An Evening of Celebration and Generosity

DARIEN—“We’re here to celebrate Catholic education and the young people who have been entrusted to our care,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano to a gathering of almost 300 at the Annual Spring Gala of Foundations in Education Thursday night at Woodway Country Club.

“Your support for Catholic schools helps young people to develop their gifts and talents, and be formed in faith and values — not just for success, but for greatness in this life and the life to come,” said the Bishop, who is serving as Acting Chair of Foundations.

The Bishop set the upbeat tone of the evening early in the program when he announced a $1 million gift to Foundations in Education from Barbara and Peter Ripp of Greenwich, who received a standing ovation from the gathering.

“Peter and Barbara are people of great faith with a strong commitment to Catholic education,” the Bishop said.

Their gift will be used to create The Christopher Ripp Early Learning Center.

“It will serve the youngest and most vulnerable children in our midst, through an early intervention program that will be piloted at St. Peter School in Danbury in September,” the Bishop said. (A full story on the gifts will appear in the May edition ofFairfield County Catholic. )

In brief remarks to the gathering, Peter Ripp said he “was humbled” by the opportunity to work with the Diocese to serve pre-school children.

“I love to plan,” Barbara Ripp added, “and I look forward to see what happens as we plant the seeds with this new program.”

Honorees during the evening included Roger Fox, Chairman of Catholic Academy of Stamford; Jo-Anne Jakab, retired President of Kolbe Cathedral High School; and Daniel J. McCarthy, CEO of Frontier Communications.

Jakab, who was introduced by Kolbe Cathedral Principal Henry Rondon, retired in June 2017, after 43 years as a teacher and administrator at Kolbe Cathedral. He noted that she was the first woman to be appointed principal of a secondary diocesan school.

Jakab said the need to provide professional development for faculty and increasing financial aid and scholarships for students are challenges to all Catholic schools.

“The formation of Foundations fills a tremendous void as the majority of foundations and corporations exclude organizations with religious affiliation—the very thing that contributes to the success of our schools,” said Jakab in accepting the Lifetime Achievement award.

“It is particularly challenging in Bridgeport, our state’s poorest community. The poverty level and dropout rate exceed the state average and the schools consistently appear on the failing schools list,” she said, adding that the per pupil cost at Kolbe Cathedral is $9,000 versus $14,164 for the state.

FIE Development Committee Chairperson Tom McInerney presented the Corporate Commitment Award to Dan McCarthy, President and CEO of Frontier Communications Corp, who is a member of the FIE Board of Trustees and parishioner of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown.

Noting that McCarthy is very busy facing the demands of running a large national corporation, McInerney said, “Yet he makes time for this important new project for our children.”

In his remarks, McCarthy said that Catholic education has been central to his life for 50 years. “I was formed by the Sisters of Mercy and Xaverian Brothers in Brooklyn, and my wife, Annie, was taught by the Dominican Sisters.”

McCarthy said, “Society is marred by deepening divisions between the rich and poor, by rampant materialism and injustice, and other extremes that affect human dignity

“I look at our state and our nation and see a desperate need for transformed and informed students who will make a difference,” he said.

Roger Fox was recognized for his long-term volunteer leadership and support for Catholic education in Stamford. He is co chair of the Trinity Catholic High School CHS Governing Council, and twice served as the chairman of the TCHS Advisory Board in addition to serving on St. Cecilia’s Finance Board.

“No one has done more for Catholic schools in Stamford than Roger,” said noted Stamford educator Tony Pavia, who introduced him.

Fox, who is Senior Vice President of Wealth Management for Merrill Lynch in Stamford, choked up when he said that three of his five grandchildren are in Catholic Academy of Stamford and that a fourth will be registering in September.

“I want them to have the same benefit of a Catholic education that their parents had and that I had,” Fox said. “Bishop Caggiano always says, ‘Look around at the world we live in — we need Catholic education now more than ever.’ And he’s right.”

The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund student speaker honors went to 10-year-old Julia Basseto, a 5th grader at Assumption School in Fairfield.

“I am here to say how grateful and fortunate I am to receive the tuition assistant from Foundations in Education, which support many dreamers and believers just like me. I am looking forward to donating and giving back to the Foundations someday to assist other students,” she said.

Basseto, who would like to be a geologist when she grows up, told the audience that Assumption has “had a great impact in my life. It makes me more confident, generous, intelligent and is helping me to build my faith in a wonderful way. I know without the generosity of the donors like so many of you here present today, I would not have the opportunity to attend this amazing Catholic school.”

In the auction that wrapped up the evening, Deacon Timothy Bolton, coordinator of Diaconate Vocations for the Diocese of Bridgeport, and a member of the Pastoral Care staff of St. Vincent’s Medical Center, served as auctioneer.

Proceeds from the evening support The Bishop’s Scholarship Fund, ongoing professional education for Catholic school teachers, and grants for innovations and leadership in Catholic schools throughout the diocese.

Members of the Gala Committee included Co-chairs Mary Donovan and Tom Cingari; Gloria Garvey; Foundations in Education Executive Director Holly Doherty-Lemoine; Associate Director for Development Karen Sportini; Xandy Duffy, Barbara Ripp, Janet Catenacci, Margaret Cobb, Elise Major, Jody Myers and Jennifer St. Victor de Pinho.

Foundations in Education’s mission is to strengthen and transform the mission of Catholic education in the Diocese of Bridgeport by supporting innovation in academic and extra-curriculum programs, fostering opportunities for the professional development of school leaders in innovation and leadership, and providing scholarship assistance to families in need.

Through the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund and its special initiative, Leaders of Tomorrow, Foundations in Education strives to make transformational Catholic education more affordable for families, regardless of their financial circumstances.

During this past year, the Bishop’s Scholarship Fund awarded more than $2,582,000 in tuition assistance to 1,302 students at diocesan elementary schools throughout Fairfield County.

In its first year, the Innovation and Leadership Grants Program awarded $105,000 to fund 19 innovative, cutting-edge projects in schools throughout Fairfield County.

For more information, call Holly Doherty-Lemoine at 203-416-1400. Online: