The Graduate School of Education (GSE) honored top Catholic educators at the 17th annual Catholic School Executive Leadership Dinner on May 17 at the Lincoln Center campus.
Keynote speaker Mary Hughes, O.P., prioress of the Sisters of St. Dominic in Amityville, N.Y., celebrated the communion of Catholic educators—men and women, lay and religious—who work together to express their charisms, the “graces of the Holy Spirit that directly or indirectly benefit the church,” she said.
While each order, whether Dominican, Franciscan, Jesuit or any other, is able to manifest a particular aspect of God, “put us all together in the church and we begin to offer, corporately, some sense of who God is and of God’s enormous love for us,” she said.
Sister Hughes, who is also the president of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, recounted the inspiration she found in a recent Ellis Island Immigration Museum exhibit titled “Women and Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America.”
Through the acts of the women religious chronicled in the exhibit, “you see the enormity of God’s plan,” she said, adding that their work in schools for the poor, for children of color, and in colleges and universities offers a glimpse into the imagination of God.
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While Sister Hughes noted the challenges faced now in Catholic schools—including changes in family structure, diminishing church attendance and daunting economic constraints—she recalled the virtue of hope that propelled earlier Catholic educators.
She urged those who work for Catholic education to embrace their charisms and to “pour them out lavishly and with abandon. They will bring us and others to God.”
This year’s honorees for significant contributions in the educational apostolate included:
• Kathleen V. Carlin, O.P., principal of St. Agnes Cathedral School in Rockville Center, N.Y.;
• Josephine Cioffi, I.H.M., principal of St. Ann School in Manhattan;
• Margaret Merritt, O.P., principal of St. Michael School in East New York;
• Jack Podsiadlo, S.J., president of New York Nativity in Manhattan;
• Steve Schlitte, F.M.S., principal of Mount St. Michael Academy in the Bronx; and
• Kathleen Sullivan, C.S.J., principal of St. Francis Xavier School in Brooklyn.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J. president of Fordham, thanked those in attendance and addressed the honorees by saying, “By coming to Fordham and being a part of this evening, you honor us. You have built the faith in ways we can only imagine.”
Father McShane paid special tribute to Bishop Jude Arogundade (GSE ’05), who was chosen in 2010 to lead the Diocese of Ondo in western Nigeria. Following Fordham tradition, Bishop Arogundade’s coat of arms will be added to the Bishop’s Lounge in Queen’s Court on the Rose Hill campus.
Father McShane praised the extraordinary work of all Catholic educators, and he drew a parallel between the educators’ efforts and the encounter between the risen Jesus and two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus.
“Emmaus is where Jesus catches up with you, walks along . . . and then in answer to all of your needs, he teaches and he feeds,” he said.
“You are the way that Jesus catches up with kids and their families because you walk with them, you tease out of them what it is that they are most concerned about . . . and then as Catholic educators, you reach into the rich storehouse of your heart . . . and you open up the life of the Lord for them through what you do and what you say,” Father McShane said.
– Nina Romeo