By MARY ANNE CASTRANIO, Staff Writer | Published April 24, 2008
The head of Atlanta’s Catholic schools, Superintendent Diane Starkovich, described with awe her experience at Pope Benedict’s meeting with Catholic educators April 17 on the campus of Catholic University of America.
“It was one of those experiences you’ll remember for the rest of your life,” she said.
One of over 400 educators representing every U.S. diocese and Catholic colleges, she had a “great seat” up near the front of the room, since Atlanta falls at the beginning of the alphabet.
The group started the process for the meeting at about 12:30 p.m. that Thursday, undergoing security checks, then moving on to a conference room, where they waited for several hours. At 4 p.m., they started taking their seats, she said, with excitement coming on as the Secret Service continued to check and make the room ready.
“I was expecting someone reserved and introverted,” Starkovich said, but the Holy Father just “beamed” when he came into the room. “He was so happy to be in the United States … to be with us.”
In his address, Pope Benedict recognized the importance and impact of Catholic schools. “He thanked us, affirmed us, challenged us …to be true to the faith,” she said. He reminded educators that “prayer is very important.” The whole room was intensely silent during his remarks.
“We were so impressed with his knowledge of languages,” she added, mentioning that he seemed so “energetic, outgoing, vibrant.”
To the Catholic school superintendents, Pope Benedict emphasized that they must not let the schools “diminish.”
The entire experience was “very intimate” to those present, said Starkovich.
“It was such a privilege. It was such an honor.”