Diocese of Fort Worth Celebrates Catholic Schools at Annual Catholic Schools Banquet

By Jacqueline Burkepile

Photos by Donna Ryckaert

North Texas Catholic

Bishop Michael Olson (middle left) and Bishop-elect Stephen J. Berg (middle right) pose with Catholic Schools award recipients at the 27th Annual Celebration of Catholic Schools held January 27.

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Catholic school employees and supporters gathered together for the 27th Annual Celebration of Catholic Schools Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Fort Worth Convention Center Ballroom. The event brought together representatives from all 20 schools in the Diocese of Fort Worth with the theme “Thresholds of Faith.”

The evening began with entertainment and a social hour. Various schools across the diocese provided entertainment, including the choir and orchestra from Nolan Catholic High School in Fort Worth, St. Peter the Apostle Show Choir from White Settlement, the junior high choir from St. Andrew School in Fort Worth, and the Mercy Dancers from Our Mother of Mercy School in Fort Worth.

After the entertainment and social hour, Fox Sports Network Anchor John Rhadigan welcomed participants as the evening’s master of ceremonies.

“I am who I am in part because of Catholic schools, and that’s why I’m back here again tonight,” said Rhadigan, who has served as master of ceremonies several times before. “That’s why you’re here too. We’re all here to celebrate Catholic schools.”

All Saints Church pastor Father Stephen Jasso, TOR, then led the invocation and opening prayer, followed by the presentation of colors and Pledge of Allegiance led by the Cpt. Claude Platte Cadet Corps from Our Mother of Mercy.

Following dinner, keynote speaker Dr. Mary C. McDonald took the stage. McDonald is the CEO and founder of MCD Partners, which provides a variety of educational consulting services. She was the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Memphis for 14 years and has a total of 36 years of educational experience.

McDonald centered her address on finding Jesus Christ inside the Catholic school, with a particular emphasis on the power of prayer and making Christ visible to the students daily. Through humor, personal testimonies, and inspirational information, McDonald entertained and educated participants about the value of Catholic schools in young people’s lives.

“What is it that makes Catholic education so different and valuable in our country and in our world?” asked McDonald. “That Christ is present in our Catholic schools. Making Christ present to the children we serve is what Catholic education is all about.”

McDonald concluded her presentation with words of encouragement to the Catholic school employees of the Diocese of Fort Worth. She said that they are “God’s arms in the world.”

“[I’m here tonight] to tell you that what you do matters,” she said. “Most importantly, it matters to God. You are God’s arms in the world, and I’m here to thank you for the great work that you do.”

Other key aspects of the banquet included a Catholic Schools Video, which featured positive statements from students regarding the schools’ influence on their daily lives. The Outstanding Service Awards were also presented to individual honorees from each school. Don Miller, the Superintendent of Schools for Diocese of Fort Worth, announced the award-winners, and then Bishop-elect Michael Olson and then Diocesan Administrator Monsignor Stephen Berg gave the awards to each of the winners.

Math teacher Cathy Buckingham who has served at Nolan Catholic High School for 13 years received the Outstanding Service Award for the school. “I feel very honored and blessed,” she said, “and I know that I would not have received this award without the wonderful people who surround me every day. Thank you for being a part of my life.”

Holy Trinity Catholic School parent volunteers Joe and Michelle Steining were also recipients of the Outstanding Service Award. They were granted this honor in appreciation for their years of support and service at Holy Trinity. The couple was very grateful for the award, and encouraged parents to become involved within their own Catholic schools.

“Little things mean a lot to the teachers and staff,” said Joe. “Find things that you’re interested in. There are so many different opportunities, and they need a lot of help from parent volunteers.”

Michelle Steining added that every moment they volunteer is worthwhile. “Everything you do is appreciated,” she said. “You can’t get back the time that you spend with [your children] in the school…you’ll never look back and regret it.”

Immediately after presenting the awards, Miller presented the Diocesan Leadership Award to Lon C. Kile. Miller said that this award recognizes “those who by their lives and service have made significant contributions to the Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Fort Worth.” Miller also stated that Kile is a generous contributor to the Bishop’s Scholars Fund, St. George and Our Mother of Mercy Schools, and “has invested countless hours offering his personal and professional expertise to support Catholic schools…”

Kile said the award is a great honor, but that he tends to focus primarily on the work the teachers do for the students. He added that this type of leadership allows him to help children in the inner-city schools.

“I’m really a supporter of education…and providing [under-resourced kids] with the foundation of a good education so that their lives will be improved down the road,” said Kile. I’ve been very blessed with the things I have, and I want to give back to people who are under-resourced, especially the kids, and especially those who go to Catholic schools here in the Diocese of Fort Worth.”

Closing remarks were given after the announcement of the Diocesan Leadership Award. Msgr. Berg, the soon-to-be bishop of the Diocese of Pueblo, Colorado, and himself an alumnus of Catholic schools, gave his own closing testimony. He said that his and Bishop Olson’s appointments did not happen right away, but happened gradually over their many years of priesthood and the with prayerful support of those around them.

“It happens through the generosity, support, and sacrifice of families, and especially of the work of people like you. You do not know what may happen in the future with these young people that you are working with,” he said. “If it wasn’t for Catholic schools, it would have been very difficult for me to find my way in the world.”

In his remarks, Bishop Olson encouraged everyone to continue their Catholic education throughout their lives.

“Catholic education…is really about (in a sense) giving yourself away, but in a direct and ordered way — first to God, and then to our neighbor,” he said. “It is precisely an on-going process, and we have to renew ourselves and ask God to renew each of us in this on-going mission of spreading the Gospel.”

Catholic school employees and supporters gathered together for the 27th Annual Celebration of Catholic Schools Saturday, Jan. 25 at the Fort Worth Convention Center Ballroom. The event brought together representatives from all 20 schools in the Diocese of Fort Worth with the theme “Thresholds of Faith.”

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