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Our Purpose, Our Vision: Remarks from The Distinguished Graduate Dinner 2014

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On Thursday night March 27th, I had the honor of being the Master of Ceremonies for our Distinguished Graduate Dinner here in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It gave me the opportunity to share with so many of our colleagues and benefactors my vision for Catholic education. Many present that night have asked that I share my opening remarks on this blog.   So here it is…..

Good evening friends and colleagues in Catholic education:

I am so proud to be here with you tonight as your Master of Ceremonies.  More importantly, I am honored and privileged to have been called to this historic archdiocese as your Secretary for Education to walk in the footsteps of Saint John Neumann not only to reinvigorate but to renew and transform the Catholic schools of our beloved Church.

Rest assured we have one core purpose in this massive undertaking and it’s simple:


Again, our simple core purpose:


 The following poem by Portia Nelson — published in her book, There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk: The Romance of Self-Discovery — captures the image that I would like to leave you with tonight:

Autobiography in 5 Short Chapters  

Chapter I
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter II
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter III
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in … it’s a habit … but,
my eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.

Chapter IV
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter V

I walk down another street.


I would like to suggest to you tonight that as I begin my 10th month in my position, not only are we walking down another street, we are paving it as we go!  Rest assured: we will make history here!

  • We will make history by embracing the opportunity the Faith in the Future Foundation has given us to reinvent the way we do business without sacrificing our Catholic identity
  • We will make history by reinvigorating our commitment to our urban population with models like the Independence Mission Schools
  • We will make history with our already-strong elementary schools by developing clear plans for growth with local boards and pastors
  • We will make history by capitalizing on the State of Pennsylvania’s tax credits programs that are already making a difference in our schools
  • We will make history with our partners at BLOCS who serve us by growing our financial aid and scholarship opportunities
  • And we will make history here in Philadelphia by raising our standards of educational excellence above and beyond any basic or so-called common standards.

The street that we are walking down is one paved with creativity, innovation, option thinking, and above all, it is a street paved with a mindset of growth.  It is a street paved with a mindset of enthusiasm, a mindset of mutual respect and collaboration and above all, it is a road paved with a mindset of mission and action that mirrors the work of Christ himself who commanded us to go and make disciples.  And when we arrive at our destination, when we travel down this road together this will be the headline:

Responding to God’s call, we are the world’s premier center for the teaching mission of the Church

 And so it is most appropriate to gather here tonight to celebrate as a faith community the success of individual graduates, all of whom have made their mark in our world whether in education, or finance, real estate, or in the priestly vocation.  All of our honorees tonight have contributed tirelessly to the work of Catholic education in this Archdiocese but have defined their individual successes in very different ways.  No matter the path they took each of our honorees hold onto one common thread:  Enthusiasm.  Enthusiasm is a difficult word to define.  What we do know however,  is that the Greeks who gave us this word summarized it best: en-theos: meaning “God within”.  The one who is enthusiastic then is one who has God within them; one who exudes excitement, one who conveys a sincere enjoyment for the life that they are living.    And this is what defines our honorees tonight: each one, living different lives, taking different paths, but joined together by the life of God within them…tied together by EN THEOS…tied together by their enthusiasm for this great work of the Church that we call Catholic education.

I’m honored to join all of you — their family, friends, and supporters of Catholic education  — as we acknowledge their individual achievements and pay tribute to the life-defining experience of being a student in a Catholic School. Please join me in welcoming our 2014 Distinguished Graduates:

  • Sister Helen Rapine, IHM – Past Principal & President, Bishop Shanahan High School
  • Brian Zwann – President, COO, CLO and Director of Penn Liberty Bank
  • Eileen Hansen  – Hansen Properties, Inc.
  • And the family of the Most Reverend Joseph P. McFadden, whom we will honor posthumously on this very special evening.

By night’s end we will have recognized so many important people here this evening – including our special guests and distinguished graduates.   But, let me also emphasize our deepest gratitude for the daily sacrifices of the parents and guardians of our children who embrace the legacy of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Their commitment makes a night like this so essential and equally rewarding.  We thank all of our parents for entrusting to us their most precious possessions!

And now let us pray…….


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