A reflection for Catholic Schools Week 2021

By David Cooley.

When focused on educating and exercising the minds, bodies and souls of today’s youth, Catholic schools shine as beacons of light in a dark and confusing world. When they rise up to the challenges of society and culture they bring hope and joy to countless Christian families and others who are trying to do their best to serve the Lord in trying times. It is no small feat that Catholic schools have stood strong through the tests of time in America, but there is no reason to think that things are going to get any easier in the near future. While we live in a world where medical and technological advances have, generally, made life more convenient and easier, having a sacramental vision has become way more difficult. As Mankind seems to wander further and further away from God, there is no doubt that keeping the faith while growing up is getting harder.

It is only right to take a moment each year and celebrate Catholic Schools Week (CSW). Catholic schools have a specific purpose to form students in love of God and love of neighbor; to be good citizens of the world and to enrich society with the leaven of the Gospel and by example of faith. They are a benefit to our cities and towns — believers and non-believers alike — but that is not what makes them so special.

The CSW theme this year is “Catholic Schools: Faith. Excellence. Service.” Faith, excellence and service are pillars of the Christian life. These pillars stand upon a solid foundation and direct people’s attention away from earthly distractions and up to the heavens. It is that solid foundation that makes Catholic schools so special.

What does it mean to have faith? It means that you believe in more than what this world has to offer. It means that you have come to know and trust the Lord more than you trust your own eyes. It is an understanding that the realities we meet with our senses are simply passing us by and that eternity, which is beyond, is even more real. As communities of faith, Catholic schools instill in students their destiny to become future saints.

What is excellence, if not holiness? Every Catholic, from a Benedictine monk in Norcia to the lawyer or teacher down the street in Northern Kentucky, is called to take their mission from Christ and spiritual formation seriously. The Christian life, like everything else, requires constant education, training and attention. We know that habits are developed at a young age. While it’s true that academic excellence is a hallmark of Catholic education, it is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person — mind, body and soul —with an extra emphasis on the soul. A Catholic school teaches its students about the will of God, in contrast to our culture’s tendency to promote the worship of the self and other false idols. By the time a Catholic is confirmed they should realize what is being asked of them — they are being asked to lead a true and holy life; to follow Christ, even when it leads to the Cross.

And, finally, we have the pillar of service. The Letter of James in Scripture tells us that “… faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” (James 2:17) St. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580-662 AD) takes the idea a step further, he said, “Theology without practice is the theology of demons.” We are called to live a life of service. Social learning through service is a fundamental part of Catholic education. It is not enough to just say we love God, we need to show it. Service in our Catholic schools is intended to help form youth to not only witnesses to Catholic social teaching, but to also be active participants in social change for the common good.

In a day and age when many seem to have lost their way, it is important to remember that the Catholic Church is not just a building or an institution, but the people of God working together to bring about the Kingdom of God today. The role of Catholic schools, an apostolate of the Church, is to raise up the next generation to continue this mission begun by Christ. Yes, these are hard times; yes, it is often a dark and confusing world, but at the center of the storm the light of Christ shines the brightest. Like everything else Catholic schools are in the midst of the fray, but Christ is the center of the school. Christ is that solid foundation upon which they are built, and that makes all the difference.

David Cooley is co-director and office manager of the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization in the Diocese of Covington.

Prayer and penance for life to be celebrated locally

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

As 2021 opens and events continue to be canceled or postponed, the annual Day of Prayer and Penance for Life will continue to champion the pro-life cause. On Jan. 29, in conjunction with the March for Life in Washington, DC, the Diocese of Covington will pray and offer acts of penance for an end to abortion. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no one from the diocese will be traveling from the schools or parishes to Washington, but the diocese will still support the pro-life cause locally.

Now, more than ever, Bishop Roger Foys asks the faithful to set aside time for prayer and penance. There will be no holy hours this year; however, Bishop Foys will celebrate Mass at 9 a.m. at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. He asks for the faithful’s participation at the Mass, which will also be live-streamed and recorded on the cathedral website.

“The cause for life is no less important, but we want to be responsible with the protocols for COVID-19,” said Bishop Foys. He emphasized that keeping the established protocols is one way of being pro-life: “Certainly on this day we recall the horrific Supreme Court decision in 1973 of legalizing abortion, but also, life at all stages is important and the protocols have been issued as a way of protecting life also. We can’t take it any less seriously.”

New this year, diocesan schools will involve all students in the Day of Prayer and Penance by watching the Mass during school. While in the past, some students traveled and some remained behind, now all can be united in prayer simultaneously. Parents and others can also join by streaming Mass online. Additionally, anyone can watch it afterwards on the cathedral website.

One week prior to the March for Life, President-elect Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. With the recent elections, the Democratic party has taken control of both the House and the Senate. For many in the pro-life movement the change in political leadership is unsettling as the stated Democratic platform seeks to protect and expand access to abortion.

Bishop Foys encourages those in the pro-life movement to persevere in their peaceful efforts to protect the unborn and to focus not only on changing laws but also on changing hearts and minds. Much of that work is done in schools, homes and the sidewalks outside of abortion of clinics.

“We have been fighting this fight for 48 years this year,” he said. “And in all that time, we still have not seen the Roe v. Wade decision overturned. No matter who is in office, we must be vigilant in our cause for life. No matter who is in office, we have to work no less seriously for the right to life in all its stages.”

Ultimately, he said, “… the life of an unborn child is not a political football. This is a life issue and a moral issue, not a political issue. It’s the difference between right and wrong. Abortion is morally wrong; to take anyone’s life is wrong, period.”

It is up to the individual, Bishop Foys emphasized, to act and speak from the heart for this issue. “What have we done in the last 48 years to change hearts and to change minds, by our own witness and our own example?” he said. “We continue the fight.”

Deacon Rielage looks forward to bringing others to Christ in his priesthood

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Joe Rielage had few inklings growing up that he would one day be a priest. As Deacon Rielage prepares for his ordination Jan. 29, he reflects on the fact that most of the significant events in his life involved priests from the Diocese of Covington.

“Even before I moved to the Diocese of Covington from Cincinnati, Ohio, there was such a connection between me and the presbyterate,” said Deacon Rielage. Before his parents met, his mother took a tour in Europe in the 1960s, led by a group of priests from the Diocese of Covington. Upon befriending several, Deacon Rielage’s mother asked one to officiate her wedding. His sister followed suit, and eventually his parents completed their legacy with funeral Masses celebrated by priests of the diocese as well.

Deacon Joseph Rielage“I feel like there’s a connection, this is where I need to be because all these events in my life … It feels natural for me to be here because I have such a close connection,” he said. After growing up in Cincinnati and attending Elder High School, he achieved a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Cincinnati, and eventually moved to Northern Kentucky while working at the CVG Airport.

Upon the passing of his father, Deacon Rielage began to more seriously consider the priesthood, and entered seminary in 2015.

“I felt like something was missing in my life and I prayed about it, and the thought of seminary came to mind again. I knew in my heart at that time that it was the right time to do it because of the signs I received, like the peacefulness and the fire that was burning inside of me, when I received the call on Pentecost Sunday of 2014,” he said.

Over the course of his time in seminary, Deacon Rielage has come to know and appreciate the value of serving others and being present with them. “It gives me comfort, but also enjoyment even in the hardest of situations, that I can be there to share sad times, to share good times with people, to bring comfort, to bring joy and hope as needed,” he said. “Although it’s not an easy time, it’s a fulfilling time that’s worthwhile. It gives me the energy and stamina to go forward, to be like Christ to other people, to be an example of Christ in the world.”

He has also enjoyed his summer assignments during seminary, particularly the last two summers at St. Henry Parish, Elsmere. The support from Father Gregory Bach and Carmelite Father Aby Thampi, he said, was unparalleled. “They made me feel welcome, they made me feel like I was a part of the presbyterate,” he said.

Deacon Rielage also credits Father Kevin Kahmann, pastor at Mary, Queen of Heaven Parish, Erlanger during his pre-seminary days, with having an incredible influence on his decision to pursue priesthood. Father Kahmann will vest Deacon Rielage at the ordination.

What he’s most excited for, he said, is confecting the Eucharist and bringing Christ to people in the Mass on a daily basis. If he can help people along their journeys and bring them to Christ and their eternal reward, he’ll be happy.

He’s looking to two saints for assistance in this endeavor. St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J., was a porter in the monastery in the 16th century who is an example of humility. “He just did (his work) with such joy, such happiness, and to me that just shows that even in the most mundane tasks, you can find joy in serving other people,” said Deacon Rielage.

He’s also turning to Blessed Carlo Acutis as an example of Eucharistic devotion. “Especially in the time of the pandemic, I understand that people are not always comfortable coming to church,” said Deacon Rielage. “But we need to get young people to come back to church. Through his example of devotion to the Church, the Eucharist and the rosary, hopefully the young people can look upon him and get encouragement that God is the center and giver of all.”

Deacon Rielage was ordained to the transitional diaconate April 8, 2020 in an empty cathedral in Covington. His last year in seminary hasn’t gone as he anticipated due to COVID-19, but Deacon Rielage has made the most of it. Last spring when classes went virtual only, he realized in a new way that “anything can happen at any time.”

“We may have everything planned out in our minds, but God works in mysterious ways to make us realize that we’re not in control,” he said. “Going back in the fall, with the guidelines at the seminary, there was less time for fraternity with the other seminarians, but in a way that was full of grace because it was able to make me focus more on prayer time since there were no special events. I found myself praying more and it increased my love for God, and my peace and comfort.”

In prayer, Deacon Rielage has been sustained during the pandemic by Matthew 11:28: “Come to me all you who labor and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.”

“We all get worn out, we all become so focused on the pandemic, and it’s exhausting on everyone, but at the same point, nothing is stronger than God. If we put our trust in God, he will give us the strength, the encouragement and the rest we need to continue.”

In his free time, Deacon Rielage enjoys traveling (when there isn’t a pandemic), taking walks, especially in nature, spending time with friends and family, reading and is hoping to take up photography. He has one older sister who will attend the ordination, with her family, his extended family and close friends.

Deacon Rielage will be ordained to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood Jan. 29, 2021 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington, on what would have been his mother’s 85th birthday. He’s convinced it’s not a coincidence. He will then celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Henry Parish, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. Both events are by invitation only and will be live-streamed.

CCK promotes education opportunity accounts for school choice in General Assembly

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

This year could see changes for educational choice in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, if the Catholic Conference of Kentucky and others can garner enough momentum for bills promoting Education Opportunity Accounts.

Rather than focusing on scholarship tax credits, as in past years, House Bill 149 and Senate Bill 25, favor Education Opportunity Accounts. If the bills are passed, individuals and businesses can donate to non-profit Account Granting Organizations (AGOs), who are authorized to receive donations under the program and will provide financial assistance for educational services. This will allow those who apply to the program an opportunity to make choices that wouldn’t otherwise be accessible to them.

Andrew Vandiver, associate director, CCK, said they took feedback last year from families, policy makers and educators to craft a bill that would be “more inclusive and addressing the needs of the specific moment we’re in.”

“If the General Assembly had passed educational choice bills in the past, there would be a resource for families that are struggling right now,” said Mr. Vandiver. “With COVID-19, families really need more flexibility than ever, and this would help address that. But because there is no educational choice program in Kentucky, there’s very few additional resources right now for families who are struggling.”

In the first week after the bills were released, an unprecedented number of sponsors provided their support. House Bill 149 was filed by Rep. Chad McCoy and is co-sponsored, from counties in the Diocese of Covington, by Rep. Kim Banta (Kenton and Boone Counties), Rep. Kim Moser (Kenton and Campbell Counties), Rep. Joe Fischer (Campbell County), Rep. Adam Koenig (Kenton and Boone Counties), Rep. William Lawrence (Bracken, Fleming and Mason Counties), Rep. Savannah Maddox (Grant and Kenton Counties), Rep. Felicia Rabourne (Carroll and Gallatin Counties) and Rep. Sal Santoro (Boone County).

Senate Bill 25 was filed by Senator Ralph Alvarado and co-sponsored by Senator Damon Thayer of Scott, Kenton and Grant Counties.

The House and Senate are set to vote on the bills in February. The big difference in this bill, compared to scholarship tax credits in the past, is it’s much more flexible and inclusive, said Mr. Vandiver. Rather than donations given to non-profits merely providing tuition assistance, donations could provide many different types of educational services.

“There’s parts of the state that may not have a non-public school close by, and their educational needs are different in that community,” said Mr. Vandiver. “If you have students in that area who want access to college courses that they might not otherwise have been able to afford it, you could set up this assistance for that; it could also do tutoring, special needs services … it’s really customizable as far as how the funds could be used, it depends on the needs of the family and also the mission of the non-profit organization.”

Mr. Vandiver said these are crucial bills for Kentucky in the school choice issue. “We have an opportunity to do something moving forward that’s going to help families,” he said. He thinks that the inclusivity of the bills will make them more likely to pass.

“We have champions in the legislature, we know the public wants this. We did a public opinion survey this fall and I believe it was 77 percent of Kentuckians support educational choice. It’s bipartisan … so you really can’t go wrong by supporting this. … We strongly believe that the votes are there in the General Assembly. The biggest challenge is there is a lot going on this session and there’s a lot being demanded of the lawmakers. So we’re just asking people, if you have a student in your life, or you just have a desire to help students, make sure your voice is heard, because otherwise this issue just won’t get the attention it needs.”

Ultimately, it’s about children and not individual schools or organizations, said Mr. Vandiver. “We know it’s challenging, but we just hope that the legislators really take a look at how this could help families out, help kids succeed in the future,” he said.

The annual [email protected] event, which champions school choice in Frankfort, will be held differently this year due to COVID19, with virtual and limited in-person options. The CCK encourages citizens to stay in touch with the General Assembly by tuning into live video coverage of legislative meetings, contacting lawmakers to offer feedback, reading bills and resolutions, and signing up to receive notices when bills advance. The General Assembly’s web page provides all of the above information.

Dedicated priest cared for souls, gave everything to his priesthood and parish family

Laura Keener, Editor.

Father Mario Joseph Tizziani, a priest of the Diocese of Covington, died Saturday, Dec. 26, at Carmel Manor in Ft. Thomas, Ky. He was born April 8, 1954, in Steubenville, Ohio, to Lino John and Catherine Gabriel Tizziani. A 1972 graduate of Toronto High School, Toronto, Ohio, he proudly served in the U.S. Navy, then later graduated from Liberty University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in education. For 15 years he taught elementary, middle and high school in Jacksonville, Florida, where he was named Regional Teacher of the Year in 1999. Later, he pursued a doctorate degree in history from his beloved Ohio State University. On June 23, 2006, he was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Covington, Ky.

In a 2004 interview with the Messenger, as a seminarian looking toward priesthood Father Tizziani said, “I think that the important factor is that I be a holy priest, a man of God and live a life that challenges my flock to live holy lives.”

Father Mario was installed as pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, Independence, Aug. 10, 2008. In 2015, he received the Distinguished Pastor Award from the National Catholic Educational Association. On July 10, 2017, he led in the groundbreaking of a $5.5 million expansion, including a gymnasium at St. Cecilia Catholic School, to its completion in 2019. In October of 2018, under his leadership, St. Cecilia School was named a Blue Ribbon School. Father Mario was also instrumental in the success of St. Cecilia’s annual Labor Day Festivals during his tenure. Toronto High School named him a Distinguished Alumni in September of 2019.

“Father Mario Tizziani was ordained for almost 15 years and spent that entire time at St. Cecilia Parish in Independence, first as parochial vicar and then as pastor,” said Bishop Roger Foys. “He referred to the parish as his home and to his parishioners as his family. To say he was actively involved in every aspect of the parish and parish life would be an understatement. His priesthood absorbed his life and it was demonstrated in any number of ways, especially in the fact that he seldom left the parish for any length of time.”

“It (being a priest) was something that tugged at him his entire life, but he was always busy with something else,” said Gina Motto, Father Tizziani’s sister.

While studying at OSU, Father Tizziani finally surrendered to God’s call to the priesthood. When Father Tizziani told the family that he was entering seminary, he thought he would catch them off guard. But his mom said, she already knew what he was going to say.

“You’re going to be a priest, I’ve known it my whole life,” Mrs. Tizziani said to her son.

What tipped his mother off? When he was a boy and came across a dead animal, he would give the fallen creature a proper funeral and burial, making a popsicle-stick cross to mark the grave.

Father Tizziani began studying to the priesthood for the Diocese of Steubenville. He became familiar with and drawn to the Diocese of Covington when his pastor, Father Roger Foys, was appointed bishop of Covington.

“When he came here he said he saw a great need here, he wasn’t just following his pastor, he saw a need here and he felt called to be here,” said Father Raymond Enzweiler, who was ordained along with Father Tizziani.

Father Enzweiler said, “I was always impressed with how devoted he was to people, especially at St. Cecilia.”
Kendra McGuire, who was principal at St. Cecilia School prior to being named superintendent of Catholic Schools, said that, as a former teacher himself, Father Tizziani was always interested in making sure that the students were doing well academically.

“He had a goal to apply for the Blue Ribbon. He told the school board St. Cecilia was going to be a standout school and he put the people in place to make that happen.”

More importantly, Father Tizziani was dedicated not only to teaching his students the Catholic faith, but also living the faith — teaching religious hymns at Christmas, initiating the annual Saints Parade at Halloween, praying the rosary, and saying prayers before Mass, the Anima Christi after Communion and prayers after Mass.

“At each grade level the altar servers would learn something more about the Mass; it kept the students involved in the Mass and learning about it,” Mrs. McGuire said. “He was the kind of person that cared about everybody. He made St. Cecilia such a welcoming community. He connected with people and he cared about their souls. He gave everything to being a priest.”

Kenneth Collopy, currently in his second year as principal at St. Cecilia School, agreed.
“He was involved in the everyday operations of the school. He was a huge factor in the $6 million addition that was put on; he took to heart the evangelization of the students; he was a great mentor to them.”

Speaking personally, Mr. Collopy said that Father Tizziani has made a big impact on his faith life. “He helped me grow in my faith which I am very appreciative of. We all want to get to heaven and if I get there he will have contributed to helping me achieve that,” he said.

Father Tizziani was a fourth degree Knight of Columbus. In 2016 he was appointed chaplain for the State of Kentucky Knights of Columbus, a position he held until his death.

“Father Mario was a dedicated Knight of Columbus, he was State Chaplain for the Knights of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, a position he cherished and to which he dedicated himself wholeheartedly,” said Bishop Foys.

Like the many other people in Father Tizziani’s life, Steve Zanone, State deputy, Knights of Columbus, found him readily available.

“In spite of Father Mario’s horrendously busy schedule, he was extremely committed to the Knights,” Mr. Zanone said. “He took an active part celebrating Mass for us, providing Eucharistic adoration, praying the rosary with us, trying to grow our faith by his example and through his leadership. Personally, Father Mario was a very trusted advisor and confidant, he was the guy you could go to.”

Mr. Zanone said that Father Tizziani wasn’t shy about correcting a person if he felt they were out of line. “If he thought you were out to lunch, he’d let you know. That’s what made him so valuable.”
“I will always remember his joy and his levity,” Mr. Zanone said. “When it was time to be serious, he was serious, when it was time to have fun, he knew how to have fun, he knew how to live life.”

“He loved Christmas,” said Mrs. Motto as she recalled a very special Christmas Father Tizziani arranged for his mother. Each night during the 12 days of Christmas, he would secretly knock on the front door, sitting on the doorstep would be a gift corresponding to the popular song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”

“He had a friend do the knocking a few nights while he was with her,” said Mrs. Motto. “That was her best Christmas ever and every Christmas she would reminisce back to that Christmas. He put so much thought into everything he did.”

“I had the privilege of knowing Father Mario, first as his pastor for 20 some years, and then as his bishop,” said Bishop Foys. “I will miss him, as will so many whose lives he touched by his devoted ministry. We thank God for his life and for his ministry. May he rest in peace with the God he knew and served so well in this life.”

His father, Lino John Tizziani; nephew, Jason Joseph Motto; brother-in-law, Tom Anderson and uncle, Gino Tizziani, preceded him in death. Survivors include his mother, Catherine Gabriel Tizziani, sisters, Gina (Joe) Motto and Esther Anderson; brothers, Dan (Maggie) Tizziani and Anthony (Lisa) Tizziani; many nieces, nephews, great nieces and great nephews.

Bishop Foys celebrated the funeral Mass Dec. 31, at St. Cecilia Parish. Interment was held Jan. 2 in Toronto. Memorials are suggested to St. Cecilia School and St. Cecilia Catholic Church.

Make room for Jesus, Bishop Foys says during Midnight Mass at the cathedral

Laura Keener, Editor.

As midnight Mass was about to begin, Dec. 24, inside the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption all was calm and peaceful as Dr. Gregory Schaeffer, organist, and LeeAnn Kordenbrock, soloist and cantor, filled the cathedral with Christmas hymns. This year the full Bishop’s Choir and congregational singing were suspended as, even on Christmas Eve, COVID-19 protocols were observed for the health and safety of everyone.

The congregation was masked and the crowd was greatly reduced yet the Cathedral was adorned in greenery and cheery red poinsettias led the way up the sanctuary steps to the altar. At the stroke of midnight, Bishop Roger Foys processed to the Cathedral’s nativity scene and removed a cloth which covered the baby Jesus who laid in the manger in the Cathedral’s nativity scene.

“Today is born a savior who is Christ the Lord. That is why we come together to celebrate,” Bishop Foys said as he began his homily.

Acknowledging that much has changed in our lives, in our country and in our world since last Christmas, Bishop Foys said, “The message (of Christmas) is the same every year, but we don’t remain the same. Our lives change, we change — we grow old, we grow wiser. This year certainly has been a year of change.”

“To those who dwell in darkness a great light will shine,” Bishop Foys said repeating the words from the readings. “It has been a dark year, a time of gloom a time of sadness, yet one thing that has not changed, that will never change, is what we celebrate today — a savior has been born to us and he is Christ the Lord.”

Reflecting on St. Luke’s nativity narrative (the Gospel reading for midnight Mass) Bishop Foys focused on the innkeeper.

“In that narrative are the saddest words, ‘There was no room at the inn.’ Maybe that hasn’t changed that much either,” Bishop Foys said. “Still in the lives of many people, in the lives of many nations, there is no room for Jesus. Every year at Christmas we have to ask ourselves, ‘Do I have any room for Jesus in my life? Have I opened the door wide for him to come into my heart, into my mind, into my soul? Do I let him dwell within me or have I shut him out?”

Bishop Foys shared a message of how, even in the darkest times, it is possible to find and keep joy.
“When we let Jesus into our lives, into our hearts, into our minds, into our souls we are transformed. Once we do that, there is nothing and there is no one who can take our joy from us. As we celebrate the birth of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ, let us open our hearts to him and let him live in us.”

Covington Christmas Tree dedicated

Messenger Staff Report

Rain and sleet couldn’t stop the dedication of the Christmas tree Dec. 16 at St. Mary’s Park, Covington. A small crowd gathered to hear remarks from Joe Meyer, mayor of Covington; Kendra McGuire, superintendent of Catholic Schools; and Bishop Roger Foys, who blessed the tree and dedicated it to the students of the diocesan schools. “When the government and the Church work hand in hand, we can do great things,” said Bishop Foys, before blessing the 20-foot tree. “With this tree, decorated and adorned, may we welcome Christ among us, and may it guide us to that perfect light, who is Emmanuel, God with us,” he prayed.

The tree was decorated by members of the Diocese of Covington Curia staff, using ornaments contributed by the diocesan schools — hundreds of those crafted by individual students. “We dedicate the tree to all the students enrolled in the school system of the Diocese of Covington,” said Bishop Foys. “They’ve had to make an awful lot of sacrifices… and we wanted some way to bring them all together. We thank God for them and for their parents. … We were really pleased with the number of students who sent ornaments.” Mr. Mark Guilfoyle was master of ceremonies.

To view the full dedication, click here.