By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
The Catholic Education Foundation’s (CEF) 26th Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner held March 16 shattered all previous records by raising $750,000.
That sum, combined with the $260,000 raised at the CEF’s Salute to THE GAME luncheon in September, brings the CEF’s fundraising to more than $1 million this school year.
Money raised at both events funds the CEF’s mission of providing tuition assistance for children to attend Catholic schools and grants for both Catholic schools and parish religious education programs.
The annual Salute dinner, held at the Galt House Hotel in downtown Louisville, honored distinguished alumni of Catholic schools for their personal accomplishments and service to others. The event was co-chaired by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz and Charles H. Leis.
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York served as the evening’s keynote speaker.
Also, in attendance was Gov. Matt Bevin, his wife Glenna, and their children.
Before the program began, Cardinal Dolan greeted the governor, who took office in December, and his wife and spent time interacting with each of their children, even placing his zucchetto or skullcap on one of the young boys.
Feeding off the cardinal’s gregarious nature, the sell-out crowd of 1,900 embraced a jovial dinner and ceremony. The ballroom reflected the electric energy that appeared to radiate from the cardinal.
Cardinal Dolan began his keynote address by lauding the efforts of the CEF and the archdiocese. He praised a litany of individuals, including Archbishop Kurtz, whom he called a “model shepherd” and “mentor;” Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the CEF; the leaders and promoters of Catholic education and those who support the mission of the foundation. He also tipped his hat, to a roar of applause and laughter, to Pappy Van Winkle of local bourbon fame.
In seriousness, he said, “Can I congratulate you and thank you particularly for giving the rest of the country a great example in four areas?”
Those four areas, Cardinal Dolan said, are: a renewal of attitude, a renewal of governance, a renewal of sustenance and a renewal of strategy.
The cardinal said the people of Louisville should look at these areas as “affirmations of your good work … because the church in Central Kentucky is “doing all these already.”
On a renewal of attitude, the cardinal said he was afraid many Catholics around the country have an implicit “hospice mentality” when it comes to Catholic schools.
He called this kind of mentality “less than helpful.”
“We say, ‘Oh my what a great history they’ve had.’ ‘What a long life they’ve had.’ ‘Glad we had them but they’re fading so it’s best to hold their hand and keep them comfortable as long as we can.’
“Enough of that. … Our Catholic schools are not in hospice at all. We are strong. We’re vibrant. With more and more good folks like you saying the death watch is over, the patient is strong and healthy,” he said, noting that he was preaching to the choir.
He declared that the best days of Catholic education are on the horizon.
The second area of renewal Cardinal Dolan addressed was the renewal of governance. He said that as much “as we might hate to admit it” the days of schools administered by one pastor and led by one Mother Superior all in one parish are fading.
“The leadership of our schools must now come from a much wider base with wide lay, especially parental involvement, and a much more expansive buy-in from the wider community, including the business sector,” he said, noting the vast representation of businesses in attendance at the sold-out dinner.
A renewal of sustenance — how schools are financed — was the third area Cardinal Dolan detailed. He described the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1884 and said it produced “three great gifts” — the Baltimore Catechism, the Catholic University of America and a mandate that every parish have a Catholic school.
He noted that the Catholic Church in America tried hard to accomplish this third task but even in the Catholic schools’ “heydey of the 1950s” only about two-thirds of parishes had schools.
“It’s time that every parish has a school. Maybe not on its own property but every parish will actively contribute to, send its children to and support with time, treasure and talent a particular school,” he said to rousing applause. “And you are doing it in Louisville. Thank you to the good example you are giving to the rest of us.”
The final area of renewal Cardinal Dolan spoke of was a renewal of strategy. He challenged his listeners to “recover a sense of dare and dream and confidence in mission about our beloved Catholic schools.”
“As Jesus challenged us, let’s cast out to the deep. Let’s take our light out from under the bushel basket and let it shine to everybody around us,” he said.
Following Cardinal Dolan’s keynote address, the CEF presented distinguished alumni awards to seven individuals:
Dr. Donald T. Donovan, a professor and surgeon at Baylor College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, and a graduate of Trinity High School;
Stephen C. James, chief financial officer of Mortenson Dental Partners and a graduate of St. Thomas More School and DeSales High School;
Donald J. Kelly, partner in charge of the Louisville office of Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs and a graduate of St. Leonard School and St. Xavier High School;
Ursuline Sister of Louisville Paula Kleine-Kracht, co-founder of Nativity Academy at St. Boniface and a graduate of St. Therese School and Sacred Heart Academy;
Patricia A. Parks, president emeritus of Berkshire Hathaway Home Services/Parks & Weisberg Realtors and a graduate of Presentation Academy;
Father G. Nicholas Rice, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville and founder of the Mass of the Air;
John S. Turner, retired president and chief executive officer of Angell-Demmel North America and a graduate of Catholic schools in New Jersey. Turner was unable to attend the dinner.
In addition, Steven E. Trager, chief executive officer of Republic Bank, received the Community Service Award and Kathleen M. Willenbrink, resource coordinator at St. Leonard School, received the Father Joseph McGee Award for Outstanding Catholic Educator.
The CEF presented $7,000 Father John H. Morgan Charitable Trust Scholarships to nine high school students. They are: Madelyn Steurer, Assumption High School; Morgan Yates, Bethlehem High School; Michael Schultz, DeSales High School; Brooke Shields, Holy Cross High School; Ashley Cravens, Mercy Academy; Jace Grissom, Presentation Academy; Clare Blim, Sacred Heart Academy; Zachary Schuhmann, St. Xavier High School; and Braden Barnett, Trinity High School.