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Honoring Distinguished Grads in Philadelphia

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On Thursday, March 27th over 700 people from across the Archdiocese of Philadelphia will join me as I host the Annual Distinguished Graduate Dinner.  I consider it a privilege not only to host this event but to serve as the evening’s Master of Ceremonies.  This tradition dates back long before my arrival in this historic archdiocese but the excitement around the event itself never dwindles.  As the plans come together, as people clamber for seats at this “must see” event, it causes me to pause and reflect on how important our alumni are to our Catholic community.  After all, isn’t the success of our graduates one sure and certain way to measure how much Catholic education impacts our world?
Catholic school alumni are the most important recruiting tool that we have.  And while I know the term “recruit” is a bad word in the world of athletics, it is in fact the term we use when we talk about admission into our schools.  After all, Catholic schools by their very nature must recruit students to attend the school.  Recruitment is the process by which we present our product to the public and hope that what we have to offer appeals to their needs as a family.  And it is the alumni, especially those that live locally, that serve as our front line sales people when it comes to recruitment.  Never under-estimate the power of the word of mouth.
We know that our alumni relationships must be strong because the mission of Catholic education is at stake.  Each time an alumnus of a Catholic school succeeds so too does the whole system.  The thousands of Catholic schools around this great nation and the millions of students entrusted to our care are part of a wonderful tradition.  Whether in California, Florida, Maine or the Delaware Valley, the success of one is the success of all.  Rest assured when young people go into the world prepared for work and excited about citizenship they will often mention their school as a place where their success began.  Combined with the small world in which we literally now live, the networking that takes places with these alumni can not be underestimated.
Finally, it should be noted that our alumni have a critical role in the future of the Church.  Time and time again, studies reveal that our graduates remain connected to the Church in a variety of different ways.  As one study stated “Graduates of Catholic schools are more closely bonded to the Church, more deeply committed to adult religious practices, happier, and more supportive of religious perspectives on women and have more confidence in other people, more gentle images of God, and a greater awareness of the responsibility for moral decision-making. ” (National Opinion Research Center [NORC] 1988 General Social Survey).
And it is for this very reason that we gather this week to celebrate here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia; to honor those that have distinguished themselves in this regard.  We lift up and hold out these great models of our graduates: The late Bishop Joseph McFadden, Mr. Brian Zwaan, Sister Helen Rapine, IHM and Ms. Eileen Hansen.  Why?  Not because of what we have accomplished in our Catholic schools but because of what they have accomplished in their lives!
Read more about the lives of these Distinguished Graduates by visiting
This year’s recipients
Joseph McFadden headshot
Most Reverend Joseph P. McFadden (Posthumous)
  • Bishop of Harrisburg
  • St. Thomas More High School for Boys
  • Our Lady of Lourdes, Philadelphia
Brian Zwaan headshot
Brian Zwaan
  • President, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Lending Officer and Director of Penn Liberty Bank
  • Archbishop John Carroll High School
  • St. Denis, Havertown
Sister Helen Rapine headshot
Sister Helen Rapine, IHM
  • Principal and President, Bishop Shanahan High School
  • West Catholic High School for Girls
  • St. Patrick, Norristown | St. Rose of Lima, Philadelphia
Eileen Hansen headshot
Eileen Hansen
  • Hansen Properties, Inc.
  • Little Flower High School for Girls
  • St. David, Willow Grove

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