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January 18, 2009

Education Update

St. Rita writers pal up with St. Agnes students

St. Rita of Cascia High School sophomores who took a creative writing elective last fall had a unique opportunity to share their gifts with a younger generation as they participated in a pen pal program with second graders at St. Agnes of Bohemia School in the Little Village neighborhood. The project was spearheaded by teachers Lauren Condon of St. Rita and Allie Nowak of St. Agnes.

Cutting edge technology at St. Bernadette School

Take one look at St. Bernadette’s computer lab and you’ll know the Evergreen Park school means business. At any time of the day, students and teachers can be seen busily working on their brand new computers. Thanks to the generosity of some parish family memorial funds, they were able to purchase 21 new computers for the lab. The state-of-the-art lab provides students in all grades the opportunity to experience technology at its best.

‘The Cardinal Express’ steamrolls to victory

For the second consecutive year, the Cardinal Joseph Bernardin Catholic School varsity cheerleading squad has captured first place in the Large Jr. High Division of the Illinois Elementary School Association State Cheerleading Championship. The competition took place Dec. 13 in Peoria.

“The Cardinal Express,” the theme of CJB’s winning routine, was like a runaway train as the 20-member cheer squad outperformed 78 teams from across Illinois. These talented girls, enrolled in grades 5 to 8 at Cardinal Bernardin School, have won every event in which they have competed this season.

Maria junior a ‘Young Critic’

Maria High School junior Ariel Rupert has been accepted into the Goodman Theatre’s 2008-2009 Cindy Bandle Young Critics Writing Program. The program is co-sponsored by the Goodman Theatre and the Chicago chapter of the Association for Women Journalists (AWJ). As one of the program’s 28 Young Critics, Rupert receives press-night tickets for every production in the Goodman’s season and is mentored by journalists in the AWJ. She is expected to write reviews throughout the season.

Her mentor at AWJ, Dawn Raftery, coaches Rupert in the polishing of her reviews. Rupert and the other Young Critics — all high school juniors from the Chicago area — also attend AWJ Saturday workshops. They also have the opportunity to interview actors, playwrights, directors and other artists associated with Goodman Theatre productions. The first press conference Rupert attended was with Lynn Nottage, the playwright of “Ruined.” Rupert’s drama reviews can be seen on the Goodman Theatre’s Web site.

St. Rene student recipient of St Rita HS Mustang Award

Charlie Murphy, an eighth-grader at St. Rene Goupil School is the proud recipient of the St. Rita High School Mustang Award. The Mustang Award Program recognizes young men of exceptional caliber with great potential for the future. Murphy’s nomination was based on his academic achievement at St. Rene, his strong involvement in areas connected with leadership skills in the classroom, service to his community and involvement in parish activities. Murphy is the second in his family to graduate from St. Rene School and go on to attend St. Rita High School as a Mustang Award recipient. He is one of 87 young men chosen from a pool of more than 190 applicants from schools in and around Chicago.

Catholic Charities collecting valentines from students

Catholic Charities is inviting Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago to participate in the annual Valentine’s Day card drive by having students make cards, which will be delivered to senior citizens in Catholic Charities’ residences and programs.

Last year, the agency received more than 3,000 cards.

Children should use a simple message, such as “Wishing You a Happy Valentine’s Day,” and not using language that could be misinterpreted or seen as insensitive towards seniors, such as implying that the recipient is sick or lonely.

Children also should not include any personal information, such as their names, addresses, telephone numbers, or e-mail addresses. The name of the school is sufficient.

Cards can be mailed or dropped off to: Valentine Card Drive c/o Communications, Catholic Charities, 721 N. LaSalle St., Chicago, IL 60654-3503.

For information, call Sheila Haennicke at (312) 948-7626 or e-mail shaennic@

St. Agnes Pastor honored for work with school

Father John Siemanowski, pastor at St. Agnes Parish in Chicago Heights, will receive the National Catholic Education Association’s Distinguished Pastor Award.

According to the NCEA’s Web site, the annual award, established in 2007, is presented by the NCEA Department of Elementary Schools to honor pastors who have given outstanding support to Catholic elementary education.

The formal application included four letters of recommendation: one from the school’s principal, Matthew Lungaro, one from a teacher, another from a parent, and a fourth from a school board member.

The criteria for the award specify that the pastor must possess a clear philosophy of Catholic education, provide spiritual guidance to the school community, participate in school activities, work with the school board and/or parent association, support the school administration, engage the community in providing financial support to the school and receive the necessary recommendations.

He must also have a minimum of three years of service as a pastor in a parish associated with Catholic elementary school education.

Siemanowski will receive the award at the 2009 NCEA’s April Convention in Anaheim, Calif.