St. Joseph students, Bishop Zubik inspire each other in visit to Harrison school
St. Joseph High School senior Anna Swierczewski has been going to Catholic schools since she was 3 years old.
On Thursday she got to meet and talk with Bishop David Zubik, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, about the church and her faith.
"It makes us feel like we're really part of the church whenever we have such a figure coming and talking to us and being able to relate to us," Swierczewski said.
Zubik, who spent 13 years in education as a teacher and administrator, said he makes it a point to visit all 12 high schools in the Pittsburgh Diocese.
He spent the day at St. Joseph having meals with students, visiting classrooms and leading Mass. He also blessed pictures of St. Joseph that will be hung in every classroom.
"It gives me a chance to be able to see the good work that continues to be there," he said.
"But on the other side of it, it gives me a chance to really support the administration, teachers and the students."
Principal Beverly Kaniecki said the bishop's experience in education gives him a special connection to Catholic schools.
"He really understands our joys and our challenges," Kaniecki said. "We're just so blessed to have the bishop give a whole day to spend with us."
Zubik said he is inspired by Pope Francis to visit and get to know the people in his area.
"I try to be out on the road as much as I can to meet our folks," Zubik said.
Senior Gregory Schratz, 18, said he thinks Zubik is someone he and his peers can look up to.
"He really doesn't just talk about the faith, he doesn't just preach out it — he lives it," Schratz said. "I think living the faith by example — that's something that can really draw people to Catholicism."
Schratz, who is applying to attend St. Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh, enjoyed hearing Zubik's story about how he became a priest and a bishop.
"Just to hear it from someone who's such an awesome inspiration of faith that he struggled too, but he still found the end of it," he said. "That means a lot to me — especially as I'm sorting out what I should be doing."
Zubik said he appreciated the students' openness and their dedication to their faith.
"The whole day has been terrific," he said. "It's been interactive, it's been honest, it's been faith-filled (and) it's been inspiring."
Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @emilybalser.