.- More than 600 people honored the many men and women who volunteer their time and talents to support Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Hartford at a dinner Sept. 26 at the Aqua Turf Club.
The 33rd annual HOPES (Help Our Parish Elementary Schools) Dinner honored 126 people who support 49 schools and singled out three people for special recognition.
Joan Jespersen of St. Anthony School in Winsted received the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, named after the patron saint of Catholic education. Father Joseph V. DiSciacca, Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Bristol, was named the 2010-11 Distinguished Elementary School Pastor; and Margaret Williamson, principal and chief administrator of Northwest Catholic High School, was named the 2010-11 Distinguished Catholic School Administrator.
Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of Catholic schools, announced that St. James School in Manchester and St. Martha in Enfield had received the national 2010 Blue Ribbon Schools Award for academic excellence. The Blue Ribbon award is the highest honor a school can receive from the U.S. Department of Education, which this year selected 50 private and parochial schools and 254 public schools in the country to receive the recognition.
Mr. Hoyt said that Catholic Schools continue to perform exceptionally well on standardized testing, exceeding the mean test scores of public schools.
Such accomplishments would not have been possible without the strong and zealous commitment of Catholic school volunteers, he said.
"Our volunteers know first-hand how Catholic schools make a difference in the lives of our students," he said. "They serve as ambassadors, advocating for our schools by sharing the good news of our exceptional standardized test scores, the exemplary teaching and learning that occurs, the advantages of blending knowledge and faith, and the positive results represented by alumni who provide our nation and our Church with good moral citizens and proud contributors to society."
Archbishop Henry J. Mansell expressed his deep gratitude to those who work hard to support and strengthen Catholic schools. He helped to distribute the 2010 St. John Neumann Awards for Volunteer Service to the 126 recipients.
Mrs. Jespersen is a 1954 graduate of St. Anthony School. She has volunteered there since the 1980s, assisting with or spearheading such efforts as fund-raising, establishing an endowment fund and landscaping the school grounds.
Mrs. Jespersenâs children and grandchildren also are graduates of St. Anthony, and a great-granddaughter currently is enrolled there.
"The diversity and longevity of Joan Jespersenâs contributions to the school are so impressive. She is not a volunteer who looks at a job well done and rests on her laurels. Instead, Joan looks beyond each accomplishment and asks, âWhat next?â" said Anne T. Clubb, director of school advancement.
The Northwest Catholic High School Choir provided music.
Printed with permission from the Catholic Transcript, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Conn.