by Bill Kirk
The flowers on my desk have been there for a few weeks now, but their beauty and fragrance haven’t faded in the slightest.
Maybe that’s because these flowers aren’t really flowers at all, but are actually brightly colored cutouts of construction paper glued to little sticks, with carefully handwritten recitations of the prayers — the spiritual bouquet — that the children of one of our Catholic Education Foundation schools were offering for me and my family, welcoming us to the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
I can’t think of a better way to be welcomed to Kansas City, where I’m now privileged to serve as the new executive director of the CEF, following in the footsteps of Michael Morrisey and his wife Patty.
Under their selfless leadership over the last 10 years, CEF provided more than $16 million in scholarship assistance, making it possible for children from families in need to attend Catholic schools within the archdiocese.
And I can’t think of a more exciting time to undertake this work than in the week following CEF’s signature event — Gaudeamus (Latin for “Let us rejoice”) — at which more than 1,300 dinner guests and 160-plus volunteers gathered to raise over $1 million in support of Catholic education.
Our celebration on Oct. 29 honored Tom and Sandy Long — the “Angels Among Us” — who have been longtime supporters of Catholic education in the archdiocese and are credited with starting the first Gaudeamus celebration, now widely recognized as one of Kansas City’s top annual events.
Holy Family School in Topeka was honored as CEF’s School of Excellence and student Ida Nkikabahizi, a senior at Bishop Ward High School, shared with the enthusiastic crowd how our community’s generous support made her Catholic education possible.
The Mater Dei drum line and the Ascension choir entertained the crowd as students from across the archdiocese pitched in to provide a visible witness to the difference Catholic education can make. Take a moment to look at our Facebook page (“Catholic Education Foundation – Kansas”), where you can view videos of the night and keep track of upcoming CEF events and news.
There was much to celebrate at Gaudeamus, as we recognized that our community has provided scholarships to more than 1,400 students to attend Catholic schools . . . but there is much still to be done. Our school principals have identified more than 400 children who would attend our schools if they only had the resources.
And so, while I’m reminded of the prayers of our CEF schoolchildren as I admire the bouquet on my desk, I’ll add my prayers to theirs that, with your help, we can together close the gap and make a high-quality, joyfully faithful Catholic education available to every child who seeks it, regardless of their socioeconomic status.