Administration, clergy, and anonymous donor give thanks for Catholic education

North Texas Catholic
(Nov 14, 2023) Local

Diocesan teachers and staff members listen during a video tribute at a teacher appreciation in-service at Nolan High School on Friday, Oct. 10, 2023. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

FORT WORTH — The Nov. 10 in-service for all faculty and staff of the 17 diocesan Catholic schools had a terrific start — the celebration of Mass with Father Brett Metzler, the chaplain of Nolan Catholic High School.

Enthusiasm continued to build throughout the morning when teachers had opportunities for Eucharistic Adoration and confession, followed by an inspiring talk by Father Jim Gigliotti, TOR, pastor of St. Andrew Parish.

Dr. Melissa Kasmeier, the chief operating officer of the dioceses' Catholic schools, speaks during a diocesan teacher appreciation in-service at Nolan High School on Friday, Oct. 10, 2023. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

But the message of gratitude for Catholic education hit its peak when six turkeys made a surprise appearance.

Melissa Kasmeier, chief operations officer of schools, planned the event at Nolan around the theme of thankfulness. She played video messages from students, alums, and parents thanking teachers for being a light for their students.

Kasmeier said Catholic education reaches farther than the current students in the classroom. The students “might not even realize the gift of Catholic education until they are older,” she said.

Success, she added, can be measured in several ways. She said, “We want them to be smart; we want them to be successful — all those worldly things — but we want them to be good people … contributing members of society, active in their faith. Catholic education has helped form them to do that.”


About those turkeys

Just when the in-service seemed to draw to a close, an exuberant song burst through speakers, and six people dressed as turkeys danced their way into Hartnett Arena.

Shannon Irwin, Lindsay Casey, and Carl Hubbard dress as turkeys to hand out bonus checks to teachers and staff during a diocesan teacher appreciation in-service at Nolan High School on Friday, Oct. 10, 2023. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

Faculty and staff laughed at the unexpected sight, but the light-hearted turkeys carried a serious message of appreciation — a bonus check for all school employees.

Kasmeier explained that an anonymous donor had set up an endowment to help fund tuition assistance and benefit Catholic education in the future, but the donor also wanted to “do something right now.”

The donor contributed $100,000 to be split among the school employees, and the Diocese of Fort Worth matched that amount for a total of $200,000.

Kasmeier expressed appreciation for “the donor that sees the value” in Catholic education and “the importance of the people that make it happen,” including everyone who works in the schools. “We need everybody, no matter what their role is, to be able to serve our students, our schools,” she said.

She also thanked the diocese for matching the donor’s gift. “No one gets into [Catholic education] for recognition or any other reason than serving our children, helping them become disciples of Christ, but it is nice to be able to give them something in gratitude for all that they do for us,” she continued.


Timeless message

Fr. Gigliotti shared lessons with the faculty that he learned as a youth in Catholic schools and as a fellow teacher (he taught 17 years in a Catholic boys school in Pennsylvania).

Habits ingrained in his youth, such as making the Sign of the Cross frequently, helped instill the understanding that “anywhere you are and are going is dedicated to the Lord. You can dedicate any task to the Lord with the Sign of the Cross.”

He has found students are hungry to learn about the totality of the Catholic faith, including the supernatural and mysticism.

Fr. Jim Gigliotti, TOR, speaks during a teacher appreciation in-service at Nolan High School for the teachers of the diocese on Friday, Oct. 10, 2023. (NTC/Rodger Mallison)

Catholic educators must “give our students a sense of the supernatural: heaven, hell, and purgatory and earth. A sense of angels and saints. A sense of God sending His mercy through people like the Divine Mercy of Jesus Christ, the Sacred Heart of Jesus.”

He empathized with the teachers, acknowledging the work is tiring. “Don’t ever underestimate that fact that the devil is going to harass you, mostly because you are working at a Catholic school” and will lead teachers into distraction, discouragement, and despair, said Fr. Gigliotti.

He encouraged the faculty, “You have to know who you are. You are a person who belongs to Christ. You have special apostolic work as a teacher.”

Patricia Fointno, the choral director at Nolan, began the in-service by playing the piano at the Mass, as she does at all Nolan Masses. She left the meeting with a bounce in her step and a smile on her face.

The teacher, who moved to Texas from Illinois in 2020, said, “This day is absolutely fabulous. It gave a sense of being appreciated, a big ‘thank you.’”

Let’s talk turkey. The priests, diocesan administrators, and a very generous anonymous donor delivered a message of gratitude and appreciation that came through loud and clear.

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