October 7, 2016

New Albany couple’s commitment to Catholic education leads to national honor

Mary Kay and Carl Wolford were honored on Oct. 3 by the National Catholic Educational Association. (Submitted photo)

Mary Kay and Carl Wolford were honored on Oct. 3 by the National Catholic Educational Association. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Carl and Mary Kay Wolford revealed one of their defining qualities when they expressed how surprised they were to receive a national honor for the way their lives have impacted Catholic education and “the well-being of our nation’s youths.”

Showing their shared humility, the husband and wife said they never expected to be honored with the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Award from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). The couple from Holy Family Parish in New Albany received the honor during a gala in Washington on Oct. 3.

“We were shocked—a national award?” Mary Kay says. “We do what we do because the Lord has blessed us, and we want to support Catholic education and help students go to a Catholic school.”

Carl adds, “The thing that hit us is that we’re getting an award named after a saint, a teacher who was the first American-born saint. We can’t believe it.”

For the Wolfords, what made the award most special was that Seton honorees have a scholarship presented in their honor to a deserving Catholic school student in their local community.

Avery Kraft of Holy Family School in New Albany will receive a $2,000 scholarship from the NCEA when she enrolls as a freshman for the 2017-18 academic year at Our Lady of Providence Jr./Sr. High School in Clarksville.

“I would like to thank Mr. and Mrs. Wolford for nominating me for this award,” says Avery, the daughter of Doug and Shannon Kraft. “I am honored and very excited.”

Avery’s scholarship is a fitting extension of the generosity that the Wolfords have shared with Catholic schools during their 61 years of marriage, says Annette “Mickey” Lentz, chancellor of the archdiocese.

“Mary Kay and Carl are awesome in their giving,” Lentz says. “They are great stewards, and also great people. They truly believe that what they have been able to earn through their life, they want to give back. And in giving back, they have served so many of our young people in so many ways through their scholarships, through their endowments.”

The Wolfords have established endowments for tuition assistance to Providence High School, Spalding University in Louisville, Ky., and the University of Notre Dame. Mary Kay is a graduate of Spalding while Carl is a Notre Dame graduate.

Their financial support for the Indiana state voucher program has also led to scholarships for students at Holy Family School.

“The Lord has blessed us in a lot of ways,” Carl says. “He didn’t bless us with children, but we try to be involved and help as much as we can. Catholic education is our top priority.

“It makes us feel good that we’re helping someone, maybe in a small way, to fulfill their dreams and reach their goals. Some of these kids, their families can’t afford [a Catholic education.] That’s a shame. That’s a waste of intelligence that would benefit the community, the country and the world.”

In praising the Wolfords for their commitment to Catholic education, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin also focused on the difference their generosity makes.

“Catholic education is more important than ever,” the archbishop said. “It helps form a Christian community. It gives [children and youths] confidence at a very profound level. It tells them that they’re loved, they’re appreciated and they have a mission because of the one who became one of us—Jesus Christ. The love that you have in Christ helps you realize that you have abilities.”

That focus on faith and Christ’s love guides the Wolfords as they share their blessings.

Their list of volunteer efforts is extensive. They are extraordinary ministers of holy Communion, distributing the Eucharist at Holy Family Church and Floyd Memorial Hospital in New Albany. They are volunteers for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. And they are past co-chairpersons of an archdiocesan United Catholic Appeal campaign that raised more than $5 million to fund ministries in southern and central Indiana. The list goes on and on.

“What we do we do together,” says Mary Kay, who was a teacher for 39 years. “We believe that anything we have or have gotten is really not ours to keep. It’s ours to share, and we’re responsible for sharing.”

Carl adds. “We receive these gifts from God in trust. We receive them gratefully, we manage them while we have them, and we share them with others in justice and love.” †

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