5 minutes with ... Frassati High School principal Sr. John Paul, O.P.
March 27, 2012
Sister John Paul, O.P., said she considered religious life off and on during her four years of study at John Carroll University, but didn’t have much exposure to the vocation.
“I went to public school and never encountered religious sisters, so it took me a long time to understand the gift God was offering me in a religious vocation,” she said. “When I finally visited the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia at the age of 23, the joy of the sisters really struck me. I remember thinking, ‘They have what I desire.’”
In October 2010, Sister John Paul’s congregation accepted the invitation to be administrators of Frassati Catholic High School in north Houston, set to open in fall 2013. Construction will begin this August.
“We recently completed our master plan under the guidance of John Clements of Jackson and Ryan Architects and the design phase for our first building is under way,” Sister John Paul said.
Sister John Paul grew up in Akron, Ohio, and she entered the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia in Nashville, Tennessee in 1998. She was involved in Catholic education as the director of religious education and youth director at a parish in Ohio before she entered the convent.
“Our congregation’s apostolate is education, and so I have been privileged to be involved in Catholic education for 15 years,” she said.
She recently discussed her excitement in opening a new high school in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston with the Texas Catholic Herald.
Texas Catholic Herald: What inspired your order to administer Frassati Catholic High School?
Sister John Paul: The decision to administer Frassati Catholic was made in light of the tremendous need to have a Catholic high school on the north side of Houston. For those in the seven Catholic elementary schools (in the area) who want to continue their Catholic education in high school, they must make a minimum 45-minute commute downtown. For many families, this is simply not possible. This geographic need, coupled with the deep desire of the faith-filled Catholic families here for a Catholic high school education for their children, makes this a great mission match for our congregation. And we are well aware too that Catholic schools are closing in many areas of the country, so it’s such a rare opportunity to be part of opening a new Catholic school.
TCH: How has the excitement level been in North Houston for the opening of the new Catholic high school?
Sister John Paul: Our first glimpse of the excitement for Frassati Catholic was on Oct. 1 (2011), when about 1,000 people attended our land blessing ceremony. We were astounded. Since then, we have visited 11 of the North Houston parishes and wherever we go — even in the grocery store — we find great enthusiasm and support for Frassati Catholic High School.
TCH: As an administrator, what are some of your most important goals at this stage? What are some of the greatest challenges?
Sister John Paul: Our most important goal and our greatest challenge is our capital campaign. To date, we have raised $7.3 million toward our goal $20 million for Phase One, which includes facilities for 400 students with a master plan that enables expansion for 800 students.
TCH: What do you look forward to most as the school gets closer to opening its doors?
Sister John Paul: I am eager to see the spirit of our patron, Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, lived out in our classrooms, hallways and athletic fields. Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati is a perfect patron saint for our high school. Pier Giorgio was a layman; he had discerned that he did not have a vocation to the priesthood, though he was open to it. He spent the days of his youth serving the poor and sick of Turin, Italy, studying engineering, engaging in political life and climbing mountains, both literal and spiritual. In his short life — he died from polio at the age of 24 — he accomplished much good by living out a life rooted in virtue and the beatitudes. Frassati Catholic High School will be a place where students will be challenged to live this same kind of life — rooted in virtue and the beatitudes.
TCH: Why do you think Catholic school education is so important?
Sister John Paul: Education is not simply about imparting information; rather, at the deepest level, education is about transformation. Rooted in the fullness of the truth, Catholic schools educate the entire person — intellectually, spiritually and morally — thereby giving each student the necessary means to open themselves to God’s transforming grace and plan for their lives. Research has shown that Catholic education is the single most effective means of evangelization. That means that Catholic education is the most effective means in helping young people experience the happiness and holiness that God wants to give them. †