Celebrating 25 Years of Catholic Education Foundation – The Leaven.com | Team Cansler

Vicky Simms, a senior at Hayden High School in Topeka, explains how a Catholic Education Foundation scholarship has enabled her to have a bright future. PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

OVERLAND PARK – When presenter Christa Dubill asked at the end of the Gaudeamus gala on October 29: ‘Do we have a number for tonight?’ She was met with a drum roll – literally. It came courtesy of Topeka’s Mater Dei Grade School Drum Line, one of the highlights of the annual fundraiser.

“We set a new Gaudeamus record tonight,” announced Jeff Jaworski, Chairman of the Catholic Education Foundation. “The 2022 Gaudeamus total is $2,443,000.”

One hundred percent of that, Dubill added, would go directly to funding Catholic school scholarships.

From left, students from Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas, Marlyn Cortez, Alexandra Robles and Valeria Sanchez greet the Gaudeamus participants and hand out name tags. PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

25 years ago, the founders of CEF had a simple vision: to help underprivileged children attend Catholic schools. You would be amazed at the results of this year’s event.

Jaworski set the theme for this year’s event, held at the Overland Park Convention Center, as he opened the evening by expressing his gratitude to these founding members.

“Tonight will be another fantastic chapter in the history that God has written for CEF,” he said.

Jeff Jaworski addresses those gathered at Gaudeamus. PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

CEF Executive Director Vince Anch reminded the patrons that 300 children are currently in need of financial support, then introduced the evening’s speaker, Vicky Simms.

Simms, a senior at Hayden High School in Topeka, began her Catholic education in the sixth grade at the local Holy Name School.

“I was one of those kids who got a scholarship,” Simms said in her introduction.

She went on to speak about the huge impact the faculty and staff at her Catholic schools had on her life.

“My dream for the immediate future is to go to college,” she said, “and major in communications with a minor in digital marketing. And become an architect. And become a radiologist.”

The crowd laughed and applauded their momentous goals.

“The Catholic upbringing made me the person I am today,” she said. “I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to all donors.

“Your commitment to Catholic education changes lives like mine.”

Choirs from CEF schools in the archdiocese entertain the congregation at Gaudeamus. PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

The evening had several highlights, including the presentation of Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann’s CEF School of Excellence Award to St. Gregory the Great School in Marysville.

And the inaugural CEF Lifetime Achievement Award recognized the organization’s founders: Blake Mulvany, Tom Zarda, Rich Henry, Archbishop James P. Keleher, Sister Vickie Perkins, and Leonard and Ellen McKinzie.

Zarda and Henry, CEF’s first CEO and Vice-Chairman respectively, took to the stage to accept the award and speak about the importance of the organization and the people who continue to support its mission.

“Our work is not over yet,” said Henry. “Not until every child who wants a Catholic upbringing can have one.

“That is the task with which we are also entrusted tonight.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann laughs with the participants of Gaudeamus. PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Zarda agreed, praising the efforts of the Catholic school teachers and faculty and the crucial role they play in the children’s lives.

“I am confident that CEF will continue to grow,” he said. “I am confident that each of you and you will help make this happen.”

Archbishop Naumann closed the evening with prayer and praise for all the people who have worked diligently to make the first 25 years of CEF a success.

“I need to go to our schools and see some of the wonderful work that’s happening there,” he said. “It’s nice to see.”

In addition to a quality education, the Archbishop stressed, our Catholic schools “offer our young people the opportunity to get to know the Lord and to develop a friendship with him”.

This signals a promising future.

“Some of the great young people you are helping tonight will be future leaders in our community, our society and our church,” he said.

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