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Catholic Education Dinner Helps Provide Grants, Programs for Students | Events

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Catholic Education Dinner Helps Provide Grants, Programs for Students
Events, Schools

The annual Making a Difference dinner highlights the leaders of Catholic education in the Diocese of Buffalo and reinforces the need for the continuation of support for programs such as the foundation’s needs-based tuition assistance program. The dinner will be held on Jan. 27, 2011, at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Buffalo.

“Good leaders have a strong sense of self-awareness and strong values,” said Chris Lowney, main speaker for the 2011 Making a Difference dinner. “They believe in helping people develop their own self-awareness, which has always been important in Catholic schools.”

Lowney is a former Jesuit priest of seven years who then worked as managing director of J.P. Morgan and Co. He has written several books, including “Heroic Living” and “Heroic Leadership.” He continues to write part-time and speak at various venues. He is also working on a project for online higher education in Africa. Lowney attended Catholic schools including Regis Jesuit High School for young men in New York City and Fordham University. He taught at Fordham Preparatory High School in New York City and Colegio San Ignacio High School in Puerto Rico.

The 2011 Making A Difference Dinner honors Msgr. Paul Burkard, pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Lackawanna, and Frank and Rosalie Ciminelli, all prominent leaders in Catholic education.

“I’ve been involved in Catholic education since I was a student in Catholic schools,” Msgr. Burkard said. “Both as a student and a teacher, I believe Catholic education is a great part of the Catholic Church. My work today is involved with students in our school at Our Lady of Victory and with the children in Baker Victory Services, many of whom are handicapped. I believe we need to continue to strengthen the schools because they give great value to the students.”

Steve and Kellie Ulrich are this year’s co-chairs for the dinner, and under their leadership they hope to exceed last year’s goals. The Ulrichs have two children at SS. Peter and Paul School in Williamsville who are their motivation for being so active in helping make Catholic education affordable to all.

In his November 2009 pastoral letter on Catholic schools, Bishop Edward U. Kmiec charged to work to ensure that Catholic schools grow and prosper while remaining available, accessible and affordable.

“The Catholic education community has answered his call, recognizing that one of our most fundamental obligations as Catholics is to provide a faith-based education to our children,” Steve Ulrich said. “Under the leadership of Bishop Kmiec, we have come together with a unity of purpose, to build a faith community in which faculty, students, parents and administrators support each other and grow in God’s love.

“Together we strive to provide excellent academic programs that nurture the spiritual, intellectual, social, emotional and physical development of each child within the context of Catholic values. Our children learn the importance of service and ministry to others and of living out one’s faith in the world from the examples of selfless and dedicated lay and religious teachers and from the generosity and commitment of all those who support Catholic education.”

Kellie Ulrich said last year’s dinner raised more than $300,000.

“Each year it seems to outdo itself,” she said. “With that money, we were able to give 478 tuition grants last year. This year, we want to meet and exceed that amount so more children can be helped. Our biggest goal is to close the gap. There are currently 150 students on the waiting list, so we hope to raise enough to start chipping away at the list. Despite the state of the economy, in the past three years the Catholic education dinner has made it possible to provide $600,000 to assist 1,551 children this year alone in their pursuit of Catholic education. In fact, nearly $2 million has been dedicated to the Catholic Elementary School Tuition Assistance Program from 2007-2011.

“The one thing that I’ve seen from this dinner is that all children can have an opportunity to go to Catholic schools. This night brings about a sense of community and motivates the leaders. When everyone comes together for Catholic education at this dinner, people say, ‘This is a good thing, and we can do this.’”

The Making a Difference dinner first took place 10 years ago as a result of the work of Ann and Bill Swan. In February 2001, the Swans were the pioneering chair couple for the first Celebrate Catholic Education dinner. Last year Ann Swan received the Bishop’s Medal in recognition of her strong leadership in the field of Catholic education.

One of the great aspects of the Western New York community is that so many people maintain a strong sense of pride and loyalty in the parish community and Catholic elementary school where they grew up.

“The Making a Difference Dinner – A Celebration of Catholic Schools is an opportunity for us to rekindle and celebrate that sense of faith-based community pride,” Steve Ulrich said. “It is also an opportunity to recognize the contributions of those in the diocese who have lived out the mission of Catholic education and positively impacted the community; and to pay a special tribute to an outstanding Catholic school teacher. But most importantly, the dinner is an opportunity for us to come together to help lighten the financial burden for those families who themselves make many sacrifices in order that their children may be given the gift of a Catholic education.”

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