Catholic Schools Office to honor six individuals at Light the Way Dinner
Six individuals will be honored for their service to Catholic education at the seventh annual Light the Way Dinner at the Oncenter in Syracuse Jan. 25.
The event, hosted by the Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Syracuse, is held to raise funds to provide financial support to families in need of tuition assistance.
“Each year we are very pleased to honor people from our Catholic school community that have had a significant impact on the mission of Catholic education,” said Superintendent of Catholic Schools Christopher Mominey. “The dinner is a wonderful celebration of our ongoing commitment to the young people entrusted to our care across the seven counties.”
Connie Berry, former editor-in-chief/general manager of The Catholic Sun, will receive the Light the Way Award, which is given to those who have made a memorable and lasting impact on the life of the diocese due to their work in the field of Catholic education. Serving as a writer and editor from 1996 until August 2012, Berry wrote and edited numerous articles about the diocesan schools. She knows firsthand what a difference a Catholic education can make in a young person’s life.
“From my experience at The Catholic Sun, Berry said, “I witnessed the incredible dedication of the staff of the diocese’s schools and also the best of the students there. They all provide witness to the Catholic faith through the way they teach, learn, act and live.”
“We are very excited to honor Connie this year given her many years of service to The Catholic Sun,” said Mominey. “Under her leadership, The Sun was always a critical partner for us to spread the message of Catholic education. She was always a strong advocate for our schools and made sure that we were included in the pages of The Sun. Promoting Catholic schools was a main priority for her and we will always be grateful.”
Berry feels honored by the award and is looking forward to the special evening. “Personally, this will be a night to celebrate and see some of the extraordinary people who make the Syracuse Diocese so dear to me,” she said.
The Witness to Faith Award will be presented to Sister Anna Mae Collins, CSJ, principal of Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School in Utica and Sally Lisi, principal of Immaculate Conception School in Fayetteville. The award honors an educator in the diocesan schools who best exemplifies the role of teacher and educator or one who “helps to form the human person” as described in the church’s 1982 document “Lay Catholics In Schools: Witnesses to Faith.”
Lisi began her teaching career in 1977 at St. John the Baptist Academy in Syracuse where she taught first grade for eight years. Then, after teaching fifth grade for the next four years, she served as principal at the school until it closed in 2001. She has served as the administrator of Immaculate Conception School since 2001.
Reflecting on her career as an educator, Lisi said, “I hope that in some way, I brought them a little closer to knowing God and to be able to see Him in everyone we meet — that’s my goal. I have been blessed to work with dedicated staffs, great children and supportive parents. I couldn’t ask for anything more!”
Sister Anna Mae has been shaping the minds of Catholic school students since 1973 when she began serving as a teacher at St. James School in Johnson City. “I’ve always been respectful of the students and open to them,” said Sister Anna Mae. She hopes that by her example, young people will in turn show respect to others.
Sister Anna Mae also taught at St. Mary’s School in Clinton from 1974 to 1980 before serving as principal at St. John the Evangelist School in New Hartford from 1981 to 1986. From 1986 to 1988, Sister Anna Mae was principal at Notre Dame Junior High, North. From 1988 to 2004, she served as assistant principal at Notre Dame Junior/Senior High School before being appointed principal of the school.
Sister Anna Mae was surprised to learn she would receive the award. “I felt overwhelmed when I learned that I had been nominated by my faculty,” she said. “I am very appreciative of the award and I feel honored.”
“Sally and Sister Anna Mae are experienced Catholic school leaders that inspire the people around them to work harder and harder each day,” commented Mominey. “This particular award is meant for people of their caliber, namely, to honor those that have distinguished themselves as dedicated, professional Catholic educators. Just ask their faculty members; both of them are revered by the teachers they lead.”
Andrea Polcaro, who will receive this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award, is principal of Blessed Sacrament School in Syracuse, a position she has held for the last 25 years. Before assuming the position of principal, she taught at St. Matthew’s School for 13 years.
Polcaro is a 1970 graduate of Bishop Grimes Prep in East Syracuse.
The award was designed to honor an alumnus of a Catholic school within the Diocese of Syracuse who has successfully used the values learned in Catholic schools to make a positive impression on the world in which we live. In addition, the recipient should be someone who has remained actively connected to Catholic education, either through alumni activities or other Catholic school activities in his or her personal life away from their alma mater.
“I am so very proud to have been a member of the first graduating class of Bishop Grimes High School,” said Polcaro. “My years at Bishop Grimes most definitely shaped my future destiny and led me back to Catholic education.”
Polcaro has served on the Bishop Grimes Strategic Planning Committee and as a member of the school’s advisory board. She also initiated the Academic Games at Bishop Grimes.
“I am both honored and humbled to receive this recognition,” said Polcaro. “So many graduates of Bishop Grimes currently serve in our Catholic schools, and I am happy to receive this recognition on behalf of all of them.”
“Andrea is exactly what we look for in our alumni,” said Mominey. “She has been a dedicated supporter of Grimes since the time she graduated from there. As the principal of Blessed Sacrament in Eastwood, she has guided countless numbers of students to Grimes, has served on their board, and has assisted her alma mater in numerous ways. We are so glad that Andrea is being recognized for the blessings that she has brought to our diocese.”
Samantha VanLieshout and Rosemary Tenney will be honored with the Superintendent’s Service Medal this year. It is awarded to individuals who best exemplify the spirit of volunteerism and service on which the schools are built.
Both recipients have volunteered countless hours to schools.
The staff and students at Holy Family School in Norwich are extremely grateful for Tenney’s assistance. She has served as vice president and president of the Commission for the last 10 years. In addition, she coordinates the school’s quarterly newsletter and runs the annual “Today, Tomorrow and Always” campaign. Tenney has also taken on the role of school photographer for all school related events and has served as a substitute teacher for all grade levels at the school. She has also served as office secretary on numerous occasions.
“I volunteer at the school to give back,” Tenney said. When her children transferred from a public school to Holy Family, she noticed that her children were happy when they returned home from school. “Our family was relaxed and peaceful,” Tenney remembered. “I wanted to do something to give back, so I started to volunteer.”
Tenney said that she was surprised to hear that she would receive the award. “It’s nice to be recognized,” she said. “I’m doing what I know I can do and it seems right.”
VanLieshout is a tireless worker at St. Patrick’s School in Oneida. Her many contributions to the school include volunteering in the classrooms and on field trips, preparing meals in the cafeteria for the students, serving as PTC President and manages most of the school’s fundraisers.
Surprised to be receiving the award, VanLieshout said that she enjoys volunteering for the school. “Everything I do, I do for the kids,” said VanLieshout. “The school community here is wonderful. The parents are pleasant to work with — it makes it so much easier.”
“In honoring Rosemary and Samantha with the Superintendent’s Service Medal, we are honoring all of those that continue to volunteer their time to our schools,” said Mominey. “We depend on these folks to strengthen our mission at the local level. And although Rosemarie and Samantha prefer to work behind the scenes, their communities thought it was time to give them the spotlight.”