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Catholic Educators Honored as "Champions of Change"

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 27 January 2012.

Four of the White House Honorees Have Connections to ACE

The Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) is honored to be part of the career stories of three educators who were saluted by the White House on Jan. 25 as "Champions of Change." A fourth educator who was spotlighted is another supporter of ACE, as seen in the formation for leaders in her diocese. ACE is pleased to join in thanking all ten of the champions of Catholic education who were spotlighted in the Washington, D.C., ceremony. They share in ACE's commitment to offer all young people, especially the disadvantaged, the opportunity for a high-quality Catholic education.

Among the honorees was Joseph Womac, a graduate of ACE’s ACE Teaching Fellows program. In recent years, he has served as executive director of the Fulcrum Foundation, a Seattle-based organization whose fund-raising has helped more than 10,000 low income students attend Catholic schools.

Sister Rosa Maria Ruiz, C.F.M.M., superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Tucson in Arizona, was also one of the honorees. She noted that her purview includes an in-depth partnership with the Notre Dame ACE Academy initiative, in which ACE and Notre Dame are working with local educators to strengthen three diocesan schools.

A third honoree was Yvonne Schwab, principal of St. James the Less Catholic School in Columbus, Ohio.  As the White House press release noted, “Mrs. Schwab and her staff have worked closely with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education. This connection has provided the staff with necessary training for the new population” of her school, which is largely Latino. A recent news story posted at ACE’s website described the school’s adoption of ideas from the ACE Catholic School Advantage campaign.

Annette "Mickey" Lentz is chancellor of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. Among the steps leading to success in this honoree's schools, the Archdiocese has built partnerships with higher education institutions to help teachers earn advanced degrees. "Reflecting Mickey's ardent support of ACE, her archdiocese has sent more candidates to the Mary Ann Remick Leadership Program (RLP) —preparation for a principal's duties and other leadership roles—than any other diocese," said Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, senior director of the RLP.

The salute to the ten educators included individual comments and panel presentations giving voice to the honorees' love for Catholic education. Womac, in his reflection, said that preserving the American dream for millions of American families involves preserving Catholic education.

"I saw this first-hand teaching in Catholic schools in Louisiana as a part of the University of Notre Dame's service program, the Alliance for Catholic Education," Womac told the White House audience. "I see it first-hand every day at work in the hopeful lives of thousands of students attending school with Fulcrum's assistance."




"Madrinas and Padrinos" Approach Helps a Chicago School Build Family and Community

Written by William Schmitt on Friday, 27 January 2012.

A Padrino & a Principal See "Catholic School Advantage" Idea Bearing Fruit

At St. Benedict's Catholic School, in Blue Island, Ill., near Chicago, principal Susan Rys (pronounced Rise) and parents at the school are articulating a growing connection to their community. One of the parents, Roberto Reyes, reflects how the school has found its voice to call others into cooperation—and how that voice has acquired a Latino accent—with assistance from the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE).

Roberto is one of the school's "padrinos," part of a team of padrinos y madrinas (godfathers and godmothers) who help the school extend an invitation to local families. This team, inclined and trained to offer mentoring services and authentic hospitality while also recruiting children for the school, has come about as the result of training in ACE's Catholic School Advantage campaign.

"The best resource we have is the human resource," says Roberto, explaining that good relationships among the people in the area—many of whom are immigrants—are the best way to get the school's messages across. The Catholic School Advantage campaign, in which St. Benedict's is one of ACE's many partners in the Archdiocese of Chicago, helps schools become more accessible to Latino culture even as they convey the strengths they offer to local children in need of educational alternatives.


Traditions Enrich Faith, Family, and Schools

on Thursday, 12 January 2012.

JuanaGuadalupeUpdate3
Since Catholic School Advantage school partners were introduced in Chicago in June 2011, I have worked with an increasing number of schools that have expressed interest in reaching out to the growing Latino communities around them. Within this outreach is the opportunity to enrich their faith life and cultural life by growing their annual school traditions. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, celebrated on December 12, inspired a number of schools to do just that. Below are just a few examples of schools that have embraced new cultural traditions and integrated these along with other long-standing celebrations, inclusive of all.

Juana María Sánchez
Consultant, Catholic School Advantage – Chicago


JuanaGuadalupeUpdate1St. Colette (Rolling Meadows, IL)

St. Colette recited the novena for the nine days leading up to December 12. Each class took a turn leading the rosary. Between decades of the rosary, Mr. Trejo, one of the dads from the Hispanic choir, led the class in song. They sang "Las Apariciones Gudalupanas". On the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe the school processed into the church with candles and roses made out of crepe paper. Then, the Spanish class from St.Viator High School acted out the appearance of Our Lady to Juan Diego. The rosary was recited, and Mexican hot chocolate and sweet dessert bread were provided by the parish's Hispanic Ministry.

St. Kieran (Chicago Heights, IL)JuanaGuadalupeUpdate2
St. Kieran School celebrated the miracle of Our Lady of Guadalupe and mission of Juan Diego with a presentation at Mass depicting the events of Our Lady's visit to Mexico. Students wore peasant costumes, presented roses at the shrine and paid homage to the likeness of the Lady on Juan Diego's sarape. After the procession out of church by the characters, the student body followed Juan Diego to the gym for a reception of authentic Mexican hot chocolate and sweet baked bread. This celebration was a collaborative effort among the art teacher, religious education coordinator, school students, and the Parent Teacher Network. Great things happen when great people work together. Further, during this holiday season St. Kieran School has formed a partnership with St. Paul's Catholic Church in Chicago Heights to bring joy and comfort to the neediest of parishioners. Through the efforts of the school children and their parents, as well as the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Women's Club, and parishioners of St. Kieran Church, a collection of warm clothes (hats, coats, gloves & scarves), food, and toys for children were donated to St. Paul's pastor, Fr. Rene. He came to St. Kieran for the first truckload of items. Another delivery was made on December 19th. The children in the school even created their own Giving Tree to help in the collection. The true spirit of Christmas lives in hearts of children who embrace the honor to serve others less fortunate.

Academy of Our Lady (Waukegan, IL)
The Rosary Club of Academy of Our Lady School in Waukegan led a Rosary for The Blessed Trinity Church on Wednesday, December 7th. It was a special evening for the 30 children of the Rosary Club. They attended a Spanish Mass with fellow parishioners and then led everyone in the Glorious Mysteries. The children prepared bilingual prayer pamphlets, which they gave to all the families present. Sharing their faith is an important part of their ministry. It was a special evening for the students as they joined the parish in celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

St. Agnes of Bohemia (Chicago, IL)

St. Agnes of Bohemia Catholic School is a pre-kindergarten through eighth grade parish school located in Little Village, on the southwest side of Chicago. The school serves low-income and immigrant families, with Mexican and Mexican-American students comprising over 90% of the student body. The Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a very special feast for the St. Agnes of Bohemia School and Church. "Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe" has a central place in the hearts of the Latino community because she appeared to Juan Diego on the hill of Tepeyac in Mexico City. Our Lady shared her love and invited the Mexican people to follow God. She is also an important symbol for the immigrant community because she was an immigrant who did what was best for her family. At St. Agnes of Bohemia School, we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe in several different ways. On Friday, December 9th, we honored Our Lady, along with the grandparents and other senior citizens in our community. The entire school celebrated Mass with the guests of honor. The eighth grade students shared the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady through a skit before the homily. All of the seniors were then invited to a brunch in the school lunchroom. The guests were welcomed into a cheerfully decorated room to share a meal and time with their friends and neighbors. Some of the school staff members and parents cooked the food, and the eighth grade students served the guests. The eighth grade students truly enjoyed serving and spending time with the seniors. Following the brunch, the guests were invited into the school gym for a Christmas Program. The students sang songs with their grade and as a whole school, telling the story of the Nativity. A small group of students created a living Nativity scene to add a visual image to the meaning of the songs. The program ended with the entire school singing "Feliz Navidad" to wish our guests a merry Christmas. The Mass, brunch, and Christmas show to honor seniors in the community and Mary have been a tradition at St. Agnes of Bohemia for over twenty years.

Father Joe Goes to Mexico

on Thursday, 05 January 2012.

MexicoMY FOURTH TRIP TO TEQUEPEXPAN, NAYARIT, MEXICO

December 21: My fourth trip to Tequepexpan began with three flights --- South Bend to Atlanta, Atlanta to Monterrey and Monterrey to Guadalajara. There was a layover in Monterrey. My good friend, Fr. John Herman, CSC, came to the airport and we were able to visit for about 40 minutes. It was great to see him and to hear how things are going in the parish where he is the Pastor. The plane arrived in Guadalajara at 5:00 p.m. A student from Dillon Hall, Ignacio Aranguren, who lives in Guadalajara, picked me up. Since he knew that I was coming to Guadalajara, he had called me and asked me to bring a pair of shoes that he forgot in the study lounge in Dillon before leaving. I love how comfortable Notre Dame students feel with us Holy Cross priests. He brought me to the hotel. There is a Church across the street from the hotel. And like all Churches in Mexico there are always evening Masses at 7 pm and 8 pm. I went to Mass and then I spent a couple hours walking around Guadalajara, a city that I have grown to love very much. I ate totally great mole poblano at a restaurant one block from the hotel. It was a beautiful night --- sounds, color, people, activity everywhere and it was about 75 degrees.

December 22: After morning Mass, I went for a run in Guadalajara. It really is a beautiful city. Mexico decorates so much for Christmas. At 1:00 p.m., Ignacio picked me up at the hotel and brought me to the bus terminal in Guadalajara to get the bus to Tepic. I arrived in Tepic around 5:00 p.m. Tepic is a city of about 360,000 people. After checking into the hotel, I went to the Cathedral. Bishop Ricardo Watty, M.Sp.S., the Bishop who first invited me to come to his diocese and to work in Tequepexpan, died on November 1. I wanted very much to visit his tomb. He is buried in the crypt of the Cathedral. So I spoke with the Rector/Pastor who took me down to his tomb. I prayed there for his eternal rest and in gratitude for his life. I did not know him well, but it did not take long to know that he was a wonderful man and religious and Bishop. I thoroughly enjoyed my three visits with him on my other trips. After praying at his tomb, I went to greet the Sister who was his housekeeper. And then, as I love to do, I simply walked around the city. The hotel is right on the main plaza of Tepic. There was Christmas music and groups and entertainment until long after I fell asleep.

December 23: I got up early at 6:30 a.m. and went to the Cathedral for the 7:00 a.m. Mass. The Rector/Pastor asked me to take the Mass so that he could hear confessions. I was happy to celebrate Mass. There were about 100 people. I cannot put into words how grateful I am to God to be a priest. 

Latino Students and a Prize-Winning Principal Share Messages of Hospitality and Hope

Written by William Schmitt on Monday, 12 December 2011.

Yvonne Schwab, who recently was named among this year's 61 National Distinguished Principals by the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), says many people and many forces have come together to transform Saint James the Less School, the Catholic school she leads in Columbus, Ohio.

Progressing toward the October 2011 NAESP ceremony and an earlier competition in which the National Catholic Education Association honored her as a Distinguished Principal, Yvonne wrote various essays describing accomplishments at St. James the Less. One of those accomplishments has been a surge in Latino enrollment during the eight years of her leadership—from two students to 260 out of a current student population totaling 497.

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