Archbishop, Bethlehem student honored by NCEA

Record Staff Report

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz was one of six individuals and organizations honored Oct. 1 by the National Catholic Educational Association.

He and five others received the association’s 2018 Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“This really is an award that recognizes all of the Catholic schools throughout the Archdiocese of Louisville. We’re very, very proud of our schools, our students, our teachers,” the archbishop said during a pre-recorded video played at the ceremony.

“We’re proud of course first of all because it’s a concrete way to announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the lives of the students and really in the lives of their families in the community,” he said.

Secondly, he said, the Archdiocese of Louisville can be proud because of recent efforts that put students before all else.

Noting that in years past emphasis might have been on saving a school or building, he said, “All of those are important but our primary focus is now the child, the young person being helped and how we can assist that family.”

Leisa Schulz, superintendent of Catholic schools, notes in the video that tuition aid for students in the Archdiocese of Louisville has doubled under the leadership of the archbishop in partnership with parishes and the Catholic Education Foundation.

“He’s been a real champion for our schools,” she said.

Announcing the honorees, the National Catholic Educational Association said in a press release, “As exemplary stewards of the Catholic faith and champions of Catholic education, the honorees are among the best models of faithful servants carrying out their ministry,” said NCEA president and CEO Dr. Thomas Burnford. “That they choose to give back in such meaningful ways is truly living as Jesus would.”

The announcement noted that Archbishop Kurtz “is instrumental in expanding the message that religious freedom or religious liberty is a ‘precious gift’ to young people throughout the world.”

Archbishop Kurtz serves as chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee for Religious Liberty.

As part of the Seton Award, each recipient was invited to select one student to be named a Seton Scholar. These scholars represent the 1.8 million students attending Catholic schools nationwide, according to the NCEA. Each honoree receives a $2,000 scholarship, which is applied to their tuition.

Ezra Dillard, a senior at Bethlehem High School in Bardstown, Ky., was selected by Archbishop Kurtz.

Dillard’s letter of nomination explains that he is one of six children in his family and that he serves as a student ambassador, sharing what Bethlehem has to offer with younger students.

“Ezra gets the most out his education, working hard to maintain a high GPA and college entrance exam scores,” the nomination said, noting he plans to attend a Catholic university. “He also understands his role in his church and community.”

He has served as a Confirmation sponsor for his sister and volunteers at charities that serve the poor and disadvantaged. He is also captain of his football and lacrosse teams and has a part-time job at a grocery store, the nomination said.

Dillard attended the Oct. 1 gala and was accompanied by his mother and brother.

In addition to the archbishop, the other Seton Award recipients were James and Molly Perry of Madison Dearborn Partners; Kevin Short of Clayton Capital Partners; Porto Charities, Inc., in Arlington, Va.; and the Women’s Education Alliance from Towson, Md.

Jesuit Father Joseph O’Keefe of Fordham University received the NCEA President’s Award.

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