October 25, 2013

Lentz ‘humbled, honored’ to receive Notre Dame’s Sorin Award

Annette “Mickey” Lentz is all smiles after receiving the Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools from the University of Notre Dame on Oct. 10 at Holy Cross Church in Indianapolis. The award honors those whose tireless commitment to support, sustain and transform Catholic schools has shaped the lives of countless children and their families and communities. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Annette “Mickey” Lentz is all smiles after receiving the Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools from the University of Notre Dame on Oct. 10 at Holy Cross Church in Indianapolis. The award honors those whose tireless commitment to support, sustain and transform Catholic schools has shaped the lives of countless children and their families and communities. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

The honor from the University of Notre Dame was a double blessing for Annette “Mickey” Lentz.

As one of the first recipients of Notre Dame’s first-ever Sorin Award for Service to Catholic Schools, Lentz said she was “humbled and honored” to receive the recognition.

“Knowing I was one of the first recipients was most gratifying,” said Lentz, who is in her 52nd year of serving the archdiocese, mostly as a Catholic educator and now as the chancellor.

“There are many good leaders to be considered. I have been blessed in so many ways. I think God is trying to tell me something: ‘Stay with it, Mickey. Be faithful and faith-filled. Continue to spread the Gospel message.’ ”

Another special quality of the honor for Lentz was that she received it immediately following a Mass celebrating Catholic education at Holy Cross Church in Indianapolis on Oct. 10.

“That meant a great deal to me,” Lentz said. “Celebrating Mass with my students was always a highlight for me when I was teaching and serving as a principal of a school. It unified us in so many ways. Praying and singing together gave special emphasis as to why we were in a Catholic school.

“Today’s celebration brought back memories of those shared times. God is good. He continues to remind us of why we do what we do. There are times when I need to be re-energized, and nothing works like an all-school liturgy.”

The Sorin Award was presented to Lentz by Joyce Johnstone, senior director for program development for Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives.

Johnstone noted that the award is named for the founder of Notre Dame, Father Edward Sorin of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

“The award honors those whose tireless commitment to support, sustain and transform Catholic schools has shaped the lives of countless children and their families and communities,” Johnstone told the school children and adults in the packed church. “These awards inspire others through their dedicated service to the Gospel through the apostolate of Catholic education.”

Focusing on Lentz’s 12 years as executive director of the archdiocese’s Office of Catholic Education, Johnstone noted that during that time “25 of the 69 schools in the archdiocese earned recognition as a Blue Ribbon School of Excellence by the U. S. Department of Education—a distinction unmatched by any other diocese in the United States.”

After presenting the Sorin Award to Lentz, Johnstone also gave Notre Dame’s newly-established Champion for Education Award to Fred and Judy Klipsch. They are members of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Carmel, Ind., in the Lafayette Diocese, who often attend St. Luke the Evangelist Church in Indianapolis.

Fred Klipsch has served as chairman of School Choice Indiana and the Educational CHOICE Charitable Trust, two programs that offer children from low-income families the opportunity to attend the school of their choice, including Catholic schools.

Both the Sorin Award and the Champion for Education Award have been established this year—a year in which Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) is celebrating its 20 years of service.

The ACE Program prepares teachers, principals and administrators to serve in Catholic schools, including many in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods. The program also strives to provide a high-quality Catholic education to as many children as possible.

To celebrate those missions and its 20th anniversary, the program has launched the Fighting for Our Children’s Future national bus tour—visiting about 50 cities across the country during this school year while promoting the message that “Catholic schools are good for America.”

Lentz lives that message. The Sorin Award touched her.

“When I heard Joyce Johnstone list the criteria for an awardee, I gave great pause to think, ‘Have I really exemplified those attributes? Tireless commitment, transforming Catholics schools,’ ” Lentz said. “It takes a team, but we have managed it in the archdiocese. When I was reminded of the Blue Ribbon honors, I felt so proud—because making that happen for our schools was very important to me.”

So was connecting with students during a career that began by leading a classroom of 54 students in the 1960s.

“I hope I have shaped people’s lives,” said Lentz, who once earned a license to drive school buses so she could make a special connection with her students. “I love running into my former students, who are quite established in life, and feeling so proud of them and what they have been able to accomplish.

“And whenever I can be mentioned in the same sentence with spreading and living the Gospel, I say, ‘Thank you, God, for this great privilege.’ My life has been committed to Catholic education, no matter what role I may now serve. To teach is to teach, no matter the audience.” †

Local site Links:

Like this story? Then share it!