November 16, 2007

Kelly: Catholic education provides a different view of the world

900 people attend Celebrating Catholic Schools Values dinner

Matthew Kelly shares his insights about Catholic education and the Church at the annual Celebrating Catholic Schools Values awards dinner on Nov. 7 in Indianapolis. (Photo by Rich Clark)

Matthew Kelly shares his insights about Catholic education and the Church at the annual Celebrating Catholic Schools Values awards dinner on Nov. 7 in Indianapolis. (Photo by Rich Clark)

By John Shaughnessy

On an evening when five Catholics were honored for the values that mark their lives, international speaker Matthew Kelly praised the Church for the difference it makes in the world.

“There are 1.2 billion Catholics on the planet. There are 64 million Catholics in America. And every single day, the Catholic Church feeds more people, houses more people, clothes more people, takes care of more sick people and ­educates more people than any other ­institution” in the world, said Kelly, a ­best-selling author who has spoken in more than 50 countries in the past decade.

“For 2,000 years, wherever you find Catholics, you find a group of people ­making phenomenal contributions to their local community, to their national ­community and to their international ­community.”

Kelly’s message struck a chord with the more than 900 people from across central and southern Indiana who attended the Celebrating Catholic School Values: 2007 Scholarship and Career Achievement Awards Dinner.

The Nov. 7 fundraiser at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis honored five Catholic school graduates who have had notable careers: Mary Helen Eckrich, Father Todd Riebe, William Wood, Philip Carson and Michael Hudson.

The 12th annual celebration of Catholic education in the archdiocese also added a preliminary estimate of more than $360,000 to the $3.5 million that the event already had raised to provide tuition ­assistance for disadvantaged students who want to attend archdiocesan schools.

“The future belongs to those who are being educated in the Catholic system,” said Kelly, the author of Rediscovering Catholicism and Perfectly Yourself: 9 Lessons for Enduring Happiness.

“One of the wonderful things Catholic education does is gives us a different view of the world. It allows us to see things ­differently. It allows us to see ourselves differently. And in seeing ourselves ­differently, we go into the world ­differently. We act differently—in the work place, in ­relationships, in families, in ­society.”

Statistics show that a child from an urban area who attends a Catholic school is five times more likely to go to college than a student from an urban area who attends a public school, Kelly noted.

That statistic complemented other results that were shared at the awards ­dinner by Annette “Mickey” Lentz, ­executive director of Catholic education and faith formation for the archdiocese.

Enrollment in the 71 Catholic schools in the archdiocese has increased this year to more than 23,000 students, Lentz noted. Twenty-five of those schools have earned recognition as Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence by the U.S. Department of Education.

“Ninety-seven percent of our high school students graduate in four years, and 94 percent of our graduates go on to higher education,” Lentz said. “Our ­students’ ISTEP [Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress] scores range above state averages by 13 percent in grade three to 28 percent in grade 10. The longer the students are with us, the better they ­perform.

“I am proud of our students, parents, educators and clergy, all of whom work together on those accomplishments while teaching, learning about and practicing the values of our Catholic faith.”

The difference a Catholic education can make shines through the lives of the five individuals who were honored at this year’s event.

Mary Helen Eckrich was honored for her care and concern for Catholic school children through five decades as a teacher and a counselor.

Eckrich began teaching at Holy Name School in Beech Grove in the 1960s and retired from Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in 2005. She also served as a ­volunteer catechist for 19 years, and has been involved in a Pre-Cana ­marriage preparation program for engaged couples for 20 years. She ­considers herself a member of two Indianapolis parishes, St. Barnabas and St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower.)

Father Todd Riebe was cited for his remarkable influence on Catholic ­education in Richmond. While leading the parishes of St. Mary, St. Andrew and Holy Family in that eastern Indiana city, Father Riebe also led the effort to establish a new Catholic high school there in 2002—Seton Catholic High School.

“I’m just a firm believer in Catholic education,” Father Riebe said. “People sometimes say, ‘Can we afford to do this?’ I say, ‘Can we afford not to offer our kids this formation?’ ”

William Wood was honored for ­representing the archdiocese and the Church in legislative and public affairs. A member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis, Wood has worked as part of the Indiana Catholic Conference to fight the death penalty and bills that would make abortion easier. He also served as an ­attorney for the ­archdiocese from 1975 to 2005. And his commitment to helping the poor is reflected in his volunteer efforts for the St. Vincent de Paul Society in Indianapolis.

Philip Carson was recognized for his efforts to help and support St. Christopher Parish, Cardinal Ritter Jr./Sr. High School and Marian College, all in Indianapolis.

“When it came down to choosing Catholic education for our four kids, Teri [his wife] and I felt it was important to give them that Catholic faith, to see it every day, to live it every day,” said Carson, an Indianapolis businessman who is a member of St. Christopher Parish.

Michael Hudson received the Community Service Award for his ­dedicated efforts to help the archdiocese provide Catholic education to students in center-city schools. A member of St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Indianapolis, Hudson chaired the first Celebrating Catholic School Values dinner in 1996.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein ­presented each of the honorees with their award. He also praised them for the ­example they set and the lives they lead.

Kelly also congratulated them on ­leading lives of virtue, a quality he ­considers “the ultimate organizing ­principle” in the world.

“Why is virtue, which is at the heart of Catholic education, the ultimate organizing principle?” Kelly said. “The reason is because two patient people will always have a better relationship than

two impatient people. Two patient people will always have a better marriage than two impatient people. Two generous ­people will have a better relationship than two selfish people. Two humble people will have a better relationship than two arrogant people.

“At the heart of Catholic education, we find that value system that supports those virtues, that delivers people into society with a different world view, with a different view of themselves, with a different view of others, and with a different view of their involvement in the world.” †

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