Alumni cite long-term positive impact of their Catholic education

By: By Tom Dermody

The choice to send a child to a Catholic school is an investment that pays dividends long after diplomas are handed out, three successful graduates testified as Catholic Schools Week began.

“Like a lot of kids, I probably did not realize at the time what impact my faith would have on me for the rest of my life while attending St. Columba Grade School, Marquette High School (both in Ottawa) and living at Newman Hall my first year at the University of Illinois,” said Dr. Jerry Corcoran, president of Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby.

“But now, 40-plus years later, I know there’s no way I could find balance and meaning in my life without my Catholic faith — my moral compass,” Dr. Corcoran told The Catholic Post.

Expressing gratitude to his parents, Tom and Isabel Corcoran, for passing on their “deep-rooted Catholic faith,” Dr. Corcoran called doing the same for his granddaughters “one of my top priorities in life now at 62.”

Mary Mangieri Burgland called her Catholic education at St. Joseph Academy and Corpus Christi High School in Galesburg “the backbone of my being.”

“I learned from the Sisters of Providence to use every talent that I had to the best of my ability because my talents were God’s gifts to me,” said Burgland, who has taught at the elementary, high school, and college levels.

Studies show that those attending a Catholic elementary school and at least one to two years of Catholic high school are twice as likely to stay in the faith. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, has often said that the vast majority of today’s church leaders are the product of Catholic schools.

Burgland, for example, uses her talents for the benefit of her community and her local parish, Immaculate Heart of Mary in Galesburg. She is a lector and an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion, and recently served as co-chair of Costa Catholic Academy’s successful major fund drive for a school addition.

“Serving has always made me feel that I was doing God’s work,” said Burgland. The seeds of service were planted by her parents and her Catholic school teachers.

“Through service projects, through giving up candy during Lent, from visiting the nursing home residents to spending a day a week helping at a local school for the mentally handicapped, we were taught to look for ways to serve our community,” she said.

After graduating from Alleman High School in Rock Island in the mid-1970s, Terry Egger went on to a newspaper career that included periods as publisher of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Cleveland Plain Dealer, from which he retired in 2012. In giving thanks during good times and finding strength on challenging days, Egger said is guided by his Catholic education and faith.

“It really is hard to put into words just how impactful my Catholic education has been in both my personal and professional life,” said Egger, who now lives in Bay Village, Ohio. He and his wife, Renuka, have three children.

“For as long as I can remember, there has been one common denominator when I have faced really tough events,” he told The Catholic Post via email. “Whether it has been the passing of a parent or sibling; facing employees at work and explaining cutbacks or layoffs; or trying to lead when the world seems cast in chaos after an event such as 9/11 . . . in those types of situations, and many more like them, I have always drawn upon the strength I gained in my Catholic education.”

Egger said in difficult times he takes time to pray and remembers the “totally selfless Christian approach” of his own mother.

“The core of that reflection boils down to this: God never gives us a burden that we can’t handle if we maintain our faith and our wits; and secondly, it’s not about ‘me’ but rather life is about what we can do to serve others. It’s become core to my life, and I doubt very much it would ever be there had I not been given my Catholic life and education.”

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