By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Representatives of elementary and secondary schools across the Archdiocese of Louisville gathered at St. Michael Church Jan. 27 for Mass to celebrate National Catholic Schools Week, which was recognized in dioceses around the United States Jan. 25 to
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz presided at the liturgy and thanked the students, teachers, principals, administrators, volunteers and parents who gathered at the Jeffersontown parish for their dedication to Catholic education.
The theme of the annual liturgy was “Catholic Schools: Communities of Faith, Knowledge and Service.” Leisa Schulz, superintendent of Catholic schools, said the Mass was an opportunity to “celebrate our many blessings and call to mind our humble beginnings.”
In his homily, Archbishop Kurtz noted that Jan. 27 was the feast day of St. Angela Merici, founder of the Company of St. Ursula.
“This year the Holy Father has declared the Year of Consecrated Life. … We give special thanks to men and women religious,” he said.
The archbishop said St. Angela Merici wrote that “Mothers of children, even if they have a thousand, carry each and every one fixed in their hearts, and because of the strength of their love they do not forget any of them.”
“Surely those who are mothers in spirit can and must act all the more in the same way, because spiritual love is more powerful than the love that comes from a blood relationship,” he read.
One could say that a good teacher, the archbishop noted, is a “mother or father in spirit.”
“Boy, did she (St. Angela) hold up the role of the teacher,” he said.
Archbishop Kurtz asked the students to think about who they would recall as their favorite teacher in 20 years’ time.
He said he recalls his seventh-grade teacher and principal at his grade school in northeast Pennsylvania.
“Sister Mary Dennis was not the easiest teacher. We used to say she would bring out the best in us whether we wanted it or not,” the archbishop said. “She was not the easiest teacher but she was my best.”
The archbishop noted that his former teacher is now in retirement and the two still correspond regularly by mail.
“A good teacher takes such an interest in his or her students that even once graduation occurs, the interest does not die,” he said.
The archbishop also spoke about his recent trip to Haiti on the fifth anniversary of the earthquake that devastated the tiny island nation.
An estimated 300,000 people, about 3 percent of the nation’s population, perished in the earthquake, he said. He also noted that there are about 2,300 Catholic schools in Haiti.
“The whole aspect of renewal of that culture is all about primarily the gift of education,” he said.
During the liturgy, the Archdiocese of Louisville also honored four people for their contributions to Catholic education. They are:
- Sheila Marstiller, principal of St. Michael School, received the Distinguished Elementary Principal award.
In her nomination form, the nominating committee described Marstiller’s level of dedication to Catholic faith formation by saying, “Sheila is a compassionate, caring individual who models the teachings of Jesus Christ in her daily interactions.
“She begins each school day and meeting with prayer, ever mindful that our foremost agenda is that of God’s will,” the nomination said.
- Jan Redle, parish catechetical team coordinator at St. Bernard Church, received the Outstanding Religious Educator award.
Among her many contributions to religious education in the parish is Redle’s work with the RCIA coordinator training program.
“Her expertise, experience, spiritual leadership and organization skills are beyond reproach. She is very professional and pastoral, a good combination,” her nomination form said.
- Ann Bruce was presented with the Outstanding School Volunteer award for her work at Our Lady of Lourdes School.
During her years as a volunteer at Our Lady of Lourdes, Bruce has been involved in a number of church and school activities, including as co-chair of Vacation Bible School, a member of the parish council, chief catechist for children in RCIA and a mentor for choir members.
“With her quiet, nurturing demeanor, Ann has the ability to reach children on many different levels. She is always committed to the ‘whole’ child,” the nomination committee wrote.
- Ted Elsesser, a teacher at Sacred Heart Academy, was named the recipient of the Father Joseph McGee Award for Outstanding Catholic Educator. The Father McGee award will be presented at the 25th annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni Dinner on March 18. (The Record will publish a separate story on Elsesser in the coming weeks.)
The Catholic Education Foundation also presented awards to four students who won the foundation’s annual Catholic Schools Week poster and essay contests.
In the poster contest, Kara Meader, a second-grader at St. Nicholas Academy, won the kindergarten to second-grade category. Heaven Leigh Burris, a fourth-grader at Notre Dame Academy, was the third- to fifth-grade winner. And Abigail Recktenwald, a seventh-grader at St. Nicholas, won the sixth- to eighth-grade division.
Aaron Stocksdale, a sophomore at DeSales High School, was named the winner of the Catholic Education Foundation Essay Contest. His essay will appear in a future issue of The Record.