Niagara Catholic celebrated its rich history and tradition and the gift of Catholic education on April 1, during the 13th Annual Bishop’s Gala at Club Roma in St. Catharines.
The event, which raises funds for the Niagara Foundation for Catholic Education, is a signature event for Niagara Catholic, and was absolutely the place to be seen. More than 250 supporters of Catholic education, including Niagara Catholic staff, Foundation board members, and parish priests, were on hand for the celebration. Three Knights of Columbus Assemblies from Niagara were also represented, and served as an honour guard for dignitaries at the event.
Representatives from the French Catholic School Board, St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik and Mayor Dave Augustyn of Pelham also attended.
The evening’s musical entertainment was provided by the Lakeshore Catholic High School Drumline, Jazz Band and Jazz Ensemble. Under the guidance of Fraser Hebert, the Lakeshore Catholic students performed three numbers following the procession, Summertime, When I Fall in Love, and What a Wonderful World. The talent of the musicians was matched by the vocal gift of Grade 12 student Bronwyn Leitch, who also performed O Canada.
This year, there was no Award of Distinction recipient to celebrate, so the attention focused on the celebration of Catholic education.
During his opening address, Board Chair Father Paul MacNeil shared an anecdote about a four-year-old whose mother had been teaching her to pray, when the youngster insisted on showing her mother what she had learned at her Catholic elementary school instead.
“The world needs to hear the natural love, the pure faith, the unquestioning hope that comes from the hearts of our little ones, especially as they explore their faith. If there is any reason to support Catholic education, that’s it,” said Chair MacNeil. “And we, as educators and adults, need to listen to the prayers of our children, not silence them, but we must also join in their prayers, not ignore them. Is there is anything more Catholic or speaks more clearly of the presence of Jesus than the faith of our children?”
In his address to guests, Bishop Bergie spoke passionately about God’s mercy, as it relates specifically to education, and the way in which our schools and our Niagara communities have embraced Syrian refugees.
“Education is a merciful act,” said Bishop Bergie, “and God’s mercy does flow and is flowing in our midst. I see the face of God when I look around this room. Thank you for being the face of God.”
He also referenced the musical performance by making note of the good fortune we in Niagara have to experience the “what is good and true and beautiful; to experience the wonderful world around us.”
Board member Bill Amadio spoke on behalf of the Foundation, thanking attendees for attending, noting their “compassion and generosity” allows the Foundation to provide scholarships and bursaries to students attending college or university, help purchase tools for students who are entering apprenticeship programs and to provide support to students with special needs so they can enjoy “full participation in school life.”
Director of Education John Crocco also offered thanks to attendees and to spoke about our Niagara Catholic family’s call to be a united voice to be a commitment to Catholic education.
“Tonight is one of the hallmark celebrations of the gift of Catholic education, and the graced opportunity that we have to celebrate and contribute to our strong foundation,” said Mr. Crocco. “We continually speak about the Diocese of St. Catharines and Niagara Catholic being a family. To have all of you present tonight speaks in a strong, united voice to your belief and commitment to Catholic education. Our Catholic community in Niagara is blessed to have each one of you here tonight.”
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