Thursday, August 17, 2017


I have family who are public school teachers and they are not always kind about Catholic schools accusing them of accepting “typical students” while turning more challenging students away - particularly students who learn differently.  Now, I know there are some Catholic schools that do more.  For example, St. Adelbert has the Steps Program and other schools enroll students on a limited basis such as St. Francis de Sales.  But these wonderful programs were not meeting the great need.

Returning to school after Thanksgiving, I was telling the principal of the day school about this dilemma and how I wished we had the capability, space and resources to help these children and their families.  She said, “The principal from the Julie Billiart School in Lyndhurst is downstairs helping us with our accreditation.  You should talk to her.”  The Julie Billiart School (JB) is a Catholic school in Lyndhurst, Ohio founded by the Noter Dame Sisters that serves the population of students we had failed to serve.

I told Jodi Johnson, the principal, about my thoughts and her eyes widened.  “The school just decided that we should expand our mission and open new schools and we were looking for a way to do that!”

From there on it has been a rollercoaster of activity.  As soon as it got out that we were opening the school we were receiving phone calls asking when we would start enrolling.  (We didn’t even have a building yet.)  Numerous stories came out about how people moved from our area because they we didn’t have the resources that they wanted for their children.  It seemed we were on the right path.

There was lots of prayer and soul searching.  Many people stepped forward to help out.  Building were looked at.  Recognition from the state as well as the Catholic Church (no easy thing!) were sought.  Through it all we trusted both St. Julie and St; Sebastian (with a little extra help from St. Joseph when we were looking for a building.)  Every couple of weeks or so we would come up against a seemingly monumental and impenetrable stone wall and say, “That’s it!  We really tried.  But I guess it’s just no meant to be!  St. Julie and St. Sebastian, if you want this to go forward, you are going to have to do something!”  And I kid you not, the next day it was if the wall turned to wet tissue in a rainstorm and we marched ahead.

It may be years later with many interesting stories, blood, sweat, and tears - valiant work on the part of many hands, but this Tuesday we will open our doors to the first classes of K - 3 with the goal of being a K - 12 school in a few years.  If it is successful, it is hoped that it will be a string of schools helping children all over our diocese and beyond!  I am so thankful.  Please keep this project and all of its people in your prayers.


Anonymous said...

Father, it is none of my business since I am not a parishioner, but I still do not understand why you are not using "St. Julie Billiart" as the name of the school. Is there a problem with recognizing her as a saint, or with recognizing the Catholic ethics of the school?

I think St. Julie's status in heaven should be celebrated. It gives all of us, the schoolchildren included, something to work toward and emulate. It is a testimony of our Faith to those who are not Catholic. And with all respect to you, good Father, it does not sound very respectful to ignore that she is a saint and not to refer to her in that way.

I do not mean to sound judgmental or negative, and I know I do. Please forgive me. It sounds like a fine school which is greatly needed here in Akron.

Blessings and peace to all of you at St. Sebastian!

Stephen said...

Dear Father,

That us a charming, delightful portrait of St. Julie.
It makes me laugh, smile and pray.

Fr. V said...

Dear Anon.

As a matter of fact, we did originally name the school SAINT Julie Billiart. It was the Sisters of Noter Dame who told us to remove it since the original school was founded before she was recognized as a saint. We were being obedient to their wishes. If you would like further clarification, it would have to be brought up with the sisters directly. When speaking of her, we do refer to has St. Julie.

God bless,

Fr. Valencheck

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Father. I realize you have to do what you have to do. I cannot understand why the SSND made this decision, but perhaps it is not for me to know or worry about.

Every blessing for the new school year both at the Julie Billiart School and at the parish school!

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful project. I was curious how this came about. My teachers were always kind but back then it was sink or swim and only the lucky survived the mainstream schools. I am so joyful to see the help kids get these days. Thank you for all your hard work. You will never know how many lives you helped change or to what extent.