Night of Hope plans ‘back to school’ event for grownups

Hundreds of Catholic school supporters, including MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Phoenix, participated in the annual Night of Hope event last year. (Catholic Sun file photo)
Hundreds of Catholic school supporters, including MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Phoenix, participated in the annual Night of Hope event last year. (Catholic Sun file photo)

Leaders in the Catholic community will get a firsthand taste of life on a Catholic school campus during this year’s Night of Hope.

The annual diocesan celebration of all 35 elementary and high schools serving the Diocese of Phoenix is Nov. 7 and is touting a “Night of Hope Goes Back to School” theme. That’s because for the first time since its launch in 2008, the gala will be on school grounds.

Night of Hope will be inside Founders Hall at Xavier College Preparatory. The campus borders three Jesuit schools — Brophy College Preparatory, Loyola Academy and St. Francis Xavier.

“Night of Hope is the celebration of our Catholic schools, all the students accomplish while learning the faith,” said MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent. “Catholic schools have survived for 98 years because the foundation is our Catholic faith. Our schools integrate our Catholic faith, values and culture and expect academic excellence with well-disciplined students that learn the Gospel teachings and serve the community.”


Night of Hope

When: 6 p.m. Nov. 7

Xavier College Preparatory, 4710 N. 7th St.

Info: (602) 354-2345


Catholic education in the Diocese of Phoenix dates to 1917 when St. Mary’s High School opened. There are now six high schools with a seventh in development, plus 29 elementary schools and almost as many preschools. Night of Hope celebrates them all with students from various campuses providing musical preludes for the gathering, serving as greeters, conquering the stage as mini masters of ceremony and offering heartfelt, handmade thank-you notes to every guest.

Those notes often thank donors for supporting their Catholic education. Night of Hope organizers like Patti Serrano and Farah Olsen know firsthand the sacrifices families make to ensure Catholic education is attainable.

Years ago, Serrano’s daughters were waitlisted at St. Mary-Basha, the only Catholic school serving the Chandler area where they live. The Serranos were married at St. Francis Xavier Parish in central Phoenix and registered parishioners there, so the children commuted there instead.

Their oldest daughter is now a senior in college, but Serrano still recalls a conversation with her daughter her freshman year.

“Mom, if I hadn’t gone to Xavier, I would be freaking out right now,” her daughter said.

“In addition to solidifying the Catholic faith, the quality of education is excellent,” Serrano said.

She praised the local support of Catholic education she has seen from diocesan leadership and the Catholic community over the years. The commitment from parents, families, teachers and staff plus scholarship organizations is huge, Serrano said. Still, the financial need is widespread.

“You tend to think that it’s in schools in areas where the income is lower, but no, the need is great in every school,” Serrano said.

Like other schools, Xavier College Preparatory has more than 40 percent of its students on financial assistance. It’s community supporters who help make a difference for students. The Night of Hope committee will honor Margaret Gillespie plus the late Mike and Cissy Frakes as this year’s Guardian of Hope recipients.

The Frakes will be honored posthumously following their unexpected death in May. Cissy spent 35 years with Catholic education in the diocese at two campuses in teaching and administration then nearly a decade as assistant superintendent before her retirement last year.

Gillespie spent 12 years on the diocesan school board, served on the board of directors for Catholic Education Arizona and still serves in an advisory capacity. She has also represented diocesan schools at the state and national levels.


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