Fordham’s Graduate School of Education (GSE) honored the people behind New York City’s Catholic schools on May 20 at its 15th Annual Catholic School Executive Leadership dinner held on the Lincoln Center campus.
“We need Catholic schools, and I can assure you that Fordham University—from its trustees, to its president and vice presidents, to the deans of this school and to the director of our Center for Catholic School Leadership—we are here to work with you,” said James Hennessey, Ph.D., dean of GSE.
More than 80 Catholic administrators, educators, teachers and staff were on hand to pay tribute to two of their own that received special awards. The Annual Catholic School Executives award went to Dan Curtin, executive director of the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) Department of Chief Administrators of Catholic Education (CACE).
Patricia Kelly-Stiles, Ed.D., (TMC ’70, GSAS ’75, GSE ’82, ‘99), deputy superintendent/associate superintendent for instruction and personnel for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn, received the 2009 Alumni Hall of Distinction award from the Independent Colleges and Universities. The award honored her 40 years of work with the Diocese of Brooklyn, where she began her career teaching social studies in a Catholic elementary school. Kelly-Stiles is an adjunct professor of education at Fordham.
Auxillary Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, Ph.D., vicar general of the Diocese of Brooklyn and the keynote speaker, called those present who work in diocesan schools “heroic” for their dedication during “times of challenge.” Many parishes, including the Diocese of Brooklyn, have been forced to close some schools in the past few years due to dwindling enrollments.
“You animate the heart of Catholic schools,” he said. “That is your mission every day, to allow our children to discover and develop their god-given talents to the full . . . despite all the challenges young people face—changing neighborhoods, broken families, financial pressure and a society that wishes to reduce them to commodities.”
Bishop Caggiano said that the poor and immigrant communities can find other means of education for their children, but he distinguished what was unique about Catholic education:
“The mission of Catholic education is all about the word “and,” he said. “It’s that little word, “a-n-d-‘ that keeps us real as the disciples of Jesus.
“Catholic education is about a transformative experience, an encounter with this person of Jesus, humanand divine, that allows that which is human in us, and that beyond the human in us . . . to come together and live in peace,” Bishop Caggiano said. “Therefore, in our classrooms we can proudly bring to the table reason and faith, science and religion, the arts and sciences, the human person, the family and the community, freedom and responsibility, individual good and the common good, all in dialogue.”
The Gospel Choir of St. Joachim and Anne Elementary School performed at the event, which was sponsored by the GSE’s Center for Catholic School Leadership and hosted by Gerald Cattaro, Ed.D., professor of education and the center’s executive director.