On Saturday, February 22nd, I was proud to be honored by All Saints Catholic Academy of Bayonne, NJ for my Commitment to Catholic Education. As many of my readers know, this is where my daughter has gone to school since she was 3 years old, and many of the young ladies from ASCA move on to Saint Dominic Academy when they begin high school. It’s a wonderful school community; one that I am proud to say I have served, as a Class Parent from Pre K 3 onward. Today, I share with you my thoughts upon receiving the award on Saturday night.
When Jen Mulcahy first called me in the fall to ask me if I would be the honoree for Commitment To Catholic Education, I was floored. I’m sure she well remembers that call- I think I said something like “What?! ME?! Really?!” Then, I pulled it together enough to say yes. Once the call ended, I realized something…If I was going to be honored for Commitment to Catholic Education that meant one important thing—I was OLD! Because, to be recognized for a commitment to something meant that must have been doing it for quite some time! And I thought, well wow- how about that? 20 years in education, and 16 of those years in Catholic education- I guess it’s true that time does fly when you’re having fun!
Although, if I truly think about it, my commitment to Catholic education began way before 2000, when I returned to the Academy of Saint Aloysius to work in their Development Office. I guess, it began in 1982, when my mother dressed me in a navy blue dress and tied red ribbons on my ponytails and walked me over to Our Lady of Mercy for my first day of kindergarten. I loved school; and I especially loved Our Lady of Mercy- the sisters and teachers there left an impression on me that still resonates today. First Friday mass, making communion with my classmates, singing in the children’s choir on Christmas Eve, arriving at school early to serve the 7:15am mass; in almost all ways, my entire childhood did center around Catholic education. That leaves an impact; and that impact became even deeper when I moved on to high school at The Academy of Saint Aloysius. There, once again, it was not just a place to learn and prepare for college, but a community that shared a common belief and that celebrated not only the Catholic faith, but the gift of Catholic education. It seemed only natural that after college, I would return to my alma mater and begin my career.
Perhaps really, for me the commitment to Catholic education began even before I was born. It’s a legacy, handed down. My father was an alter server at Saint Michael’s church and he sang in the choir. Many Sundays, he went to mass twice. My mom dedicated her life to Catholic education, as a teacher and administrator. My maternal grandparents, whose example everyone in our family strives so hard to follow, helped to found the parish of Our Lady of Mercy and gave their time tirelessly to the church and the school for their entire lives. It’s what I saw, my entire life- my family supporting Catholic schools, my family working in Catholic schools, my family believing in Catholic schools.
But, we’re not alone in this belief. In fact, I may be the honoree tonight, but in reality- there are many people in this room who have made the same commitment I have, in one way or another. My friends Mary and Brian Murphy put 5 children through Catholic school and work and coach in Catholic schools. Members of the Board of Trustees at All Saints and Saint Dominic Academy find time in their already busy days to sit on those boards, because they believe in the importance of Catholic School. The Hester family is here tonight; 8 children in Catholic school! Jane Mattiello is here tonight- works at ASCA and is Vice President of the SDA Parent Association- Catholic school is her life! . My Athletic Director, John Nagel- over 40 years of service to Catholic schools in Hudson County. Sister Rita, the Sisters of Saint Dominic in Caldwell- they give all they have, every day to the children in the schools they found and run. The list could go on and on, but I promised not to… all of us here because in one way or another, we are committed to Catholic education.
We are all here to show our belief in Catholic education and to work to ensure that schools like All Saints and Saint Dominic Academy continue to exist far into the future. And why should we do this? If you are asking that question- I have the answer. You need to look no further than at Katie and Grace Mulcahy sitting with their mother Jen. You need to look no further than this little girl, my Abigail, standing next to me. They are the reason for Catholic education. They are the reason all of us give so much to Catholic Schools. It’s because Catholic schools give so much to our children and one day, we know, they will change the world for the better.
I thank All Saints Catholic Academy for honoring me tonight. It means a great deal to me; more than you know. I thank the Sisters of Saint Dominic of Caldwell for the honor of serving as Head of School at Saint Dominic Academy; each day I walk through those doors is a gift to me. I thank my family and friends for being here tonight. I thank my fiancé, Frederick, for his unending support of me and his understanding of why I choose to work in Catholic education- he and his son have been gifts to both my life and to Abigail’s. And finally tonight, I thank you on behalf of my family, who started me on this path, and on behalf of my daughter, who will follow this path, I hope, for her life. I teach Film Studies this year, and so, am going to end with a bit of a “tweaked” line from a classic movie. “My mother thanks you, my father thanks you, my daughter thanks you, and I assure, I thank you.” Enjoy the evening!