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SOCIALLY AWARE. SPIRITUALLY GROUNDED. Ed Nolan's vocation is built on meaningful interactions

by Lisa Metro in the fall 2018 issue of Saint Ignatius Magazine

Ed Nolan wears his faith on his sleeve. He freely discusses his spirituality and his relationship with Christ with students in the classroom, with colleagues over a cup of coffee, and with his friends on the street with whom he meets every Sunday through the Saint Ignatius Labre ministry. For Nolan, it’s all about being present as he interacts with others.

Is it mere coincidence, then, that the Saint Ignatius High School science teacher spends his days teaching chemistry – a subject he describes as the study of “how various things interact with each other”?

Growing up in Rocky River, Ohio, Nolan was a fan of Jacques Cousteau. When he discovered Bowling Green State University offered a major in marine biology, he saw a good fit for his future. Some time after graduation, he attended Cleveland State University to obtain his teaching certificate and joined the faculty at St. Edward High School. It was there he worked with John Cooney ’67, eventually following Cooney to Saint Ignatius to work alongside him in the Science Department.

That was more than 30 years ago and he’s never looked back. For Nolan, the best part of his teaching career is without a doubt the students. “Walking in the classroom and seeing those 20 faces…. that’s the face of Christ,” he says. “They are incredibly forgiving. They are more forgiving of me than I am of myself. They teach me not to take myself too seriously. It’s humbling.”

Nolan, along with Connor Walters ’09, co-moderates the Labre Ministry to the Homeless. Every Sunday evening he drives one of three vans filled with students, meals and supplies and visits homeless men and women in the City of Cleveland. Nolan says he initially became socially aware in high school after reading “The Grapes of Wrath.” That awareness remained with him throughout the years, spilling over into his Saint Ignatius career. It was the late Theology teacher Jim Skerl ’74 who influenced him the most.

“When Jim talked about Labre, it was very compelling,” Nolan says. “He asked me for a commitment. I was driving the first two Sundays of every month. As he got sick, I picked up more. Here I am.”

John Gill ’97, Executive Director of the Arrupe Neighborhood Partnership, believes Nolan has been instrumental with Labre, particularly after Skerl’s passing.

“He wants to help, not to fix, but to be present,” says Gill. “Ed can put himself in others’ shoes and understands their challenges.”

Science meets faith often literally for Nolan. He takes the eighth Corporal Work of Mercy “care for our common home” very seriously, often picking up trash on the street and recycling it whenever possible.

In describing his own faith life, Nolan says, “It’s not a coat I put on and take off. It’s certainly part of my fiber.”

Nolan leads students on the Cleveland Mission Trip, a deep dive into the world of homelessness, which he helped revive in 2017.

At Labre on Sunday nights, Nolan takes students to encounter Christ in homeless and formerly homeless men and women.

A faith witness in the classroom, Nolan also shares his faith before the vans leave to start Labre on Sunday nights.

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