On March 28th, Niagara Catholic announced that the late Monsignor Matthew Clifford is the 2014 recipient of the Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction. Monsignor Clifford played an integral role in the development of Catholic education in Niagara.
Msgr. Clifford was the pastor of St. Mary Church in Welland when he became involved in meetings to lay the groundwork for the Welland Roman Catholic Separate School Board. He was its first Chair, a position he held from 1953-1955.
Msgr. Clifford later served as a trustee of the Niagara Falls Roman Catholic Separate School Board. Following the amalgamation of school boards in 1969, Msgr. Clifford served as a Niagara Falls trustee for the newly created Welland County Roman Catholic Separate School Board, a position he held until he was relocated to St. Denis Parish in St. Catharines. Following his move, he served three terms as a trustee for the Lincoln County Roman Catholic Separate School Board in St. Catharines. Among his areas of interest were early school learning, education goals and teacher-trustee relations.
In 1977, Pope Paul VI elevated Father Clifford to Monsignor Clifford. Three years later, he received the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association’s Bernard Harrigan Award of Merit.
Monsignor Clifford’s final assignment was to St. Julia Parish. He passed away in 1989.
In his nomination of Msgr. Clifford, Fr. Peter Rowe, Pastor of St. Thomas More Parish, called it a “distinct honour to have … served with Monsignor Clifford for one year. It became evident to me how much he valued Catholic education. He spoke of it at every opportunity, he visited the schools on a regular basis, he hosted all the staffs of the schools under the pastoral charge of the parish and at an annual recognition social.”
“Students who attend Catholic school in Niagara today are the beneficiaries of a legacy Monsignor Clifford left behind for future generations,” said Kathy Burtnik, Chair of Niagara Catholic’s Board of Trustees. “I believe Father Rowe said it best in his nomination of Msgr. Clifford, stating his ‘tireless efforts … helped pave the way for the realization of full government funding in 1984.’ Monsignor Clifford had a lifelong commitment to Catholic education, which continues to inspire teachers, trustees and clergy in Niagara. His legacy is the gift of Catholic education, which we must never take for granted.”
In his announcement, Director of Education John Crocco credited Msgr. Clifford for his outstanding commitment to Catholic education.
“It is an honour to recognize Monsignor Matthew Clifford with the Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction 2014 for his decades of service to Catholic education throughout Niagara,” said Mr. Crocco. “We always speak of those who laid the foundation for our strong, inspirational and dynamic Catholic education system in Niagara and throughout Ontario. Through his more than four decades of dedication to Catholic education, Monsignor Clifford has left us a lasting legacy for generations.”
Monsignor Clifford’s family will receive the Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction at the 11th Annual Bishop’s Gala at Club Roma April 12th.