Bishop Olson celebrates Mass with Cristo Rey's first graduating class
FORT WORTH — For Josephine Zamora, June 3 marked a crowning achievement in the life of her granddaughter, Eledis Zamora.
“The best thing I did for my granddaughter, who came to live with me five years ago, was to get her into Cristo Rey High School,” Josephine Zamora said. “She is a superstar right now in my eyes.”
Eledis said she was thrilled to be graduating the next morning.
“Very excited,” Eledis Zamora said. “Just ready to go through graduation so that I can say I’ve done it.”
Eledis joined her 47 classmates — the school’s first graduating class — on June 3 for a Baccalaureate Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson at St. Patrick Cathedral.
Cristo Rey schools originated in 1996 in Chicago and have since grown to 38 locations throughout America. The school model offers access to low-income students otherwise unable to afford Catholic private school education. The students’ families pay a small portion of tuition while the bulk derives from the students’ work at area companies and donations.
During his homily, Bishop Olson reminded students of the importance of repetition in education and keeping God the “centrality in one’s life.
“Through the repetition of prayer and study God has led you to this freedom through the love of your parents, guidance of your teachers, and example of your supervisors at work,” Bishop Olson said. “Your presence in the workplace as employees and students of Cristo Rey has reminded your fellow workers that God is present in the culture of corporations and that businesses have obligations beyond the financial bottom line.” [Bishop's full homily here]
Cristo Rey Board Chair Emeritus Charlie Morrison credits Bishop Olson’s role in bringing Cristo Rey to Fort Worth. Bishop Olson was aware of what the schools had accomplished in his native Chicago and elsewhere.
“We’re our own entity, not part of the [Diocese of Fort Worth],” Morrison said. “We’re our own entity but certainly enjoy the diocese’s and Bishop’s support and influence. The bishop brought the idea forward and approached many of us to help establish the school in Fort Worth.”
Through relocation of the campus to COVID-19 upheavals, the past four years have been a challenge, Cristo Rey President Nathan Knuth said, but the results have been amazing.
One hundred percent of the students graduated, and 100 percent are committed to colleges, among those the University of Notre Dame, Texas Christian University, and the University of Richmond and received over $8 million in scholarships and grants.
Four years ago, Knuth said, the challenge was to convince corporate partners and community members to buy in to Cristo Rey. That the first class has now graduated provides a major benchmark toward that, he added.
“This is a pivotal year because it shows proof in the pudding,” Knuth said. “We have a lot to do still but we’ve made much progress over the past four years.”
Several corporate partners initially skeptical of the idea of students working for them have since promised students jobs once they graduate college. That, Knuth said, marks a plus for the students and increases the quality of the workforce in the Metroplex.
The goal now, hampered by COVID-19 the past two years, is to continue to get the word out about Cristo Rey and recruit new donors and corporate employers for students.
Knuth, during the June 3 Mass, offered thanksgiving to Bishop Olson, the students, and all involved in taking the idea of a Fort Worth Cristo Rey school from dream to reality.
Eledis Zamora, who is considering studying psychology in college, said her Cristo Rey education has proven to be a life game changer.
“It taught me better social skills,” Eledis said. “Prepared and gave me an idea of what to expect at college and when I go out into the real world to work.”