October 11, 2019

Approach of faith, joy and care guides principal

By John Shaughnessy

Sarah Jean WatsonSarah Jean Watson’s flair for fun shows in the wacky costumes that the principal wears on special days at her school.

Her appreciation for her school’s teachers is defined by the time she told them there would be a staff meeting, and instead she took them on a field trip to an apple orchard.

Then there is the way she lives her Catholic faith so fully that it has a dramatic impact on the community of St. Lawrence School in Indianapolis. Because of her approach to life, students, parents and staff members at the school have entered into full communion of the Catholic Church.

“Our goals as Catholic schools are to get everyone to heaven and make saints of our students and colleagues,” Watson says. “That’s how I try to approach every day.”

Her approach of faith, joy and care for others led her to be honored earlier this year with the 2019 “Lead, Learn, Proclaim Award” from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA). Chosen from more than 150,000 Catholic teachers and administrators across the nation, Watson earned the award for her dedication and commitment to excellence in Catholic education.

She also received recognition for that honor during the archdiocese’s “Co-workers in the Vineyard” awards ceremony at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis on Sept. 25, a ceremony that celebrated the contributions of people who work in the areas of Catholic education, catechesis and youth ministry.

Watson stresses inclusion at St. Lawrence, a school where the student body is “55 percent African-American, 25 percent Hispanic, 15 percent white and 5 percent multi-racial.” She also leads one of the five pilot schools in the archdiocese’s Latino Outreach Initiative. And she is an advocate for families who face deportation in the Indianapolis area.

“Those who are new to our country or who are first or second generation, they need Catholic schools,” she says. “We are truly being ‘Church’ when we reach out to the community around us.”

Watson is always reaching out to her students, starting with the announcement she shares every school day with them: “If no one yet has told you today, I love you very much.”

“I believe Catholic education is the best education we can provide to children holistically,” Watson says. “It’s part of who I am. It’s what I believe in.” †

 

Related: Transform the world through your witness, archbishop tells leaders

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