Teachers, community leaders and a coach are honored at Catholic schools dinner
Story and photos by Terence Hegarty
CHICOPEE – “Coach Kellogg” was the keynote speaker, but he said that he was humbled to be in the company of his fellow honorees at the 14th annual Catholic Schools Advancement Dinner held at the Castle of Knights banquet facility here the evening of Oct. 2.
Approximately 300 attendees were present to honor both individuals and groups for their support of Catholic education in the Diocese of Springfield. Each year since 2000, those who have made “outstanding contributions” on behalf of Catholic education in the diocese, have been recognized.
Springfield Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell joined Franciscan Sister of Saint Joseph M. Andrea Ciszewski, superintendent of schools for the diocese, in bestowing the awards.
Derek Kellogg, men’s head basketball coach at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Kellogg is a Springfield native. He attended Springfield’s Our Lady of Hope and Holy Name elementary schools and graduated from Cathedral High School there in 1991.
“I’m humbled that I’m even on the same stage,” Kellogg told iobserve, referring to the other long-serving honorees. “I’m on the front end now of my career of being able to help people, of giving back to the community.”
Kellogg is a parishioner of St. Brigid Parish in Amherst and is currently in his sixth season as head coach of the Minutemen. He and his family are active in the parish where Kellogg has frequently hosted free basketball clinics for the youth of the area.
“The pillars of what I’m about were formulated a long time ago in Catholic schools and the Catholic Church. And to come back and give some words of encouragement is really an honor,” Kellogg said.
Sponsored by the Diocese of Springfield’s Catholic Schools Office, the event serves as a fundraiser with proceeds supporting tuition assistance programs for families of Catholic school students.
This year’s Dinner Honoree was St. Mary Parish in Westfield. St. Mary Pastor, Father Brian McGrath, received the award. “It’s really exciting to be recognized here tonight,” Father MacGrath told iobserve.
In remarks to the audience, Father McGrath gave credit to the staff members of the parish and of the school. “I’ve been blessed with a staff that believes in Jesus’ mandate, invests in our youth and is committed to the mission,” he said. “You make St. Mary’s Parish what it is. Thank you so much.”
Catholic Schools Distinguished Community Leader Awards went to Sister of Providence Mary Caritas Geary and the sponsors of the Pioneer Valley Excellence In Teaching Program.
“I get honored, but there are so many people who do so much more than I do and there are so many people behind everything that I do,” said Sister Caritas. “But, there’s something special about this because it’s from the diocese and I feel very much a part of this diocese.”
Sister Caritas, who turned 90 last August, was given a surprise gift in honor of her birthday. Bishop McDonnell presented her with a papal recognition of that milestone from Pope Francis. “I’ve never had a papal blessing in my life,” she told iobserve. “This is great.”
But, in spite of her honors, Sister Caritas said the gathering was really for students. “Tonight was all about young people,” she said. “They’re really the hope of the church, but they’re the hope of society as well, and they’ve got a good foundation in their Catholic education.”
Daughter of Mary of the Immaculate Conception Sister Mary Clare Milewski, was awarded the Catholic Schools Lifetime Achievement Award. Sister Milewski, who retired just last spring from St. Mary School in Ware, began teaching in Catholic schools 58 years ago.
“I’m kind of overwhelmed,” she said. “I never expected anything like this.” She said that her days in the classroom were always pleasant. “I enjoyed going to work every morning. When you get in there with the kids…they keep you on your toes. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Student speakers for the evening were Timothy Jones, of Pittsfield’s St. Joseph Central High School, who spoke on “The Value of a Catholic Education,” and Emily Jackson from Cathedral High School whose talk was entitled “A Word of Gratitude.”
For a video version of this story, tune into the Oct. 5 edition of “Real to Reel,” the Diocese of Springfield’s television newsmagazine that airs Saturday evenings at 7 on WWLP-22NEWS.