High School of Saint Thomas More celebrates national honor
By: By Jennifer Willems
CAPTION: Celebrating The High School of Saint Thomas More’s accomplishments after an all-school Mass on Dec. 2 were (from left) Ryan Bustle, principal; Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools; bishop Jenky, and Father Matthew Hoelscher, chaplain.
CHAMPAIGN — Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, joined the students, staff and board of trustees of The High School of Saint Thomas More on Dec. 2 to help them celebrate their designation as a National Blue Ribbon School with a Mass and a brief ceremony led by Ryan Bustle, principal.
Bustle traveled to Washington, D.C., in November to receive a plaque and flag from U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and told those gathered in the STM gym that he was “humbled and proud to accept this award on your behalf, on behalf of the entire school community, and on behalf of the Diocese of Peoria.”
“Thank you to each and every one of you for believing in our mission and for supporting the philosophy that excellence in all we do here is our driving force because it’s what we offer to Jesus Christ every single day,” he said.
Champaign Mayor Don Gerard congratulated the school community for excelling in academics, the arts and athletics.
“Those are the things that guide young men and women to be the type of leaders who will help to develop and better our communities,” he told them. “I cannot tell you how proud I am to represent and to serve a community that has a school like Saint Thomas More that is nourishing our children in every possible way, preparing them for life to be the best citizens they can be.”
Before he finished, Gerard walked over to Msgr. Albert Hallin, the founding pastor of the school, and hugged him. The senior priest, who continues to be involved in the Champaign school as he is able, was the leader of Gerard’s youth group and proved to be a “guiding force” in his spiritual development, the mayor said.
RAISING THE BAR
Bishop Jenky also offered his thanks and congratulations and invited the school community to applaud themselves for what they had accomplished.
He reminded them, however, that not all the lessons they needed to learn could be found in books.
“You may do well in all those areas of study and learning that are good for you, but if you aren’t learning the lessons of love, mercy, forgiveness, noticing the pain of your neighbor, reaching out and helping if you can help, you have a foolish wisdom, not the wisdom of Christianity,” he said.
The bishop added that if they ever wondered if God would be there for them, all they had to do was look at the cross.
“All of that love is available to you. It is the greatest lesson you will learn at Saint Thomas More,” Bishop Jenky said. “It’s even more important than a Blue Ribbon.”
Bustle assured him they would use the award to challenge themselves to improve academically and grow in faith daily.
“This is not the top of the bar for us,” he said. “It only raises it.”
Among the guests were Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria, and students and principals from Saint Thomas More’s “partner schools”: Holy Cross and St. Matthew in Champaign, St. Malachy in Rantoul, and St. Thomas in Philo.