Hundreds of students from Catholic parish and regional elementary schools, Archdiocesan high schools, and schools of special education filled a portion of Cardinal O’Hara High School’s stadium on Sept. 20 as part of the official kick-off celebration for the 2023-2024 school year in the five-county Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Archbishop Nelson J. Pérez was joined by leadership from the Office of Catholic Education including Jay DeFruscio, Chief Operating Officer for Secondary Schools, Brooke C. Tesche, Ed.D., Superintendent of Secondary Schools and Schools of Special Education, and Andrew McLaughlin, Ed.D., Secretary for Elementary Education, to welcome students back to school.

O’Hara leadership was represented by Michael Connor, President, and Eileen Murphy, Principal. The event served as an official welcome for the more than 45,000 students attending the 102 parish and regional elementary schools, 15 high schools, and three schools of special education in the region.

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In speaking to the students Archbishop Pérez said, “You know, next to the public sector the Catholic Church does more for education of young people than any other institution in this area. Let that sink in for a moment — what the Catholic Church does for the common good, 15 high schools, 102 elementary schools, three schools of special education, about 2,500 teachers. Let’s give our teachers a shout out!”

He continued, “Jesus is here for you and he’s encountering all of our students, teachers, staff, and administrators across the Philadelphia area. Why does he do all of this? It is an expression of God’s love for you, of His care, for you and His dream, and His hope that you thrive with the gifts that He has given to you.”

Featured performances included the O’Hara Band and Cheerleading Team.

Following remarks, the event concluded with a mascot race with competitors hailing from Archdiocesan high schools. Cardinal O’Hara’s “Lion” took the crown by besting “The Patriot” from Archbishop John Carroll High School in Radnor (Delaware County).

Footage of the celebration is posted to the Archbishop’s Facebook page.