By William Schmitt
NOTRE DAME — A commitment to strengthen Catholic primary and secondary education prompted celebrations of joy and hope at the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 16-17 with the dedication of a new home for the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).
A series of events, including a blessing by University President Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, spotlighted the newly built Carole Sandner Hall.
Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades presided at a Dedication Mass and praised the passion for K-12 education that drives Notre Dame’s ACE program.
“ACE is just one example of how the University of Notre Dame serves the Church,” Bishop Rhoades said in remarks during the Friday evening Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. “One of our greatest needs in the Church in the U.S. today is the strengthening of our Catholic schools. We have to look with new vision and creativity at how not only to continue the wonderful system of Catholic education that we have, but to work hard to improve it, to grow it throughout our country.”
The ACE program, co-founded in 1993 by Holy Cross Fathers Timothy Scully and Sean McGraw, conducts graduate-level formation programs that prepare teachers and principals for Catholic schools. It stresses professional service, community and spirituality as “pillars” of sound formation.
The program has grown over the years in response to needs in dioceses around the country. Its professional services and partnership programs assist school leaders with administrative and strategic challenges. Its outreach initiatives are building a movement in support of Catholic schools and raising awareness of governmental programs that can increase access to Catholic schools among lower-income families.
Bishop Rhoades thanked the benefactors who financially supported ACE’s new home on the campus — a “beautiful new building” plus refurbished space that once housed Holy Cross sisters, many of whom were Catholic school teachers. The combination of office and gathering spaces is just steps away from the basilica, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes and the Golden Dome.
Bishop Rhoades called Catholic schools a “very important mission in the Church” and highlighted the “responsibility we have of passing on the faith.”
Noting the need for Catholic universities to be close to bishops and the pope in service to the Church, Bishop Rhoades said ACE’s initiatives served the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend — particularly regarding Indiana’s new parental-choice laws and recent enrollment increases in at-risk Catholic schools serving the poor.
He commended ACE for its “Catholic School Advantage” campaign to double the percentage of Latino families sending their children to Catholic schools. He also said he has met a number of ACE teachers and has seen “their zeal for the mission” that incorporates “the education of the spirit, of the soul.”
Father Scully told the congregation that Bishop Rhoades has been “a source of encouragement and inspiration” to ACE, and he presented the bishop with an ACE T-shirt. Father Scully is director of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI), which includes ACE and shares the newly dedicated space.
The Dedication Mass was accompanied by several other ACE-related events on Sept. 16-17. Among the distinguished visitors on Saturday was the Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York.
Archbishop Dolan, touring the newly dedicated space, said ACE helps to affirm a bright future for Catholic schools. The Archdiocese of New York is a partner with ACE in the Catholic School Advantage campaign.
“I don’t know of any place that gives more hope and promise than here, and this beautiful building is an icon of that,” he told an ACE gathering, adding a blessing and a call to “keep up the good work.”
Archbishop Dolan later celebrated Mass in the basilica following the Notre Dame vs. Michigan State football game.
At another dedication event, Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia, who is a Notre Dame graduate, called ACE “a way to help other Catholic schools to grow and thrive — and we all know how important it is to have thriving Catholic schools, particularly in inner city areas where there’s great need for alternatives in the system.”
ACE and Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives (IEI) together are playing a major supportive role in the 2011-2012 Notre Dame Forum, a yearlong series of events exploring K-12 education with the overall theme, “Reimagining School: To Nurture the Soul of a Nation.” Information about the events can be found at www.forum.nd.edu. Details about Notre Dame’s K-12 education initiatives are at www.ace.nd.edu and www.iei.nd.edu.
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