Bishop Lawrence T. Persico and Jim Gallagher

Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico and Jim Gallagher, superintendent of schools
for the Catholic Diocese of Erie.    Photo/Anne-Marie Welsh

As we pass the one-year mark since much of the country went into lock-down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we want to publicly express our deep gratitude to the administrators, teachers and staff of Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Erie.

We sometimes point out that Catholic schools are important community assets. While many are impressed with the more than $47 million taxpayer dollars Pennsylvania saves each year because of the 30 Catholic schools in the Diocese of Erie, we want to underscore that none of it would be possible without the significant commitment and generosity of teachers, staff, administrators and board members.

We are immensely proud of them.

It did not take us long to recognize the extent of the changes headed our way as a result of the pandemic. Everyone involved in providing Catholic education in northwest Pennsylvania immediately and fully committed to doing everything necessary to provide the quality education and support our students and families have come to expect. Within two weeks of the mandated closure in March of 2020 — more quickly in some cases — teachers were set up for remote instruction. They remained nimble as the school year began again in September, responding as guidelines and mandates constantly evolved throughout the year.

Athletic directors, school secretaries, the people responsible for cleaning, those involved with curriculum — everyone remained flexible and resilient. In many cases, they made great personal sacrifices to continue their work, limiting exposure to friends and family members so they could safely offer in-person instruction. Their commitment to their faith, to the mission of their schools and to the families they serve genuinely inspires.

Blessed Sacrament School Principal Jane Wagner,
Erie, speaks to WJET-TV reporter Julia Hazel about
how staff and faculty have responded throughout
the pandemic.     Photo/Anne-Marie Welsh

We know they do not earn the salaries they deserve. And although we plan to acknowledge their selflessness with a simple breakfast at each school this month, we also encourage people to send notes and letters to our schools, amplifying our appreciation. Additionally, we have reviewed all of the school calendars and determined that they have exceeded the minimum number of hours required by law. As such, we are calling for all Catholic schools in the diocese to close for one day between now and the end of the school year, to give the teachers and staff an overdue day of rest.

Parents, we of course are not forgetting your vital role in this equation. You, too, have gone well beyond what is usually required in your partnership with us. We could not be more grateful for the way you navigated the demands of this year like no other.

As the expectation for a return to some sense of normalcy becomes reality, the spirit with which our school communities weathered the unexpected and demanding challenges of the past year give us great confidence and hope for the future. The intentions of our school personnel will remain a priority in our prayers.

A video with a message for teachers from the bishop and superintendent can be found at