SAN DIEGO — And the winner is … Auxiliary Bishop John P. Dolan!
In recognition of his decades-long commitment to Catholic education, Bishop Dolan has received the diocesan Office for Schools’ Sr. Claire Patrice Award.
Named in honor of Sister Claire Patrice Fitzgerald, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and a former director of the Schools Office, the special lifetime achievement award is presented annually for “major contributions over many years” to educational leadership in the Diocese of San Diego.
John Galvan, director of the Office for Schools, praised Bishop Dolan as “a champion and a witness of our faith to our schools, to our principals, to our families.”
He noted that, before being appointed auxiliary bishop, then Father Dolan had pastored several parishes with schools. He added that he could not think of a single occasion on which Bishop Dolan had declined a request to support Catholic education, whether that meant hosting the diocese’s first annual Catholic Educators Banquet in 2014, celebrating Mass for hundreds of local Catholic school teachers and administrators at their annual convocation, or even leading an overnight retreat for principals.
Galvan said such commitment, combined with “his joy and his gracious attitude,” made Bishop Dolan a natural choice to be this year’s honoree.
Schools can be “a high-pressure environment,” Galvan said, but Bishop Dolan’s “peaceful spirit and joyful demeanor just defuses all of that, and it’s been a real gift to our Catholic schools.”
Jeff Saavedra, principal of St. Rose of Lima School in Chula Vista, knows that from experience. He describes Bishop Dolan, who was pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish from 2012-2015, as “easy to work with and work for,” a strong leader with an “easygoing demeanor” who cared a lot about students and staff alike and was a frequent campus visitor.
“I always enjoyed the times when he would stop by my office unannounced to check in and chat,” said Saavedra. “He is/was the type of person who, when he left you, would always leave you feeling better about life than before.”
The Sr. Claire Patrice Award was first presented in 2001 to Patricia Bannon for her service as associate director of the Office for Schools. Last year, it was presented to Steve Stutz, principal of St. Vincent de Paul School, who at the time was serving as administrator of FIAT Catholic Schools, a consortium of Catholic schools and parishes in the South Bay region.
For the past six years, the award has been presented along with other recognitions during the annual Catholic Educators Banquet, a semi-formal affair hosted by the Office for Schools and attended by hundreds of local teachers and administrators. This year, in order to comply with social distancing requirements, the banquet was replaced by an online slideshow presentation on May 28 that was viewable through the videoconferencing application Zoom and on YouTube.
A product of local Catholic education, Bishop Dolan is an alumnus of the School of the Madeleine and the University of San Diego High School. The latter closed its Linda Vista campus in 2005 and re-opened as Cathedral Catholic High School in the Carmel Valley area.
For Bishop Dolan, Catholic schools are about more than academics.
Reflecting on his own youth, he said that Catholic school was “a part of living and breathing my Catholic identity.” By offering opportunities to attend Mass, to participate in religious assemblies, and to include the Catholic faith in all academic disciplines, he said, what Catholic schools really provide is formation.
Of that formation, he said, “You just can’t beat it.”
The Sixth Annual Catholic Educator Awards Presentation can be viewed online. The almost 30-minute virtual event also recognized those teachers in the diocese who are marking 10, 20, 30 or 40 years in Catholic education or retiring after many years of service, and included the presentation of other awards, including “Distinguished Principal,” “Catholic Teacher of the Year” and “Philanthropist of the Year.”