Salute raises record $1.5 million for tuition assistance

Father Mike Schmitz, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, Minn., and the host of “The Catechism in a Year” podcast, served as this year’s Salute to Catholic School Alumni keynote speaker. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

With a record crowd of 1,400 people in attendance, the Catholic Education Foundation hosted the 33rd annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner the evening of March 8 at the Galt House in downtown Louisville.

This is the 14th consecutive year in which the dinner has set a new fundraising record — this time with $1.5 million in net proceeds, said Richard A. Lechleiter, the foundation’s president who emceed the event.

Archbishop Shelton J. Fabre was in Rome and couldn’t attend the event, but greeted the gathering via a video message. The archbishop said he regretted not being present, but assured the crowd he lit a candle and prayed for the event’s success. In attendance was Archbishop Emeritus Joseph E. Kurtz.

The Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner honored six distinguished alumni of Catholic schools, plus Deacon Greg Gitschier, who received the Community Service Award, and St. Gregory School teacher Terry Rogan, who received the 2023 Father Joseph McGee Award. The award recipients are pictured with keynote speaker Father Mike Schmitz, Catholic Eduction Foundation president Rich Lechleiter and the archdiocese’s vicar general Father Martin Linebach. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

The packed ballroom later heard from Father Mike Schmitz, who delivered the keynote address reflecting on how Catholic schools are in a unique position to proclaim Christ to students.

“What’s different” about Catholic schools? “What are we offering students that make it worth it?” Father Schmitz asked. “If it’s just prep school, it’s not worth it. Catholic schools are worth it because you can offer something no one can offer — Jesus.”

Proclaiming Christ to school children is more important now than ever, said Father Schmitz, who serves as director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth, Minn. He is also the chaplain for the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

Father Quan Minh Nguyen greeted Little Sisters of the Poor who attended the Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner March 8 at the Galt House Hotel. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

Young people and even their parents, he said, are subscribing to a false religion that sociologist Christian Stephen Smith calls moralistic therapeutic deism. It’s a belief system that acknowledges the existence of God, but places him behind the central goal of being happy and feeling good about one’s self, Father Schmitz explained. 

Smith, who wrote the book “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism,” claims all adolescents share this belief system, leaving Father Schmitz to ask, “where did they get this religion?” 

“What went wrong? Why wasn’t the (Catholic) faith passed on?” he asked. 

Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Kurtz attended this year’s Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner and visited with attendees before the program began. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

The answer, he said, is simple: They learned this religion from their parents.

“That’s a religion that can’t last. That religion does not exist,” he said to his listeners. It’s one that leads people to believe that “God isn’t good when we experience pain.” 

It leads, too, to parents believing they have to fight their children’s battles to protect them from the hardships of the world — which isn’t a parent’s job, he said. 

“A parent’s job is to make their children strong and brave because you can’t make the world safe,” he said. “That’s what our father in heaven is about. He doesn’t enter into pain to heal it, he enters to redeem it.”

Terry Rogan, a fourth-grade teacher at St. Gregory School in Cox’s Creek, Ky., was given the Father Joseph McGee Outstanding Catholic Educator Award during this year’s Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner. She is pictured with a Norton Healthcare representative who presented the award and vicar general Father Martin Linebach. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

Catholic schools, too, do not exist to offer “comfort” or “safety,” he said. “The number one thing that Catholic schools can give is Jesus.” 

While excellence in academics, arts and sports is good, what makes the sacrifice of a Catholic school worthwhile is Jesus, he said. 

“If we’re not doing that, we might as well not exist,” he said. 

Father Schmitz concluded his presentation with a prayer asking for God’s blessings on the Catholic Education Foundation and all who sacrifice for students to attend Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville.

One senior from each of the archdiocese’s Catholic high schools was awarded a college scholarship. They are, from left, Katherine Victoria Belle Coale from Bethlehem High School; Rebecca Raeann Kaelin, Holy Cross High School; Fatimah Saeed Alawami, Presentation Academy; Lorenzo Paul Martinelli, St. Xavier High School; Lucas Martinez Osborn, Trinity High School; Valentina Moreno, Sacred Heart Academy; Mia Jane Grosshans, Mercy Academy; Jackson Clay Hoard, DeSales High School; Josephine Ann Deye, Assumption High School. (Record Photo by Kayla Bennett)

Six Catholic school alumni were honored during the event. They are:

William Pike Conway, Jr., Dr. Cynthia R. Crabtree, Honorable Audra J. Eckerle, Sister of Charity of Nazareth Susan M. Gatz, Thomas A. Perrone and Patrick M. Potter. Deacon Greg M. Gitschier, a permanent deacon at St. Patrick and St. Boniface churches, was honored with the Community Service Award. Additionally, the Father Joseph McGee Award was presented to Terry R. Rogan, a teacher at St. Gregory School in Cox’s Creek, Ky. 

Nine Catholic high school seniors were recognized at the event, too, as recipients of the Father John H. Morgan Scholarship.

All funds from the Salute will go toward tuition assistance for families who cannot afford the full cost of a Catholic education, said a press release from the foundation. Last fall, the foundation provided assistance to a record 3,600 elementary school students in 39 schools totaling $7.7 million in awards, the release said.

Ruby Thomas
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