Recently, the ACE bus made a stop in Philadelphia at St. Francis de Sales school. Accompanying the many guests were representatives from local Archdiocesan schools and from Camden Catholic Schools. I had first learned about the project via Ricky Austin from ACE (Alliance for Catholic Education, University of Notre Dame). He shared the story of the ACE bus via the online discussion, #catholicedchat which meets every Saturday morning on twitter. I hoped that when the bus came to Philadelphia, I might be able to attend.
An Idea with Wheels
When first I heard about Notre Dame University’s ACE bus, the idea struck me as an ingenious one.
A bus traveling from school to school would put a spotlight on Catholic education from coast to coast. Genius! A bus traveling round and round and celebrating … then it struck me.
When I first started working as Director of Technology in the central office for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 2006, I spoke with Bishop McFadden who was at the time overseeing of Office of Catholic Education. He said it would be a great idea to get a bus and go from school to school showcasing all of the great teaching and learning with technology. As there were many other programs operating full speed at the time, the bus idea never did come to fruition. The idea remained in my mind. I think this is why the ACE bus struck a cord in me. The idea of going around the country highlighting Catholic Education was a great one!
Bishop McFadden, a great champion for Catholic Education , went from being Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia to Bishop of Harrisburg. He also headed the Catholic Education committee for USCCB. When I first got to the school, the first familiar face I saw was Sister Jane McFadden, IHM Vice Principal at St. Francis de Sales. She also is Bishop McFadden’s sister. Though Bishop McFadden passed away in May of this year, it seems he would have been quite happy to see this bus spotlighting Catholic Education rolling into his hometown of Philadelphia to music, cheers and smiles!
Like an Orchestra
As students at the school waited and guests arrived at St. Francis de Sales in Philadelphia, there was much excitement in the autumn air. Big smiles were evident as children either carried flags, waved excitedly or prepared their instruments for play. The student orchestra played as the bus rolled down the street to cheers and applause from the crowd.
Visitors and students then gathered in the school hall. Sister Constance Marie, IHM talked about the founding of their school in 1904 by Irish immigrants and it’s history of serving area students. Sister Jane McFadden, IHM greeted guests from Philadelphia Archdiocesan schools and Camden Catholic Schools. Students processed in with flags representing many nations. In fact, St. Francis de Sales School welcomes students from 47 different nations. She also mentioned two Philadelphia saints – St. John Neumann the founder of many Catholic Schools and St. Katherine Drexel who dedicated her life and resources to serving children and schools. Students sang a beautiful song in both Swahili and English with a chorus ringing – ‘We are marching in the light of God’.
Fr. Timothy Scully, founder of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), presented awards. Pennsylvania Senator Harris Wofford was given a Champion of Education award for his inspirational work and service. Christine Healy was given the University of Notre Dame’s Sorin Award for her service in sustaining and transforming Catholic Schools. Christine Healy is the Chairman of the Board for the Catholic Partnership Schools of Camden and founder of the Catholic School Development Program.
Fr. Louis DelFra currently working at ACE hails from the Philadelphia area. In attributing the benefits of Catholic education, he said that ‘Catholic Schools changed the trajectory is his life. He told the audience that the ACE gathers each and every Monday morning and prays for all Catholic Schools.
‘The sky is the limit in achieving your dreams.’ Jim Coyne graduate of St. Francis de Sales, Notre Dame University and Theology teacher at Cardinal O’Hara High School, Springfield, Pa.
Catholic schools like orchestras are made up of many different people playing various roles- teachers, students, parents, parishioners, priests and bishops and more! Each does their part to contribute to the success of each school. They work daily to keep in tune with one another to make a wonderful sound! It is surely one worth listening to and continuing to develop!
The ACE bus tour touting Catholic schools and its visit to Philadelphia was quite an uplifting event. For those present, the happy sound of students cheering along with musical accompaniment was music to our ears. It seems pretty certain that Bishop McFadden would have liked it too!