Rey Network, I am delighted to once again be working towards achieving the Cristo Rey mission. Having held two leadership roles within the Cristo Rey Network from 2006-2014, I feel privileged to rejoin the Cristo Rey family in pursuit of our audacious goal of career readiness and college completion for every student in the Network. In collaborating with the national office staff and after engaging in the Cristo Rey Board of Directors meetings, I am reminded of the remarkable mission-mindedness and the goodness of the people engaged in the work in which we all share. I return to the Cristo Rey family deeply grateful for the opportunity to rejoin the movement, with faith and confidence in our bold promise to our students.

As we collectively move closer towards the dream of college completion for every student who enters our doors, I note advances in our work on college initiatives, continued forward progress on school growth, a focused and capable national office staff, and school leaders collaborating with one another.

 Thank you for partnering with us in this transformative movement.

Yours in Cristo Rey,



President and CEO

Student Voices: Jaide Talmadge

Cleveland JaideJaide Talmadge, a member of Saint Martin de Porres High School’s Class of 2017, is heading to Harvard University this fall with a full ride scholarship.

How did you find and ultimately choose Saint Martin de Porres High School?

I found Saint Martin through a group of my peers. The main factor that ultimately made my decision was the Corporate Work Study Program.

What elements of a Cristo Rey education stand out?

One element of Saint Martin’s education that stood out, other than the CWSP, are the teachers. The most important relationships that I developed during high school were the ones formed with the teachers and staff members of Saint Martin. They provided a multitude of opportunities and connections that assisted me greatly during my time here. One staff member even provided me with the contact information of a friend that attended Harvard. There are so many teachers at Saint Martin that adapted to the needs of their students. Personally, I have had plenty of teachers that stayed late, even just to talk. Our teachers truly have invested themselves in the success of their students

Where was your CWSP job, and how did the experience affect your development and education?

My freshman year I worked at Cleveland Clinic. My sophomore and junior year I worked at McDonald Hopkins, a law firm downtown. My senior year I worked at Frantz Ward, another law firm. My experience at all my CWSP jobs gave me a sense of confidence, especially when speaking to adults. My experience at Frantz Ward has been particularly rewarding. My coworkers made it their job to introduce me to as many attorneys and people of the firm as possible. When I expressed a slight interest in law, attorneys started trying to assign me more work.

In what ways has your unique education at Saint Martin prepared you for the next step in your journey?

The college preparatory education provided by Saint Martin has been so helpful throughout my years there. The most valuable yet stressful classes at Saint Martin have been the College Counseling classes. When the classes were introduced my freshman year, I was not as excited for them as I was my senior year. First of all, they took away from my study hall time, which was very important to me as a busy student-athlete. Second of all, the demanding journey of college seemed so far, but starting early was super important, even if I didn’t want to admit it. Discussing important topics concerning college was especially helpful when it came to applications, college visits, and selecting a college when the time came. And there’s no doubt in my mind that when it comes time to start school in the fall, the College Counselors will be there to guide me when I need it.

How did you respond to your acceptance letter to Harvard? What happened that day?

I received the news late at night, and I was extremely shocked. I immediately got out of bed and told the news to my mother, who was half-asleep. When I went to school the next day, they announced my acceptance over the loudspeaker because I was the first person from Saint Martin to receive an acceptance letter from Harvard. The entire Saint Martin community was overjoyed, with some of my peers even more excited than I was.

What are your hopes and goals for the next four years at Harvard?

My hope for the next four years at Harvard is that I am able to thrive in that community despite the fact that it is so very different than the one that I have been used to for the past four years. I definitely hope to mature and find what I am meant to do. I will use this opportunity to better myself and prepare for whatever the world has to offer after college.

Do you see yourself as an inspiration to others?

I definitely see myself as an inspiration to students from Saint Martin that also desire to pursue admission to Ivy League caliber colleges and universities. I never knew anyone that attended Harvard before I decided to apply, which added to my reluctance to apply in the first place. I did not think it was possible for someone like me. But now that I have been accepted and I chose to attend, I get messages from peers through Instagram, Snapchat, or text asking for advice. Now that they have someone close to them that has completed the process. Hopefully they see me as a success story that could be them one day.

What advice would you give to prospective Cristo Rey students?

Take advantage of the many adults in the community, whether it is teachers, staff, or CWSP coworkers. They all have so much insight to offer, and many wouldn’t hesitate to support you to help you succeed.