My Good and Faith-Filled Friends,
Of the many reasons for the meteoric rise and success of Cristo Rey Jesuit Houston, one of the main ones has been an energetic and exciting 24/7 work ethic that not only launched our school one year earlier than expected, but in six short years, has placed it in a position to be one of the largest Cristo Rey schools in the nation. Without exception, everyone who has joined our “Cristo Rey Revolution” in the city has given above and beyond to our mission to provide a rigorous, Catholic, Jesuit, college preparatory education to children living in families suffering from economic distress. Indeed, we have all burnt the candle at both ends and the result has been that we have become the next generation of education reform in Houston as we have earned the overwhelming support of the city’s business, political, ecclesial and philanthropic leaders. At the same time we have become a new and influential voice in the school reform and school choice debate, placing Cristo Rey Jesuit as an opinion leader in a part of the country known as the epicenter for innovative and successful school models.
On March 25th, I was rushed to the hospital after experiencing excessive stabbing pains in my stomach, and after intensive testing I received the surprising diagnosis that I had stage 4 stomach cancer. I immediately relinquished all my day-to-day responsibilities as President of Cristo Rey Jesuit in order to begin extensive treatment under the great care of a team of doctors at M D Anderson. A recent CT scan has revealed that while the chemo has had some positive effect, the long-term results are still in question, requiring more extensive and much longer treatment. Given this fact, I am no longer able to provide the 24/7, high, energy style of leadership that has defined my presidency and that Cristo Rey Jesuit so vehemently deserves so that it remains one of the most innovative and successful institutions in Houston. The time has come for a new wave of leadership to take over to not simply fill the gap of leadership my absence has left, but to provide new, bold, strategic and visionary direction that will take Cristo Rey Jesuit to the next level. In so stating, and because of my diagnosis and the continued treatment needed in an attempt to at least contain the cancer, it is time for me to totally let go of the reigns of the school as her founding president. While the decision might be a difficult one to do, it is nonetheless an easy one to make for it sets as priority the mission of the school – to work day and night to get our students into and through college, secured in their faith that Christ is their ground and their goal.
I could not be more proud of working with such an outstanding group of people from day one from the Advisory Committee, to the Trustees, to the Volunteers, to the Cabinet and Staff, to the Faculty and of course our wonderful students. The overwhelming accomplishments over a short period of time speak for themselves and I will not list them here (even as I love doing so everywhere else!). I had not anticipated an exit like this one, but God has His own way of having us move on to the next chapter of our own stories and this battle with cancer will be a 24/7 one. I remain at your service to help you in any way I possibly can, given my health. At the same time, knowing literally everyone since the beginning of our “Cristo Rey Revolution” and having a unique story on how each of you came to the aid of this little Jesuit priest, I leave assured that our mission and our kids are in great, great hands. Until we meet again, count on my affectionate thoughts and prayers for you based on a deep gratitude that Cristo Rey Jesuit would never have been as successful as it has been without you.
Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Cristo Rey Jesuit!!
Fr. TJ Martinez, SJ
Reverend TJ Martinez, SJ