Awards Recognize Locals for their Leadership and Dedication to Students

June 28, 2019


by Len Lathrop

Catholic Schools of New Hampshire held its third Excellence Awards Gala that affirms the selfless act of individuals who advance the mission of Catholic education.

Following the invocation, the Most Reverend Peter A. Libasci, bishop of Manchester, spoke about the New Hampshire long and noble commitment of the important ministry of education of the young.  David Thibault, superintendent of Catholic Schools, introduced the Honorable Christopher T. Sununu, governor of New Hampshire.

Sununu appreciated the opportunity to join them in the gala and for juggling the program to allow him to speak first this evening; he mentioned how busy the capital offices are currently with the differing views on the budget.  He spoke about a Catholic education that focuses on the individual where abuse and discrimination are not accepted.  Sununu, a strong supporter of Christian education, has spoken at the gala before.  His one child attended in New Hampton, and his oldest will be at Saint Thomas Aquinas in the fall.

His message focused on taking a breath and asking, “what else can I do for that child or this community,” making sure to be true to personal and family values.  He focused on the fellowship of the community of Catholic education, without judgment or prejudice.

Closing with “603 Pride,” the governor stressed that everyone can always strive to be better.

Recognizing Excellence in Catholic schools started with the Superintendent’s Awards to Kevin Collins, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Dover; Denis Mailloux, St. Joseph Regional Junior High School, Manchester; Roxanne Raeside Wilton, John Paul II Academy, Claremont; Gene Bryant, Knights of Columbus and St. Joseph Regional Catholic School Board member.  Community Partner of the Year was awarded to J. C. B. Colby, Inc., Zach and Chris Colby, and Clergy Member of the Year was awarded to Reverend David Harris, St. Christopher Parish and School, Nashua.

Named for the great pioneer and leader in American Catholic education, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, this award recognizes a school leader who embodies all the virtues and traits necessary for Catholic school leadership.  The recipient of this award is an academic leader and collaborative relationship builder, forging connections within and beyond the school community.  The recipient leads with joy, vision, and an entrepreneurial spirit.  As an authentic example of faith, this person helps students and adults in their school grow in their relationship with Christ.

This year’s recipient of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic School Leader of the Year Award, Sister Maria Rosa, arrived at the Presentation of Mary Academy 12 years ago, “roaring like a lion.”  One parent wrote of Sister Maria: “Even though she was small in stature she had a strong will and vision for PMA.  There were lots of changes and many families were upset with those changes but … she had a good business mind and vision and we knew she would turn PMA around for the better.  And we were right.  Even with her heavy workload the children and their education always come first.”  Her motto is “it’s all for the children” and she lives it.

Another parent wrote, “She loves every student that comes to PMA with her whole heart in the spirit of Ann-Marie Rivier … no matter their faith.  All the students’ homework and class work papers read “All For God” and I believe everything Sr. Maria does for the school, families, students, staff, and more … she does from her heart … with Christ leading her.”

In the words of a staff member, “She is a leader to our entire school family and to the sisters of her religious community.  She models faith-filled service to our Catholic roots and traditions.”

And from another, “She is an amazing charismatic leader.  She is a strong professional business woman with a passion for Catholic education like no other.  She had turned a school that was struggling into the strong institution it is today. She more than doubled enrollment, built a turf field, built a gym and performing arts center, and she says that this was completed because of the vision and drive that the Holy Spirit energized within her.”

A teacher of over 20 years remarked, “We have so many blessings, and Sr. Maria is responsible for much of this, not just through her own life and actions, but because she fosters this in all of us.  Her vision for the school and our community is truly amazing.  Her love for Jesus is inspiring.  Her love for the children is unending.  If Jesus “loves the little children” he has shared his great love for them in the heart of Sister Maria.”

Three finalists for the teacher of the year award were announced after a video presentation was shown, and then the award was given.  Ann Jones of St. Francis of Assisi School received the 2019 St. John Baptiste de la Salle Award.

Jones shared the thank you address with the newspaper:

“I want to thank each and every one of you for this recognition.  I also want to thank and salute my fellow candidates for their leadership and service.

This award is not about the recognition of an individual; it is the recognition of a community. Each of us, administrators, family members, parents, staff and teachers make up that community.  The whole is far greater than any one part.

We are a community that provides the environment and possibilities for students to succeed. Ultimately, it is the success of our students that garners the attention leading to this event.  Our students are successful because of the leadership and service each of us dedicates to our education and faith communities.

I feel that teaching is the definition and demonstration of servant leadership.  Our service facilitates opportunities to train and lead our students; inspiring in them the desire of a life-long commitment to our Faith.

Through our leadership and service, we provide inspiration in both significant events, and the small, day to day demonstrations of Faith, which have a deep, profound, and long-lasting impact.  Building the Kingdom of God is a journey that we all live each and every day. Our smallest actions and behaviors, all contribute to the inspiration we provide to students.  Teaching, similar to the sacramental vocations of religious life and marriage, is a vocation that serves, reinforces, and provides leadership each day.

Through the continued advocation of the Spirit of Saint John Baptist de la Salle Award, the Diocese of Manchester has provided a platform where the efforts of Catholic educators can be showcased in a very positive manner.  I feel it is important that all diocesan schools should be recognized for the culture and philosophy that are embodied by this award.”