Jesuit Father Raymond Fitzgerald sent the following letter to Jesuit High School alumni about his health:
This afternoon, I announced to our faculty and staff significant information that I now wish to communicate to you and other members of the Jesuit High School community. I have been diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, although in the New Orleans area, "Steve Gleason's Disease" may be a more apt and familiar description.
ALS is the abbreviation for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a neurological disorder that causes muscles to weaken and atrophy. This disease is both progressive and incurable. Fortunately, cognitive functions remain unimpaired by ALS. That said, 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. I am currently taking a medication that has been found to slow the rate of muscle deterioration. Additionally, I am doing physical therapy to help preserve muscle use as long as possible.
Nonetheless, this disease and its effects will adversely impact my ability to exercise the office of president, and I intend to step down after the conclusion of the 2013-2014 school year.
Since the confirmation of my diagnosis in the fall, the Board of Directors of Jesuit High School and the New Orleans Province of the Jesuits have been diligent and generous in working to ensure continuity of governance at Carrollton and Banks. In line with the school's succession plan, the Board is beginning a search to find the best successor possible.
In the meantime, Father Mark Lewis, S.J., provincial superior of the Jesuits, has made Father Anthony McGinn, S.J. available to serve as president during this search. Of course, Fr. McGinn is my immediate predecessor and certainly no stranger to Jesuit. Currently completing an important assignment for the Jesuit province, he will be available in the spring for consultation and planning, and will take the reins this summer. I am grateful to Fr. McGinn for his willingness to assist me and our alma mater at this time.
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.
A reality that has become clearer to me during this experience is that we are always able to pray for one another. 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.
Raymond Fitzgerald, S.J.