Chicago ACE Advocates Gather for Mass and Dinner, Support Teaching Fellows
By: Melissa Pavloff
The Chicago ACE Advocates recently gathered in fellowship and solidarity with a Mass and dinner celebration at St. Sylvester Church and School. St. Sylvester Principal Allyn Doyle hosted, and Rev. Lou DelFra, C.S.C., presided over Mass.
Exceeding expectations, the event drew a crowd of 55, with attendees ranging from ACE 1 alumni to current ACE Teaching Fellows and Center for Transformational Education Leadership leaders, Chicago ACE Advocates leader Kelly Foyle said.
“We have so many people who have been touched by an ACE-related program,” Foyle said. “We believe that we have a unique challenge and opportunity to reach many people at many different stages of their careers and lives.”
The Sept. 23 event, rooted in spirituality and community, was intended to demonstrate support for current ACE Teaching Fellows stationed in Chicago.
DelFra remarked upon the importance of faith formation, and the role that this type of event plays in the ACE Advocates mission.
“I think people’s motivations to serve in Catholic schools in the end comes out of their faith commitment,” he said. “Gathering the community together to have a Mass that is connected specifically to their teaching ministry and having an entire congregation focused on serving the same Archdiocese–there’s a power to that. There’s a power to renew people to their call in liturgical moments.”
Remembering her own experience as an ACE Teaching Fellow, Foyle reflected on efforts to welcome Teaching Fellows into the ACE family.
“We want the larger Chicago ACE community to be part of the experience for the current ACE teachers. Plus, when everyone chips in, it doesn't take a lot to make an immediate positive, tangible impact,” Foyle noted.
Alec Torigian, the associate director for ACE Teaching Fellows and a former Chicago teacher and Advocates leader himself, praised the Advocates’ efforts to engage current Teaching Fellows and commended the strong fellowship and spirituality that the Chicago Advocates have cultivated.
He also acknowledged the success the Chicago Advocates’ efforts to build wider-reaching connections beyond the Teaching Fellows program, remarking that this year’s Mass and celebration touched a broader group than in years past.
“This event, historically, was very centered on Teaching Fellows, and [this year] it reached all [ACE] arms a little bit,” he said.
Doyle, a member of ACE 20 cohort in Chicago, was honored and welcomed into the St. Sylvester School community in 2013 at a similar celebration.
After spending five years at St. Sylvester–as a Spanish and physical education teacher, vice principal, and now principal–Doyle said it was meaningful to see the ACE community through a new lens.
“Being able to host the event as the principal of the school really helped it come full circle,” she said. “When I talked to the crowd at the end of Mass, it was really nice to acknowledge that I had been where the current ACE Chicago cohort was.”
Archdiocese of Chicago Superintendent Dr. Jim Rigg–a member of ACE 6–also attended the event, alongside several other central office representatives, another hallmark of the event’s success.
And Foyle said attendees delivered a variety of donations for the ACE house, including food, gift cards, cleaning supplies, and a new vacuum.
The ACE Teaching Fellows were over the moon with gratitude and joy at the generous outpouring of the community,” Foyle remarked.“
Foyle commended the leadership board, a team of seven Teaching Fellows and Mary Ann Remick Leadership program graduates, for its tireless work in preparation for the event, and she attributed the event’s success to the efforts and collaboration of the unit.
“We could not do the things we do as ACE Advocates without a solid, dedicated team of incredible individuals,” she observed. “We all knew our strengths, and we recognized our limitations. Our leadership team is amazing.”
Torigian echoed Foyle’s applause, commenting on the cohesive, dynamic style of the current leadership board.
“It’s really neat, and I think somewhat unique in that the people who plan the events and who discuss what the needs are and how they can meet them are people at different stages and with different overlaps,” he remarked.
The leadership team followed up the event with a survey to gauge how individuals would like to achieve and maintain involvement with Chicago Advocates. Foyle explained that the results were encouraging, ranging from a willingness to provide groceries or meals to an interest in joining the leadership team.
Foyle stressed the importance and value of community ideas and needs in developing future events and initiatives.
“Moving forward, we need to consistently take the pulse of our community and keep offering events and activities to connect with one another and provide the support in the way(s) they need,” she said.
DelFra also expressed excitement for the future, deeming this event as proof that the opportunities for such an extensive, tight-knit community are endless.
“We’re just on the cusp,” he noted. “Over the coming years, the number of ACE graduates we have is really going to start to explode, and the networking opportunities that nights like this provide are going to become more and more important.”