'A huge and powerful love': How Catholic schools respond following crises


On a Monday last fall, Marian Cansdale learned her 53-year-old husband, Douglas, had been killed in a car accident. He had just dropped off their oldest son at Santa Clara University in California and was driving back to Portland to make that evening's back-to-school night at Jesuit High School, where his two daughters were enrolled.

Paralyzed with grief and shock, Marian didn't know what to do next. Should she tell her son? Give him one more pain-free night?

Then she received a phone call from Don Clark, Jesuit campus ministry director.

He pointed out that information spreads like wildfire through social media and suggested she call her son right away, so he'd hear the news from his mom first.

As tough as it was to make that call, "it was such great practical advice," Marian said during a recent interview. "It cushioned the inundation of people knowing everything about the death before my son knew or before I could even talk about it."

Clark's timely call and sage advice emerged in part from school values built on faith. It is perhaps during times of family crisis that Catholic schools, through both practical and spiritual support, provide the most valuable expression of those values.

Service and love "define us as Catholic schools," said Maria Palacio, a longtime principal of St. Vincent de Paul School in Salem who retired last month. Palacio has taught and worked in both Catholic and public education and said there are "excellent teachers, programs and principals in public schools."

"But what makes a difference for us are the Catholic-Christian values," she said. Continue reading on