Educator Richard Clark remembers his love of faith, family and his contributions to Catholic schools
Hundreds of people turned out on September 26 to remember Richard Clark at his funeral in St. Vitus Church in Cleveland. Many prominent Jesuit priests concelebrated the Mass, which was also attended by Bishop Edward Malesic. The liturgy was broadcast live.
Clark, 71, died Sept. 20. He is well known in the educational community as the first lay director of Saint Ignatius High School; founding president of Saint Martin de Porres High School, Cristo Rey School of Cleveland; and he helped bring Partner schools in Cleveland to revitalize four Cleveland elementary schools.
Survivors include his 39-year-old wife, Moira, president of Magnificat High School; sons Will (Brittany) and Kevin and daughter Bridey; grandson Connor; siblings Maureen Delgado and Bill; and many friends. He was predeceased by his parents and a son, Colin.
Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Clark grew up in Chicago, Illinois. He attended Georgetown University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in theology. He also earned a master’s degree in religious education from Loyola University Chicago.
Clark spent 18 years teaching scripture and ethics at Loyola Academy in Chicago, his alma mater, before becoming principal of Saint Ignatius High School in Cleveland.
His friend, Father John Foley, SJ invited Clark and several other Jesuit friends and educators on a trip to visit Faith and Joy schools in Peru, where Father Foley previously ministered in school leadership for many years. years. During this visit, the structure and mission of what has become the Cristo Rey Network began to form. The network’s slogan and mission is “Transforming Urban America, One Student at a Time”.
After the trip, Clark recalled being moved by the concept. When he returned home, he prayed and pondered the steps necessary to provide such an opportunity for students of modest means in Cleveland. He sought advice from Father Robert Welsh, SJ, then president of Saint Ignatius, who supported the idea. After securing support from individuals and businesses to help launch the school, Clark also sought permission from the late Bishop Anthony Pilla.
In September 2004, Saint Martin de Porres High School opened in Cleveland with 105 students—and Clark as president. One of his proudest moments was the opening of the newly constructed building on St. Clair and Norwood Avenues. He and Bishop of Cleveland Nelson Perez led the student body to nearby St. Vitus Church for a Mass to celebrate the building’s blessing and dedication in 2018. There are more than 1,000 SMDP alumni.
Clark took on a new challenge in 2020, when he helped bring Partnership Schools, a Catholic elementary school management organization, to the Diocese of Cleveland. Bishop Lyke and Saint Thomas Aquinas the schools were the first replica of the successful network of Catholic primary schools. Later, Metro Catholic School and St. Francis School is part of the group. All four schools are in Cleveland.
“Across the Partnership, our prayers are full of gratitude for Rich’s gift of life and for the tenacity with which he worked to make Partnership Schools-Cleveland a reality. Simply put, Partnership Schools wouldn’t exist in Cleveland without Rich Clark,” said Jill Kafka, Executive Director of Partnership Schools. “His vision, passion and hard work changed the trajectory of Catholic education in Cleveland and they also transformed the Partnership. His legacy is magnificent and will live on for thousands of lifetimes and generations.
Kafka said she and the partner schools organization were grateful to have been able to witness Clark’s deep commitment to the city of Cleveland, “and how Rich has built community and friendship through his work. . Rich’s knack for making friends was only surpassed by his talent for enlisting those friends on behalf of the children he cared for so much. He formed us all into a community that he inspired, dared and even encouraged to share his zeal, and together we mourn him deeply.
During his homily at the funeral mass, Father Foley repeatedly used the following comment from St. Irenaeus to capture Clark’s character: “The glory of God is that many live fully.
Father Foley said Clark lived his life to the fullest, always enthusiastic about cooking, teaching, baseball and his family. “Have you ever seen him not excited or half-heartedly doing something?” He asked. “He reminded me of Saint-Paul. He was literally a go-getter,” he said. While preparing for the homily, Father Foley said it was hard to think of a time when Clark didn’t bring a smile to his face or make him laugh.
Recalling a biblical quote attributed to Jeremiah, Father Foley often said out of the blue that Clark would say, “You have deceived me, O Lord, and I have been deceived…God, of course, is the” super-duper”.
Another story he told concerned the time when the Cristo Rey network, of which father Foley was president, received an award from the National Association of Catholic Education at a fancy hotel in Washington, D.C. It was a formal event and he said Clark showed up in a tuxedo, but struggled as he walked through the lobby. “I looked at his feet and he was wearing black patent leather shoes. But both were for the left foot,” he said, adding how Clark tried to find a way to make the situation less noticeable, as the congregation laughed.
On a more serious note, Father Foley said Clark called him one day and asked if he had read Chapter 9 of the Acts of the Apostles yet. “I said, ‘I guess so,’ and he said, ‘Read it. It’s about us. The passage tells of St. Paul being knocked off his horse and hearing a voice telling him to go to the city where he will be told what to do.
“It’s the Cristo Rey Schools resume,” Fr. Foley said, noting that the network is focused on helping inner-city students who are falling behind on schoolwork and preparing them for college. . He said Cristo Rey’s first headmaster said they would be successful because “students will tell us what works and what doesn’t”. There’s a huge lesson in not waiting until you’re ready to do something, Fr. Foley said, asking, “How much good never gets done because we’re not ready?
In conclusion, Father Foley recalled Chaz Napoli, who replaced Clark as president of Saint Martin de Porres, paraphrasing one of Clark’s favorite statements.
“Rich, we love you and there’s nothing you can do about it. God be with Rich as he leaves this life.”