By Gina Foster
In addition to providing an excellent education, our Catholic schools instill strong community pride which was apparent at this year’s Tenth Annual Seton Scholarship Dinner held on November 3rd at St. Clements Castle & Marina in Portland.
In its largest dinner to date, 230 people representing 30 Catholic schools and churches gathered together as one community to support three very special individuals being honored for their contributions to Catholic education within the Diocese of Norwich. Guests enjoyed St. Clements’ beautiful facilities, eagerly congratulating this year’s honorees, Sister Mary Patrick, S.C.M.C, of Saint Joseph School, Baltic, Barbara Hamanaka Ph.D., of Sacred Heart School, Groton, and Ann C. Derbacher, Mercy High School, Middletown, who together have contributed more than 100 years of service to our diocesan schools.
The evening began with Superintendent of Schools, Henry Fiore, Jr. welcoming honorees and guests. The Mercy Chamber Choir led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance, “God Bless America” and then an absolutely angelic “You Are My All in All”. Father Peter Langevin, Chancellor of the Diocese offered an invocation and blessing prior to dinner being served.
Bishop Cote sent his regrets for not being able to attend the dinner due to his being at the Vatican for his ad limina visit to the Holy See, congratulating the honorees as well as thanking the sponsors, donors and attendees for their support of Catholic education. Marie Smith of Saint Joseph School, Baltic received a roaring round of applause after reading her essay on “What Does a Catholic Education Mean to Me?”
“Faith and hope are what we need to live by, and I am glad that my Catholic education has taught me how to put this into my daily life.”
- Marie Smith, St. Joseph School in Baltic
Each year, Catholic school 8th graders compete in an essay contest about their faith. Marie shared, “Faith and hope are what we need to live by, and I am glad that my Catholic education has taught me how to put this into my daily life.” In his annual report on Diocesan schools, Henry Fiore expressed, “I am happy to report to you that the Holy Spirit is alive and well in all of our schools. We may be slightly diminishing in our enrollment numbers, like in other dioceses in New England, but certainly not in significance, especially when we look at what is happening to theology and religion in today’s culture.”
The evening continued with Mother Marie Julie introducing our first honoree of the night, Sister Mary Patrick, Principal and music teacher at Saint Joseph School, Baltic, and former principal of the Academy of the Holy Family and St. Bernard. In her acceptance remarks, Sister Mary Patrick shared, “As a product of Catholic education both on the elementary school and secondary level, I must say that it has helped to shape me into the person that God wants me to be. I am well aware of the many sacrifices that parents make today and I am grateful that this diocese gives such support for our students. The education that our Catholic schools provide prepares our students to be the future of the Church and of society.”
Sister Mary McCarthy introduced Ms. Ann C. Derbacher, who has been a dedicated teacher, Campus Minister and Theology Chairperson at Mercy High School for over 38 years. “Through our prayers, sacrifices and contributions our young students encounter a loving Jesus through those who serve. They feel safe, loved, free to speak about Jesus and hear their teachers share their own faith stories,” Ann conveyed to the full house.
Father Dariusz Dudzik introduced our final honoree of the evening, Barbara Hamanaka, Ph.D. Mrs. Hamanaka, who is an advanced mathematics and computer teacher at Sacred Heart School, Groton, began her 27 year association with Sacred Heart School when her children were students there. Mrs. Hamanaka encouraged the audience saying, “We have to consider how we must expend even more effort so that religious and moral values can be instilled in children, that children are provided with a guide to lead a good, productive life, and that they are instructed in their faith so they can resist the temptations of the world at large.”
This year’s Seton Scholarship Dinner offered an opportunity for people from across the Diocese of Norwich to come together as one community to pay tribute to those honored for their service to Catholic education. In addition, the dinner raises funds for students who need help paying for school tuition. In furtherance of this goal, a silent auction of 30 donated gifts was conducted and for the first time, a beautiful cross covered with scripture quotes was awarded as a door prize. Since its inception, the Seton Scholarship Dinner has raised over $304,000. These funds are distributed by the Catholic Foundation of the Diocese of Norwich in the form of tuition assistance grants keeping community pride strong in our Catholic schools.