FAIRFIELD— Sister Mary Grace Walsh, ASCJ, former Superintendent of Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Bridgeport, was presented the CAPP “Educator of the Year Award” at the 9th Annual CAPP Communion Breakfast held at Sacred Heart University this morning.
“No one exemplifies the leadership that Catholic educators bring to the Church more than Sister Mary Grace,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.
The Bishop said that all teachers “are agents of hope” who transform lives through personal example, self-sacrifice, and the depth of their own faith.
More than 150 turned out to honor Sister Mary Grace and to listen to the Bishop’s keynote address on the uniqueness of Catholic education. The morning began with Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Spirit.
Sister Mary Grace was presented the award by Frederick Fakharzadeh, M.D., newly named President of Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice (CAPP), USA.
“She has a passion to transform the lives of young people because she sees in them the face of Jesus,” said current Superintendent of diocese schools, Dr. Steven Cheeseman, who introduced Sister Mary Grace.
In accepting the award, Sister Mary Grace, who now serves as Provost for Education, Evangelization, and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of Hartford, turned the tables on the many educators, friends and family members who assembled to honor her.
“I’ve learned so much from so many of you in this room, “she said, acknowledging the “many teachers and mentors” at the breakfast who had shaped her life.
Noting that her mother was a public school principal, Sister Mary Grace said she was blessed to “learn to love the Church and to love learning” through the example of her parents. She also urged those in attendance to not only support their students but also their parents, “who remain the primary educators of children.”
In his keynote address the Bishop said educators play a “transformative role” in the lives of students by their personal example.
“Long after they have forgotten what you taught them, they will not forget you,” he said, noting that at a time when we put so much emphasis on test scores, it’s easy to lose sight of the purpose of education.
“Education is about giving greater life,” he said. “Teachers inspire ‘willing change’ in students.”
Noting that many students come from broken families, challenged neighborhood and a society that often “seeks to reduce young people to a commodity,” the Bishop said that Catholic education affirms their “God-given personhood.”
Bishop said that even during the heyday of Catholic education in 1965, when there were 5.6 million children in Catholic schools, there were many more Catholic youth in public schools.
“Teaching the faith was important, but the main purposed was “transforming students” through the life of faith.
CAPP was founded in 1993 to promote Catholic social teaching. It is named for Pope John Paul’s encyclical of the same name that marked the 100th anniversary of the landmark papal document on social responsibility, Rerum Novarum.