14th Annual Bishop’s Gala a Resounding Success!

The 14th Annual Bishop’s Gala, in support of the Niagara Foundation for Catholic Education, took place at Club Roma on April 1, and it was an outstanding evening celebrating Catholic education in Niagara.

A cocktail reception, wine tasting by Constellation Brand and antipasto bar began the evening, with entertainment by Christina LeRose, a Niagara Catholic Distinguished Award recipient (2016) and occasional teacher.

The formal event began with a procession of Knights of Columbus and dignitaries including Bishop Gerard Bergie, Director of Education John Crocco, Senior Staff, Chair of the Board Father Paul MacNeil and Trustees, led by Notre Dame College School’s fantastic drumline. Following O Canada, they performed a rousing number, leading into music by the Jazz Band and Jazz Ensemble, under the instruction of  Dee Laalo  and Ann Bordages.

Former Superintendent of Education Don Lefebvre, a member of the Niagara Foundation for Catholic Education, brought greetings on behalf of the Foundation Board. He thanked guests for their “continued and enthusiastic support of Catholic education” in Niagara, and spoke of the Board’s pride to be doing their part in the mission of Catholic education.

Father Paul MacNeil recognized the attendance of the trustees in attendance, including Pat Vernal, Ed Nieuwesteeg and Ted O’Leary, and also representatives from our co-terminus French Catholic Board – Conseil Scolaire de District Catholique Centre-Sud. He also spoke about the value of Catholic education to the 23,000 students we serve from Kindergarten through Grade 12, and concluded his comments with a quote from St. Francis de Sales “Let’s see what love can do!”

Director Crocco thanked the many community partners in attendance, including local mayors and representatives of municipal councils in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Thorold, Pelham and Port Colborne, representatives from Brock University, the Niagara Catholic Parent Involvement Council and Catholic School Councils, the Special Education Advisory Committee, the John Howard Society and Family and Children’s Services and the many representatives from the Diocese of St. Catharines, including Bishop Bergie, Sister Mary Kay Camp, many parish priests, members of Catholic Women’s Leagues and special guests from our partner school in China, The Country Garden School, where several Niagara Catholic teachers are currently seconded.

He also spoke about the responsibility to continue what men and women committed to Catholic education began 200 years ago.

“There is no question that throughout our 200 years, we stand on the shoulders of giants who created the important foundational blocks of what we cherish today,” he said. “(Individuals) who, along with the priests, sisters, brothers and lay people travelled our journey before us, taught us the lessons of sacrifice, resilience, service and commitment to our faith, to our history and to the privileged vocation of Catholic education.”

Bishop Bergie spoke passionately about the value of Catholic education in Niagara – about its history and the profound impact it has on the lives of students, staff and the community – and challenged everyone in the room to defend Catholic education against those who say it offers no value to students.

“Our Catholic schools are much more than just a place where religion is taught,” said Bishop Bergie. “Our Catholic schools are a place where religion is lived, where our faith is lived.”

The evening concluded with a silent auction and raffle table, and an incredible performance by local band The Madhatters.


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