Theresa Fretterd, assistant principal at Cardinal Newman High School, joins Dr. Anup Sinha's chemistry class Nov. 1 and works with the eleventh graders performing experiments using various chemicals. Fretterd has worked in the school system in various positions for nearly 50 years and is always ready to serve students and parents and the diocese Catholic schools.

Award honors unsung heroes of Catholic education

PALM BEACH | Diocesan leaders are calling out and personally recognizing some of the people who, without a doubt, shine as outstanding role models continuously committing to and helping with the mission of Catholic education and Catholic schools here in the Diocese of Palm Beach. And they’re doing it at the annual Lumen Christi Scholarship Gala Dec. 9.

Gary Gelo, diocesan superintendent of schools, worked with the diocesan Development Office to brainstorm with principals on how to “recognize and celebrate the many good things happening in Catholic schools and the people who make those things happen.” The fruits of the labor became the brand new “Lumen Christi: Learn, Serve, Lead, Succeed Awards,” which recognize the unsung heroes who do so much to contribute and help Catholic schools meet their overall primary goals.

“We wanted the awards to be broad enough to recognize academic excellence, innovative programs and outstanding leadership from boards, parishioners, volunteers and benefactors of our schools,” Gelo said. “The concept was presented to Bishop Barbarito, who wholeheartedly supported the creation of the awards.”

In total, 16 people will be given this new award during Bishop Gerald M. Barbarito’s Lumen Christi Scholarship Gala, an annual event that spotlights the spirit of unity, joy and fun, and service to help others. It raises much-needed funds to assist families of the diocese who want to send their children to Catholic school. The diocese allocates 100 percent of the net proceeds of the event to needs-based tuition scholarships, which are shared equally among the Catholic schools. According to National Catholic Educational Association data, Catholic schools and the people working and involved in them positively impact students spiritually, intellectually and socially, helping them meet their full potential and form solid Catholic foundations.

“Each person involved in Catholic schools is called to share their gifts and talents whether it be in the classroom, administration, governance, prayer, or generosity of time or treasure,” Gelo said. “We hope to recognize people who represent all of these qualities.”

Catholic schools were asked to select an individual, couple or team for the new award, keeping four elements in mind: learn, serve, lead and succeed. The schools’ administrators and leaders and the pastor of their parishes were in on making the final decision about recipients. Those selected to receive the award are attending the gala compliments of the school.

The amazing things said about these people reflect only admiration and genuine heartfelt appreciation for those dedicated to serving schools and representing the spirit of Catholic school mission that St. John Paul clearly outlined, saying that the mission of Catholic education is “every Catholic’s responsibility and a team effort.”

For example, Cardinal Newman High School selected Theresa Fretterd, assistant principal, who personifies service and serving. She has actually dedicated nearly 50 years to the ministry of education, serving in various school positions and several diocesan roles throughout the years. She has sat on various boards and been on different teams and committees. She has served as everything from coach to religion teacher to director of guidance to department chair to school board member to assistant principal.

“Words do not suffice to describe what Ms. Theresa Fretterd has done for students, families, faculty and Catholic education,” said Father David Carr, president of Cardinal Newman High School. “Affectionately known as Terry, she has a lifetime of commitment and achievements serving not only Cardinal Newman High School, but the entire Diocese of Palm Beach. Terry is a true example of a servant leader.”

Father Carr said Fretterd is a true leader, rallying and challenging faculty to move forward to continuously improve instructional practices. As a counselor, she has also provided guidance and support to both new and seasoned faculty members.

“Terry has fully embraced her lifelong commitment to Catholic education and actively models what it means to serve one another. She is an inspiration and role model to all,” Father Carr said.

St. Joan of Arc in Boca Raton selected a parent as its award winner. Farrah Downing and her family have been active at St. Joan of Arc Parish and School since the school opened in 1960. Downing’s daughter is currently in the eighth grade there. Her mother attended school at St. Joan, as did at least 20 other family members. She has taken on numerous roles, serving on committees and councils and taking on leadership positions.

“Ms. Downing is a model parent,” said Caroline Roberts, principal, who used the words “positive, energetic, and innovative” to describe her. “She sets the bar high as she leads families to succeed at St. Joan’s, making them feel welcome and encouraging them to give back to the St. Joan of Arc community. She embodies a servant leader as she is one of the most dedicated inspirational leaders one could ever encounter.”

St. Anastasia School in Fort Pierce selected a husband and wife for the award, John and Dana Langel. The Langels and their family have supported St. Anastasia Parish and School through efforts and generosity for decades, according to school administrators.

“Mr. and Mrs. Langel are shining examples of obedient and devout servants of Christ through their dedication to the church and school,” said Dr. Kevin Hoeffner, principal. “They lead their children, grandchildren and extended family with a faith-filled love of St. Anastasia. They do this by actively volunteering, fundraising and participating in every event and function. Whether it’s cleaning out the school’s thrift store on a hot summer Saturday or selling the raffle tickets at the school’s auction, Mr. and Mrs. Langel are there to support the school. They are humble, kind, loving and dedicated to the St. Anastasia community. We are pleased to nominate them for the Lumen Christi Award.”

We asked Fretterd how she felt about being a Lumen Christi award winner. “There are so many people here in the Diocese of Palm Beach who deserve recognition for their dedication to the schools here. I am greatly honored,” she said.

All are encouraged to participate in the Lumen Christi Scholarship Gala this year not only in support of the diocese’s scholarship program, but also to honor the role models who have touched lives and communities through their service and dedication and also through their witness, inspiring others to learn, serve, lead and succeed all in the name of children, the future of the Church.

Lumen Christi: Learn, Serve, Lead, Succeed Award recipients

• John and Dana Langel — St. Anastasia School, Fort Pierce. “They are humble, kind, loving and dedicated to the St. Anastasia community.”
• Farrah Downing — St. Joan of Arc School, Boca Raton. “She sets the bar high as she leads families to succeed at St. Joan’s.”
• Allison Siringo — John Carroll High School, Fort Pierce. “She is a master teacher, dedicated to the improvement of her instructional practice and meeting the needs of all students.
• Theresa Fretterd — Cardinal Newman High School, West Palm Beach. “Words do not suffice to describe what Ms. Theresa Fretterd has done for students, families, faculty and Catholic education over the last 46 years.”
• Dave Hernandez-Trujillo — St. Juliana School, West Palm Beach. “He leads by example. We are blessed to have this leader on our campus.”
• Marlys Stover — St. Jude School, Boca Raton. “Shine on, Mrs. Stover, we are all better having walked with you.”
• Rabih and Shannon Boueri — St. Vincent Ferrer School, Delray Beach. “Being sacrificial stewards of their time, talent and treasure, they provide leadership to our capital campaign and bring wisdom, experience and enthusiasm to all that they do.”
• Juliana Lewis — Holy Cross Preschool and Center, West Palm Beach. “Juliana epitomizes what it means to serve the Holy Cross Catholic Preschool and Center community, as well as the entire community within the Diocese of Palm Beach.”
• Ashley Vitale — St. Joseph Catholic School, Stuart. “Ashley lives out her faith in her many roles as a parent and parishioner, and sets forth to be a genuine servant and role model at St. Joseph Catholic School.”
• Tom Counihan — St. Ann School, West Palm Beach. “Mr. Tom Counihan encompasses and truly reflects our Catholic faith in action.”
• Charles and Karmita Gusmano — All Saints School, Jupiter. “Mr. and Mrs. Gusmano’s commitment to All Saints and our community simply cannot be measured. We offer them a special thank-you for their most gracious and generous ongoing support.”
• Marc Elan — Sacred Heart School, Lake Worth. “He has taken a leadership role and been effective in bringing many new families into Sacred Heart.”
• Nancy Fulk — St. Luke School, Palm Springs. “She has left a lasting impression on her past students who continue to remember her as a pivotal part of their Catholic education.”
• Gerry Mayes — St. Helen School, Vero Beach. “Mrs. Mayes has been a true blessing to the St. Helen community.”
• Mary Jo Foley — St. John Paul II Academy, Boca Raton. “Mrs. Mary Jo Foley is currently in her 26th year teaching at St. John Paul II Academy where she serves as chair of the science department.”
• Sara Bernardin — St. Clare School, West Palm Beach. “St. Clare Catholic School proudly recognizes Mrs. Sara Bernardin for her outstanding dedication and contribution to Catholic education.”
• Marie Driver — Through 34 years of service to religious education, she has ensured that nearly 5,000 parish catechists and school teachers have had appropriate training in the faith through the diocesan catechist certification program.