Catholic schools around the nation — including 47 schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville and their nearly 20,000 students — are in the midst of celebrating National Catholic Schools Week.
The highlight of the annual observance is the Catholic Schools Week Mass, celebrated this year at Holy Family Church on Jan. 29. Students, faculty and volunteers representing the archdiocese’s schools gathered for the Mass that centered on the theme “Catholic Schools Raising the Standard.”
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz, who presided, said the word “standard” comes from an Old French word, estandart, which he said, was “a place where people stood up for something.”
“We have to stand up for things in life,” he noted. “And so today we are talking about Catholic schools as raising the standard, like raising the flag on the flag pole, standing up publicly and saying, ‘Thank God for Catholic schools.’
“And boy do we have good Catholic schools,” he said. “We have, maybe, one of the longest histories of Catholic schools in the whole United States of America. We have probably … the third largest number
of young people who are school age and Catholic who are in our Catholic schools — third in the whole nation.”
Saying Catholic schools are “second to none,” the archbishop also said that Catholic schools offer academic excellence, a good moral foundation, principles of good citizenship and a Catholic identity that helps young people follow the example of Jesus Christ.
Following the liturgy, the archdiocese honored several educators and supporters of Catholic schools.
- The Distinguished Elementary Principal Award was presented to Pam Huelsman of St. Gabriel School. Her nomination for the award says: “Pam’s faith is essential to who she is. She believes that our most important job is to personify the Catholic faith to our students on a daily basis.”
- The Religious Educational Excellence Award was presented to Alicia Sallee, who teaches at St. Stephen Martyr School. She also coordinates the evening religious education program for about 100 students from St. Stephen Martyr Church and eight neighboring parishes. “She’s a great role model for the kids all the time. She really models her religion,” said Margaret Bowen, principal of St. Stephen Martyr.
- Gene Burns, a retiree who tutors students in reading at St. Bernard School five days a week, received the archdiocese’s Outstanding School Volunteer Award. His nomination notes that “not only has Gene helped students improve their reading skills, but he has also helped to instill confidence in the students at St. Bernard.”
- Fred Whittaker, a teacher at St. Francis of Assisi School, also was acknowledged as a “spiritual man who lives his life in service to others.” Whittaker will receive the Father Joseph McGee Award for Outstanding Catholic Educator at the annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner on March 20.
- Cathy Guizio, who was named the Archdiocese of Louisville’s distinguished elementary principal last year, was recognized for winning the National Catholic Educational Association’s Distinguished Principal Award for the Southern region. And Father William P. Burks, who is involved in John Paul II Academy, was recognized for winning the NCEA’s Southern region pastor award. They will receive the awards during a ceremony set for April in Houston.
- Four students also were honored during the liturgy by the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF). Three students won the foundation’s poster contest. Max Sherman of St. Michael School won the kindergarten through second-grade division. Alice Kempf of Holy Spirit School won the third- through fifth-grade division. And Sarah Schubert of Holy Trinity School won the sixth- through eighth-grade division. The CEF also honored Catie Flaugher of Mercy Academy, who won the the foundation’s essay contest.