As schools open, principals commissioned and awards bestowed

Before students stepped foot in their parish schools this week, their principals took time to pray together, to honor their colleagues for distinguished service, and to look to the future of Catholic education in the Diocese of Peoria.

The opening liturgy for the 2009-2010 school year brought the principals from the diocese’s 49 Catholic elementary schools and seven high schools to the Spalding Pastoral Center in Peoria on Aug. 12. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, celebrated the Mass with Msgr. Paul Showalter, vicar general, and the school pastors, and offered tokens of appreciation to those who were being recognized at the luncheon that followed.

Among the honorees were Dr. Sharon Weiss, principal at St. Patrick’s School in Washington, and Msgr. Doug Hennessy, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Bloomington.

Weiss was the Diocese of Peoria’s outstanding principal for the 2008-2009 school year and received the 2009 Robert J. Kealey Distinguished Principal Award for Great Lakes Region VII from the National Catholic Educational Association. Msgr. Hennessy was honored as the diocese’s distinguished school pastor, a recognition that made him eligible for the NCEA’s 2009 Distinguished Pastor Award.

Brother William Dygert, CSC, superintendent of Catholic schools, also outlined steps for implementation of “Renewing Our Mission: A Blueprint for Our Future.” The executive summary of this long-range plan for Catholic school education in central Illinois was published in the Aug. 19 edition of The Catholic Post.

Before he presented any awards, however, Bishop Jenky commissioned the principals for another year of service in diocesan schools.

He asked them not only about their willingness to champion and impart Gospel values to all members of the school community and to provide leadership that is “visionary, innovative and collegial,” but whether they would commit themselves to “a disciplined life of prayer and study in order to grow into the impassioned spiritual leaders so necessary for a faith-filled future for our schools.”

“With God’s help, we will,” they answered to each question.

To assist them, he blessed packets of rosaries for the principals, their staffs and their students and presented them personally to each principal. “We hope that during this Year for Priests, you and your school community will pray the rosary often, especially for the priests of the diocese,” the bishop told them.

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