Friday, October 16, 2009

A Good Shepherd: Cardinal DiNardo keynotes 13th Annual Bishop's Dinner for Catholic Education in Sioux City

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Words and deeds --- Faith, reason and friendship.

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, former bishop of Sioux City who now shepherds the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, spoke about how Catholic schools incorporate these concepts during his keynote presentation delivered at the 13th Annual Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Education held Oct. 11 at the Sioux City Convention Center.

He stressed the fact that Catholic education does more than provide just book smarts, even when it comes to forming the intellect about the Catholic faith. The schools provide instruction that inspires faith-filled action.

“The school has to make sure that the deeds and the words cohere. If they are going to cohere then that means that the instruction must be clear and faithful, most especially to the teaching of faith and religion. But the teaching of faith and religion can be seen as purely a head trip, purely a piece of information, unless it goes through the heart,” the cardinal said. “Therefore it’s translated into deeds.”

Putting faith into practice

That is why they ask students and parents “to practice their faith.”

He had mentioned that one of his favorite paintings depicted Jesus’ call of St. Matthew, which is located in the French church of Rome, St. Louis. The cardinal noted that Matthew’s Gospel is clearly divided, section after section: Jesus speaks, Jesus acts.

“The Gospel of Matthew is the perfect way to talk about Catholic education,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “Because the Gospel of Matthew is organized: words, deeds, words, deeds.”

Matthew in particular, he noted, stressed the fact that faith needs to be transmitted not only with clarity but also in a way that makes one act.

“In order to live the Catholic faith, you need to understand it and in order to understand the Catholic faith, you have to do it in deeds,” said Cardinal DiNardo, who added that when he was in the diocese, he was always impressed that the Catholic schools did this so well.

The cardinal noted that a Catholic university in his archdiocese recently asked him to speak about faith and reason, and wanted him to tie into Pope John Paul II’s philosophy on the subject. In his research, Cardinal DiNardo said it was evident that the late pope found great value in relationships.

“(The late pope had said) we are going to be faithful to the truth, that’s what we must do, but we must also cultivate friendships,” the cardinal said. “Friendships with those that are close to you, friendships with scholars and others, even cultivate some friendships with those who disagree with you. In the cultivation of friendship, the truth comes about.”

The truths that friends discover together, he added, can lead to a deeper discovery of “the truth. The truth is Jesus Christ.”

“The Catholic school is a place where truth, friendship, charity – all of the good virtues - co-exist,” Cardinal DiNardo said, as is witnessed in the life-long friendships that are formed and the commitment of faculty, staff and parents.

Ordained to the episcopate in October of 1997 at Nativity in Sioux City, he served in the diocese until 2003 when he was named archbishop of Galveston-Houston. In October of 2007, Pope Benedict XVI announced that he would be elevated to cardinal.

“I love the Diocese of Sioux City and always feel as though I am coming back home,” said the cardinal. “It’s a great place.”

Along with expressing appreciation to Bishop R. Walker Nickless for the invitation to speak at the dinner, he extended gratitude to the priests of the diocese who he said are very supportive of Catholic schools.

The cardinal pointed out that while his present archdiocese has 1.5 million Catholics, it has just seven high schools. He commended this diocese for having so many Catholic elementary schools, high schools and a Catholic university, Briar Cliff.

He asked the 800-plus present at the dinner to never forget what a “jewel” Catholic education is in the diocese.

Other highlights

The evening was emceed by Father Ed Girres, pastor at St. Cecilia Church in Algona.

Following the cardinal’s keynote, Maureen Heffernan who chairs the Catholic School Foundation Board, announced this year’s winners of the Excellence in Education Teacher Awards. The winners were Marilyn Barta, fifth grade teacher at Kuemper Catholic Grade School in Carroll; Steve Bronson, art instructor at Bishop Garrigan High School in Algona; Rick Fox, teacher at Gehlen Catholic High School in Le Mars and Julee Wendte, first grade teacher at Mater Dei School of Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools in Sioux City.

Heffernan also explained that this year, they presented two recipients with a new award, the Good Shepherd Award, which honors staff members of Catholic schools. Recipients of this award were Paula Schwebach, secretary at St. Patrick’s School in Sheldon; and Mike Stence, principal at Bishop Garrigan High School in Algona.

Jeff and Rene Mohrhauser of Sioux City served as the chair couple for this year’s dinner. The Mohrhausers are parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Church and are the parents of two children: Katie and Sam, who both attended Bishop Heelan High School.

In offering words of support for Catholic education, Jeff Mohrhauser spoke of the strong commitment of Catholic schools.

“They support the work that we try to do as parents and that our pastors try to do as priests,” said Mohrhauser. “Our schools reaffirm the diversity that is us … all kinds of different people with one universal church.”

He added that they also reaffirm the sanctity and dignity of each life as well as the importance of respecting others.

Dan Ryan, the diocese’s new superintendent of education, gave an overview of the state of Catholic education in the diocese.

“Through our assessment of the children, I would like you to know that they are doing an excellent job in their faith knowledge,” he said. “The bishop and I have been on some visits to the schools and we have been very impressed with their ability to answer a lot of the bishop’s questions.”

Ryan pointed out that academically, the Catholic schools in the diocese rank high on assessment tests and he credited that to the dedication and commitment of the schools’ faculty and staff.

The new superintendent also noted that enrollment in Catholic schools of the diocese has been on the rise. He credited that in part to the positive attitude and tradition of Catholic education in the diocese that have been nurtured in school families, pastors and local communities.

Words from the bishop

As the dinner drew to a close, Bishop Nickless offered closing comments.

He mentioned that the reason they all gathered was “to honor and support Catholic education. Thank you to each and every one of you who joined us tonight.”

The bishop extended gratitude to Jeff and Rene Mohrhauser, who chaired the event; the Bishop’s Dinner Committee and all who helped to make the evening a success. He also recognized the sponsors, priests of the diocese and honorees.

Bishop Nickless also thanked Cardinal DiNardo and mentioned that the cardinal had been elected to the chair the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee. He told the cardinal that he asked all of the parishes to pray for him “in that very important work.”

The bishop said that he was a product of Catholic schools and “they made me what I am today. The values, the mission and the witness Catholic schools continue to promote make a difference in other people’s lives. The primary reason for Catholic schools is to pass on our Catholic faith, the faith of Jesus Christ and his church.”

Time and again, he added, Catholic schools have shown there is no better way to assist parents in their primary role of educating their children.

“Faith, in a world that desperately seeks truth, is formed and fashioned by Catholic schools and the ones in the Sioux City Diocese are among the best,” Bishop Nickless said.

Kristie Arlt, diocesan director of communications and stewardship, pointed out that the schools could expect to receive over $100,000 thanks to the generosity of sponsors and all those who purchased tickets for the dinner. The Catholic Globe
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