Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Nov
  • 28

Mr. McManus leaves legacy for students and teachers

Posted By November 28, 2011 | 11:16 am | Local
LOCAL  Charlie2

By William T. Clew

Many of those who knew Charles McManus and many who worked with him expressed their respect and fond memories this week.

Bishop Reilly remembered Mr. McManus as a professional educator and as a friend.

“Charlie McManus was a very special man, a true professional who knew, promoted and served Catholic education from the local, the diocesan and the national level. Being superintendent of Catholic schools here in Worcester was not a job for him, but a true calling that he embraced with his faith and ability as a way to serve God and the Church,” Bishop Reilly said.

“He was also a down-to-earth man whose friendship I enjoyed in all the years I knew him. May the Lord strengthen Beth, his dear wife, and all the members of his family on their great loss, and God grant Charlie his well-deserved eternal reward.”

When Mr. McManus retired in 2004, Bishop Rueger, a  former diocesan superintendent of schools himself, said that Mr. McManus treated his work as a ministry.

“Charlie is a good role model for (lay Catholics) no matter what ministry they chose,” the bishop said, adding that the superintendent was a man of “great fidelity and very balanced judgement.”

This week, Bishop Rueger said that Mr. McManus “was a man who was well focused and did not hesitate to move toward important goals in Catholic education. He worked on the national level, too, and traveled extensively for new ideas that could be used here.”

He noted that Mr. McManus not only was the first lay superintendent of schools in the diocese, he also was the first lay headmaster at Holy Name Central Catholic High School. In a time of transition at Catholic schools when the role of priests and religious was growing smaller and lay involvement was growing larger, Mr. McManus was very respectful of every priest and every bishop.

When he retired, Mr. McManus said his greatest accomplishment as superintendent was a commitment to maintaining Catholic identity in diocesan schools. Much of the professional development the department allots teachers goes to religious enrichment, he noted. This focus on the Catholicism of the diocesan schools is necessary since most schools are now staffed by lay people.

“We need to be able to assure everybody … that we still are a Catholic school system committed to a strong, religious education in our schools,” he said.

In a memorandum to teachers and administrators in the diocesan school system, Superintendent Delma L. Josephson said, “With the passing of Charlie McManus last Friday, Catholic education lost a true friend and champion.”

She said those in the Catholic Schools Office who had worked with Charlie for years said, “He was always there no matter what. He didn’t think twice about helping others. Nothing was an inconvenience for him.”

They said, “He was a take charge person who did it with love.”

Those newer to the office recognized that, “leaders like Charlie don’t come often enough,” Mrs. Josephson said.

“The Catholic Schools Office staff is very grateful for Charlie’s legacy to our students. Thousands have benefited from his dedication and service,” she said.

Owen Coogan, former diocesan director of development and a long-time friend of Mr. McManus, worked with him in funding-raising, especially for the Adopt-A-Student program.

“Charlie McManus was truly a man among men. His was the unusual ability to lead quietly and effectively while having us feel effective! He was one of a kind and will be truly missed,” he said.

Michael Coogan, former associate diocesan director of development said his dad, Mr. McManus and William  O’Brien, under Bishop Harrington, initiated Adopt-A-Student and the Catholic Schools Annual Appeal.

“Even after retirement, Charlie remained strongly committed to the Adopt-A-Student program,” Mr. Coogan said. “Our working relationship evolved into a friendship. I’m proud to have worked with him and to have called him a friend.”

Robert Pape, current chairman of the Adopt-A-Student program, said Mr. McManus was one of the people who recruited him for the program.

“Charlie was a guiding force in the Adopt-A-Student program. There were many chairmen, but Charlie always made sure things happened. We referred to him as the ‘Energizer Bunny.’ He just kept on going.

“He had many contacts and friends whom he enlisted to support the Adopt-A-Student program and this was all driven by his commitment to Catholic education and helping those less fortunate achieve a Catholic education.”

“Charlie McManus was for me, an example of servant leadership,” said Patricia Halpin, former associate superintendent of schools from 1984 to 2004. “He not only set the agenda, he set up the chairs, brought the coffee and turned out the lights; all done with a light heart and a generous spirit.

“One didn’t work for Charlie, we worked with Charlie. Charlie encouraged us to try new things, to expand our horizons and if the outcome wasn’t quite what we had hoped it was OK because Charlie was loyal and you knew he had your back. For the almost two decades I was privileged to work in the Catholic School Department, Charlie was the light, his door always open, he taught us to welcome all and serve with love and compassion.”


Charles E. McManus Jr., 72, the first lay superintendent of the Worcester diocesan school system and a founder of the diocesan Adopt-A-Student program, died Nov. 18 at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston.
Bishop McManus said, “Charlie was a man of deep faith, a faith that sustained him and his family during his courageous battle with cancer these last years.  Charlie McManus will be sorely missed in the Diocese of Worcester.”
He is survived by his devoted wife of 50 years, Beth DeBonis McManus.  He is also survived by a son, Andrew C. McManus and his wife Cheryl of Youngsville, NC; three daughters; Jean L. McManus, and her sons Jonathan C. and Matthew P. Bullis; Sheila McManus and Barbara McManus and her husband John D. Walsh and their daughter Fiona Walsh, all of Worcester; a brother, Barry McManus and his wife Judith Laino of South Carolina; a sister, Joan Hittner and her husband Leon of California; his brother-in-law George DeBonis and his wife Lorraine of Lunenburg; an aunt, Lena Saunders of Fitchburg; nieces,  nephews, cousins, and many friends.
“In my own name and that of the Diocese of Worcester, I offer my sincere condolences and promise of prayers to Mrs. Beth McManus and her family at the death of her husband, Charles McManus,” Bishop McManus said.
“Charlie was a true Catholic school educator. He taught in both Catholic elementary and secondary schools and served with great distinction as Superintendent of Catholic Schools for many years in the Diocese of Worcester until his retirement in 2004.  Even after his retirement, Charlie’s expertise continued to be recognized and employed as he served as a consulter for several Catholic school educational organizations.
“Beyond his life-long commitment to excellence in Catholic school education, Charlie was an involved Catholic layman in his own parish of Our Lady of Providence Parish in Worcester and in diocesan affairs.  He contributed to his community in many different ways, always in a gentlemanly and professional manner.
“We pray that Charlie has received the rewards of his labors and that he now rests in the peace of the Risen Christ,” the bishop said in a statement.
He was born in Fitchburg on April 29, 1939, son of Charles E. and Josephine (Cefalo) McManus.  He graduated from Notre Dame High School in Fitchburg and attended St. Michael’s College in Burlington, Vt. He received a bachelor’s degree in social studies from Assumption College in Worcester and a master’s of education degree in guidance from Fitchburg State College.  He also studied at Anna Maria College in Paxton and at Worcester State College.
He began his career in diocesan schools in Fitchburg in 1963, teaching grades 6, 7 and 8 at St. Anthony School. In 1965 he moved to St. Bernard Central Catholic High School. There he taught English, humanities and social sciences and was co-developer of the humanities program. He also was athletic director and a part-time guidance counselor. He also taught adult education courses in Fitchburg.
In 1977 he was named acting headmaster and then headmaster of Holy Name Central Catholic High School, a position he held until he was appointed superintendent of diocesan schools. He also was an adjunct professor of economics at Fisher Junior College.
He was named superintendent of diocesan schools July 1, 1986, by Bishop Harrington. He was selected after a nation-wide search.
In making the appointment, Bishop Harrington said, “I see the new superintendent of schools as an educator with the ability to lead, motivate and promote our Catholic educational values, and as a ‘teacher’s teacher’ – one whom the members of the diocesan teaching staff will look up to and seek to emulate in the conduct of their duties.”
He succeeded Father James J. Aquino, who had been superintendent since September 1980.
“I was delighted at the news that Charlie had been selected by Bishop Harrington as my successor,” Father Aquino said at the time. “As the first lay person to hold this position, he will bring a new and powerful dimension to the office of superintendent.”
As superintendent, Mr. McManus was part of a team that founded the Adopt-A-Student program for the Diocese of Worcester.
He retired as superintendent in 2004 after 41 years in the diocesan school system.
When he retired, Matthew Sturgis, headmaster of St. Peter-Marian Central Catholic Junior/Senior High School, said Mr. McManus was the glue that held the diocesan school system together.
“Charlie brought a lot of stability and a lot of credibility to a school system under a lot of stress,” Mr. Sturgis said. “He brought a lot of energy, insight and more than that, he brought a sense of compassion.”
After retirement, he continued in the education field as a consultant for the FACTS Tuition Management Company of Lincoln, Neb.
He was the founding chairman and continued as chairman for 10 years of Parents Alliance for Catholic Education.
He was a member of the National Catholic Educational Association, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association and the Central Massachusetts Secondary Schools Administrators Association.
He was a member of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association football committee and blue ribbon sportsmanship committee; the Central Massachusetts Football Superbowl Committee and the Central Massachusetts Chapter, National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame.
Throughout his life, he was active in civic and community organizations.  He was a member of the finance committee of Our Lady of Providence Parish and served on many boards, including the Guild of St. Agnes, Venerini Academy, Julie Country Day School, St. Peter Central Catholic Elementary School Advisory Board, and Gilrein Scholarship Program. He also was a member of  the Interreligious Council of Worcester. He was a lifetime member of the Knights of Columbus Council 99 in Fitchburg.
He loved to travel with his wife Beth and his family and friends.   He especially enjoyed spending time at his home in Falmouth with his children, grandchildren, and friends. His other interests were playing cards, golfing, reading, cooking, and watching sports.
Memorial contributions may be made in his name to Adopt-A-Student Program, care of the Catholic Schools Office, 49 Elm St. Worcester 01609 or Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Department of G.I. Oncology, 450 Brookline Ave.  Boston, MA 02215.