A Resounding Celebration of Catholic Education
8th Annual Seton Scholarship Dinner
by: Kathy Gaito
The 8th Annual Seton Scholarship Dinner was held on Sunday, October 29th at The Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station, Haddam - celebrating three individuals who have devoted much of their lives working in and supporting Catholic education in the Diocese of Norwich. These recipients, Ms. Sharon A. Briere, Principal, St. Joseph School, North Grosvenordale, Connecticut, Mrs. Robin A. Holtsclaw, Claims/Risk Manager representing Catholic Mutual Relief Society and Mr. James Leone, Theology Teacher, St. Bernard School, Uncasville received the Most Reverend Michael R. Cote, D.D. Award for Contributions to Catholic Education in the Diocese of Norwich.
Monsignor Robert L. Brown, Chancellor, Diocese of Norwich, began the celebration by welcoming the nearly two hundred people, "As we begin this evening's festivities, we turn our minds and hearts to God and invoke his blessing." The Riverhouse was filled with what one could consider a chorus of angels – the St. Joseph School North Grosvenordale Choir, led by Richard Lepore, Choir Director. Their beautiful voices filled the room. The choir is a prime example of the impact a Catholic education can have on children.
St. Joseph's School Choir with Bishop Cote
After dinner, Monsignor Brown returned to the podium and introduced Mr. Henry Fiore, Jr., Superintendent of Schools, who talked about the direction of the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Norwich. Henry shared,"Our schools now have enrollment management plans, and our principals have set enrollment management goals for their schools. We must look differently at how we communicate to each upcoming age group of parents. We must celebrate our successes and promote them. We must articulate our plan for retention and recruitment."
Following his report, Henry introduced Isabella Pero, an eighth grade student at St. Joseph School, New London. Isabella was the winner of the essay contest and read her essay entitled, “Why Is My Catholic Education Important To Me?” Isabella’s life reflects many of the values children are taught in our Catholic schools and she chose to share this in her essay. Isabella stated, "My Catholic Education is currently affecting my family and my life. Whenever my family and I sit around the dinner table we talk about everything. The one thing we always talk about is our days. Either it is about a funny thing we witnessed or it is about what we learned about that day. I love listening and telling my stories about God and my classes. My parents always tell me that I teach them about so many new things each day.
Ms. Sharon Briere, Principal, St. Joseph School, North Grosvenordale was introduced by Theresa Pelletier, Assistant Principal at St. Joseph School, North Grosvenordale. Theresa revealed, "Since that December, nearly 18 years ago (when Sharon became Principal of St. Joseph School), she (Sharon) has dedicated her time and talents to keeping Catholic school education available to our local families… Looking for ways to provide income and to keep tuition affordable occupied a major portion of her time. She became a fund-raiser and a frugal spender. She’s written grants and has been able to help provide scholarships to students in need."
Mr. William J. Russell, C.P.A. introduced Mrs. Robin Holtsclaw, representing Catholic Mutual Relief Society. Bill stated, "Robin is the face of Catholic Mutual in our Diocese and that is a face hallmarked by one specific attribute, which is accessibility… When something goes wrong, Robin is there… She is there to provide help, not only to process the claim, but to assist in any way she can to aid the affected school or office to get back to normal operations. Robin has been a resource to the entire Diocese, but especially to the Principals in instituting policies and procedures to prevent loss, and more importantly to provide for the safety of our teachers and students."
The third honoree of the evening, Mr. James Leone, was introduced by Mrs. Marie Londregan, a teacher at St. Bernard School, Uncasville. Marie is not only a colleague of Jim’s, she is also his daughter. Marie shared with everyone, "I now understand that since he began his career in 1978, not only has my dad been that dedicated teacher and coach that everyone admires, he has been a true embodiment of what Catholic education stands for and means. I saw my dad do things large and small, like lead service trips to impoverished countries, guide students on numerous trips through the Vatican, coach athletes on how to both win and lose gracefully… The large things that he does yearly and the small things that he does daily go beyond the duty of a dedicated teacher or coach; they truly exemplify his belief in promoting the values of Catholic education… I have come to understand that for the last 39 years, not only has he been the teacher, coach, mentor and friend to his past and present students, he has also been a symbol for Catholic education…"
Bishop Cote presented each honoree with a 10” Waterford Lismore Bowl etched with his crest. The evening concluded with Bishop Cote offering the benediction and thanking all for attending and supporting Catholic education in the Diocese of Norwich