Catholic schools celebrate

Light the Way will honor priests and others who impacted Catholic schools

The Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Syracuse will host the fourth annual Light the Way Dinner Dance on Friday, Jan. 29 in the Oncenter Complex. The event will honor Sue Castilla with the superintendent’s service medal, Sister Elizabeth John Timson, OSF, with the distinguished alumni award and Sister Alvera O’Grady, OSF and Sister Agnes Shaw, IHM, with the witness to faith awards. The celebration will also be in thanksgiving for the many priests who have made contributions and have supported Catholic schools in the diocese.

“This year’s Dinner Dance is especially poignant as we are taking the time to honor the priests of this diocese for their service to and their support of the Catholic schools,” said Christopher Mominey, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools. “In this Year of the Priest we are proud to take the time to prayerfully and joyfully show our gratitude to the men who have given their lives to serve the people and this diocese.”

Sister Agnes Shaw, IHM, was born and raised in Sayre, Pa. She entered religious life in 1950. She has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in Elementary Education from Marywood University in Scranton, Pa.   She received her master’s degree in Administration and Supervision from Lehigh University, and is certified in New York and Pennsylvania.

Sister Agnes began her career in Catholic education as a teacher for the primary grades. She specialized in reading in grades 4-8 and was a reading coordinator for those grades for several years. She has served in the Dioceses of Altoona, Scranton , Rockville Center , and Syracuse, and the Archdioceses of Washington and New York. Sister Agnes has been involved in the administration of Catholic Schools for over 40 years. She was principal at St. John the Evangelist for over 11 years. In 1983, while there, Sister Agnes was the recipient of the St. John Neuman Award presented by the New York State Federation of Catholic School Parents. She was the first woman to win this award which recognized her commitment to the consolidation of Catholic schools. Her work in this area helped ensure the continuation of Catholic education in Broome County. Currently Sister Agnes is serving as the coordinator of Administrative Services at the OLS-Seton Campus and has been for the last 10 years.

Sue Castilla is originally from Sherburne, N.Y. in Chenango County and is a graduate of Nazareth College in Rochester. Castilla has been married to Jim Castilla for over 20 years and they have three children: Andrew (19), Alex (18) and Leigha (11). Since her first son started kindergarten at Our Lady of Lourdes in 1995, Sue has been involved in a variety of projects benefitting the greater Utica Catholic Schools. She is a substitute teacher, Bingo volunteer, a member of Catholic School Management, chaired a multitude of fundraisers over the years and currently serves as the vice president of the parent association at Notre Dame High School and is the president of the parent association at Notre Dame Elementary. Having a vision to see the Catholic Schools continue to be successful and incorporating families into a school community has been the driving force behind her work. Castilla’s desire is that other families will be as blessed as hers has been through the Catholic education experience and that her God-given talents will continue to be used for the good of His kingdom.

Sister Elizabeth John Timson, OSF, or Sister EJ, is a native of Syracuse. Her home parish is Blessed Sacrament in the Eastwood neighborhood. A Sister of St. Francis, Sister EJ has a bachelor’s degree in history from Le Moyne College and a master’s degree in education and administration from SUNY Albany. She has spent nearly 50 years in education ministry and taught at St. Matthew’s School in East Syracuse and St. Margaret’s School in Mattydale.  Her administration experience includes time as principal at Assumption Elementary School in Syracuse, St. Peter’s in New Jersey and St. James in Syracuse. Sister EJ served as area superintendent for the Western and Northern Regions of the diocese for two years. Her last position as principal was a dozen years at Immaculate Conception School in Fayetteville. Two wings were added to the school building while Sister EJ worked there and Father Greg LeStrange was pastor of Immaculate Conception Church.

Presently, Sister EJ is director of development for the Sisters of St. Francis in the Syracuse Region. She is a member of the Diocesan Catholic School Board and a board member of Loretto Health and Rehab Center.

Sister M. Alvera O’Grady retired after teaching for 62 years. She spent the past 19 years at the Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family. A much-loved figure in the Catholic schools, Sister Alvera entered the Sisters of St. Francis in 1945. She earned her bachelor’s degree in education from the College of St. Rose in Albany and completed graduate credits in colleges in Ohio, Florida and New York.

Sister Alvera taught at schools in New Jersey, Ohio, Florida and in Amsterdam and Albany, N.Y. She taught for 40 years in the Syracuse Diocese at St. Mary’s in Baldwinsville, Holy Family in Fulton, Fulton Catholic, Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville and finally, Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family. Sister Alvera was recipient of the Outstanding Teacher Award, St. John the Baptist de LaSalle Award by the Federation of Catholic School Parents in 1994. She was also named “Educator of the Week” by WSTM-Channel 3 in 2004.

Although Sister Alvera has retired, she still volunteers at Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family. She serves as Eucharistic minister at St. Camillus Health and Rehabilitation Center on Wednesdays and at St. Joseph’s Hospital on Fridays. She also ministers as a patient advocate in the emergency department at St. Joseph’s Hospital a few hours a week. As if that isn’t enough to keep Sister Alvera busy, she also volunteers one day a week at the gift shop at the Franciscan sister’s Jolenta Convent.

“I am grateful to God for calling me to serve Him and His people as a Sister of St. Francis,” Sister Alvera said.

The Light the Way Dinner Dance is a highlight of the school year and gives the diocese an opportunity to recognize and thank those who support Catholic education. For tickets and information, call the Catholic School Office at (315) 470-1450.

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