Outstanding Catholic schoolteachers on both sides of the diocese were honored at recent luncheons for their dedication to excellence in Catholic education. During the luncheons, Light of Learning Awards were given to select educators who express the core values of Catholic education and incorporate these vales into their curriculum and classroom.
Gerald Fitzpatrick, senior vice president of Quality Dining Inc.’s Burger King division, delivered the opening remarks at the Fort Wayne Light of Learning luncheon. “These success stories belong to you — the teachers and principals,” he told guests at the annual event, held at the Hotel Fort Wayne.
He went on to explain the impact and importance of fundraisers in making Catholic education possible. For example, Quality Dining’s annual You Can Lend a Hand program alone has resulted in $10.2 million dollars being raised for diocesan Catholic schools over the last three and a half decades. That money goes directly back to the schools in the form of resources like computers, smart boards and other capital investments.
The 2017 campaign marks the 35th anniversary of You Can Lend A Hand as part of Catholic Schools Week, and this year’s campaign video officially kicked off at the luncheons. Thirty-eight Catholic schools from the Fort Wayne-South Bend area, as well as 10 in the Southwest Michigan and Grand Rapids areas, participate.
There is still room for growth in diocesan schools’ enrollment, Fitzgerald noted. Forty-four percent of students in the diocese rely on the Indiana Choice Scholarship — also known as “vouchers,” he said — but many more families could take advantage of them. Following his remarks, an informational video was shown about the impact that Catholic education has had on local youth.
After the video, Superintendent of Catholic Schools Marsha Jordan presented the Msgr. J. William Lester Award to Michael and Marcia Flood. The Floods have been longtime financial supporters of Bishop Dwenger High School, along with taking an active role in their parish, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne.
“They are dedicated to Catholic education, both inspiring and encouraging others to give of time, talent ad treasure,” Jordan said.
Following the Floods’ receipt of the award, 21 teachers from the Fort Wayne area were honored for demonstrating the excellence of Catholic education. Lois Widner, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton School, Fort Wayne, was recognized for her dedication as an administrator.
The teachers who received awards were chosen by their respective schools for various reasons, but share a common love of spreading the Good News through religious education.
“The ultimate goal of Catholic education is to being the light of Christ to students,” Jordan said. “Teachers share their faith in a personal and intimate manner. To me, teaching is an act of love.”
Following her remarks, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades underlined the value of a Catholic education and those who make it a reality.
“As the theme of Catholic Schools Week 2017 proclaims, they are communities of faith, knowledge, and service,” he said. “Faith is always number one; a living faith, passed on in words, catechesis and witness of teachers, principals and staff. Faith celebrated in liturgies and expressed in prayer. Faith studied and learned, faith in the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, whom students learn to follow as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Appropriately planned for Candlemas Day, when Jesus, the Light of the World, is presented, the Catholic Schools Office celebrated the South Bend Light of Learning Awards Luncheon Feb. 2.
Bishop Rhoades described well this sharing of the Light of the World by the award winners. He explained how their students “are taught to open themselves to the grace of the Holy Spirit so as to love God with all their hearts, minds and souls and to love others as Christ has loved us- selflessly and sacrificially. This is why we can call Catholic schools ‘schools of service’ since students are taught to put into practice the truths they learn- to serve others, especially the poor and the needy,” he said. He highlighted that, “I am very happy that our four high schools are now CRS Global Schools, participating in the works of CRS in poor areas around the world.”
The South Bend-area Light of Learning winners for the 2016-17 school year were then honored. The South Bend Area Light of Learning Administrator Award recipient was Stephen Hoffman, from Christ the King, South Bend.
The last award given was the Msgr. J. William Lester Award, which recognizes an individual or couple who have demonstrated their unfailing support and dedication to Catholic education in the diocese. This year’s South Bend-area winner was Arthur J. Decio, longtime local philanthropist and retired chairman of Skyline Corporation of Elkhart.
“Msgr. Lester was a longtime priest, former superintendent and a great champion of Catholic education in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend. He wisely recognized the need for two Catholic High Schools on both sides of the diocese, saying that each would strengthen the other”, Superintendent Marsha Jordan explained. “Art Decio has a captivating way of focusing on the person he is with and sharing his wisdom, experience and his very self to make a difference. He has touched so many lives and communities by his dedication to noble philanthropic endeavors and his shining example of devotion to God and family.”
Daniel Fitzpatrick, president of Quality Dining expressed his gratitude for the participation of the Catholic schools in the You Can Lend a Hand program, and his hope that the growth of the Catholic schools continues through it.
Of the more than $10.2 million dollars raised for Catholic schools in the diocese Master of Ceremonies Chuck Freeby quipped, “that’s a lot of Whoppers!”
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