Tucson’s bishop tells Arizona’s Catholic school students to spread seed of faith

Tucson’s bishop tells Arizona’s Catholic school students to spread seed of faith

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Phoenix's bishops Eduardo A. Nevares and Thomas J. Olmsted (top) and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup and Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson (bottom) distribute communion during the annual all-school Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in honor of Catholic Schools Week. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Phoenix’s bishops Eduardo A. Nevares and Thomas J. Olmsted (top) and Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup and Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson (bottom) distribute communion during the annual all-school Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral in honor of Catholic Schools Week. (Ambria Hammel/CATHOLIC SUN)

Bishop Olmsted honors nine educators

Students from across Arizona comfortably filled Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral for the all-school liturgy Jan. 30 as part of Catholic Schools Week celebrations.

All four bishops serving the state’s three dioceses along with up to a dozen priests — many of them school pastors, chaplains and rectors — were also on hand to celebrate and later honor nine educators for their dedication. Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted said the liturgy served as a time for schools, teachers and students to gather as a common body who seek to understand more clearly “the great gift of faith.”

It doesn’t take much to be fruitful, the students soon learned through the Gospel reading. They only need to plant themselves on fertile ground.

“You are that fertile ground on which our Catholic schools are growing,” Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas, bishop of Tucson, said during the homily.

In Bishop Kicanas’ typical style, he climbed down the altar steps so that he could be more conversational with his audience. He asked the crowd what kind of bicycle the students owned and affirmed that “the ordinary, regular kind” are the best.

He joked that bicycles in Bishop Olmsted’s days were made of wood before proceeding to share the story of a man in Israel who began making them out of commercial cardboard. It was durable yet inexpensive. It took determination to get the model just right.

Tucson’s bishop briefly discussed zombies with the young Catholics too. They’re so gruesome they turn your attention away from them instead of toward them, he said. Christ’s church is just the opposite.

God plants the seed of faith in every person and wants it to grow as beautifully as possible so that others will want to model that same beauty.

“He calls us now to spread that seed of faith so that others might get to know Him,” the bishop said.

He reminded the students over and over again that God is never far away from them. He is a friend always at their side and “always, always, always ready to forgive.”

Before the final blessing, MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of Phoenix’s five diocesan high schools and 29 elementary schools, recognized seven educators for always being there for the students. She honored six teachers from several elementary and high schools for 25 years of service in the diocese. Sr. Joan Fitzgerald, BVM, was honored for 50 years of service at Xavier College Preparatory, many of them as principal.

She bestowed the prestigious St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award on two others. The award, granted only in years which a principal, school board or diocesan school board nominates a candidate for his or her impact on Catholic education, leadership, vision and dedication.

Franciscan Sister Martha Carpenter, principal at St. Peter Indian Mission School in Bapchule, could hardly contain her emotions while Mueller read the difference the teacher/principal has made in students over the last 30 years. Sr. Martha wears a black habit, but under it, sits a plethora of hats from counselor to nurse to mentor, finance director and head of maintenance “as well as avid Green Bay Packer fan,” Mueller said.

Sr. Martha has made so many positive decisions in her 23 years as principal that the tribal reservation often uses the school as an example, Mueller continued, noting that it’s a remarkable school thanks the sister’s devotion.

Mueller also honored Tom Reilly, currently an administrative assistant at St. Mary’s High School who also edits the school’s monthly newsletter and alumni newsletter. Reilly started there nearly 25 years ago. He was looking for something more fulfilling and met the principal during a retirement party.

Reilly moved from volunteer government and economics teacher to adviser — writing countless resumes and letters of recommendation along the way — to admissions to development and marketing to public relations editor. Many of his students were first-generation high school graduates.

“This is why we have Catholic Schools Week,” Bishop Olmsted said after personally handing each recipient a certificate. He continued, this is “how the Holy Spirit is at work, now in 2013 and how His inspiration, His grace has lifted up amazing leaders.”

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