NEW ORLEANS - Rev. Raymond Fitzgerald, S.J., the president of Jesuit High School for the past two years, announced to the school community Tuesday that he has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease, and intends to step down from his post at the end of the school year.
In his letter to the school community and staff, Fitzgerald said his diagnosis first came in June of last year and was confirmed this past fall. He said he will step down at the end of this current school year.
Fitzgerald commented that "in the New Orleans area, 'Steve Gleason's Disease' may be a more apt and familiar description," referring to the popular Saints player now courageously battling the neurological disease.
Fitzgerald said because of the diagnosis he intends to step down as president of the school at the end of this school year. But he struck a hopeful and optimistic tone, saying that he is currently taking medication that has been shown to slow the deterioration of the disease, and is undergoing physical therapy.
"One of the points that doctors have repeatedly stressed to me since the initial diagnosis in late June is that 'no two patients are the same.' ALS proceeds at different speeds with different people," Fitzgerald wrote.
He said the search for his successor is underway, in consultation with the school's Board of Directors and the Jesuit New Orleans Province.
Fitzgerald said his immediate predecessor, Rev. Anthony McGinn, S.J., will be made available to serve as president during the search. McGinn served as president for nearly 20 years before resigning in 2010.
"Thus, the generosity, understanding, and hard work of all those charged with the direction of Jesuit will ensure a smooth transition in the midst of this unforeseen development," Fitzgerald wrote.
Fitzgerald is a New Orleans native and 1976 graduate of Jesuit High School, who also taught at the school after graduating from Loyola University.
"A reality that has become clearer to me during this experience is that we are always able to pray for one another," Fitzgerald ended his statement. "Let us then ask that we be given the grace each day to do our duty before God, for this duty is our task for today. The future remains in the hands of God, with Whom the best is always yet to come. I thus commend myself to your particular prayers at this time and assure you of mine."