[dropcap type=”4″]C[/dropcap]atholic education is something from the heart of God that’s meant to evangelize. That was the message heard by more than 800 gathered for the seventh annual Night of Hope gala.
Msgr. James Patrick Shea, president of the University of Mary, delivered the keynote address to parents, educators and supporters of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Phoenix Nov. 1 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown.
Some 14,000 students attend Catholic schools in the diocese. Fifty percent of funds raised at the Night of Hope event are used to alleviate immediate scholarship needs throughout the Diocese of Phoenix. The other 50 percent of funds are placed in an endowment fund to meet future needs.
Suzanne Fessler, St. Mary’s High School principal, William Scott Jenkins and Kevin Strayton were honored as this year’s Guardians of Hope.
MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of Catholic Schools, lauded the many years of devoted service given by Fessler.
“She never shies from a challenge or ignores a request for help,” Mueller said. “She leads by example, spiritually and professionally.”
Fessler said she decided in first grade that she wanted to be a teacher, never dreaming of the adventures that lay ahead, like the time the classroom’s pet snake escaped for a month or when she mistakenly ordered live, rather than ready-to-be dissected frogs for a science class.
Receiving the award was something she never expected either. “I believe with trust and confidence that I am simply doing the work God called me to in my life,” Fessler said.
Jenkins, honored as a benefactor, has served as the president of the diocesan school board and director of the Catholic Youth Athletic Organization as well as the diocesan tuition organization, among several other roles.
“It has been a privilege to collaborate with so many people in our mutual quest to make Catholic education available to as many as possible,” Jenkins said.
Strayton is the president and co-founder of Financial Aid Independent Review, a financial aid analysis company serving Catholic schools nationwide.
“One of the things that has impressed me the most about working with the schools in this diocese is the level of commitment and support that not only the staff but the families and the community in general provide for Catholic schools,” Strayton said.
Students from Catholic schools acted as greeters at the gala, with the elementary school students dressed as saints in recognition of the event taking place on All Saints Day. They and Catholic high school students held their breath when the winners of this year’s video contest were announced.
Students in middle grades and high schools were asked to submit videos that portrayed the difference that their Catholic education has made.
Top honors in the high school category went to Brophy College Preparatory students for “Making a World of Difference,” a video that showed students participating in immersion programs in which they worked with the poor.
The first place award for a video produced by middle school students went to Ss. Simon and Jude for their video that showed students collecting school supplies for a small village school in South Africa.