Margaret M. Russell | The Catholic Free Press
Catholic schools turn out fine citizens who contribute to building a stronger society, Bishop McManus says often. This year the St. Paul Catholic Schools Consortium demonstrated that by honoring an outstanding young alumnus for the first time.
And this alumnus had the chance to thank one of his personal mentors, Msgr. John E. Doran, who received the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award Dec. 8 at the ninth annual consortium dinner held at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel in Leominster.
Michael T. Alario, son of Robert and Patricia Alario of Lunenburg, attended St. Leo Elementary School in Leominster and St. Bernard High School in Fitchburg. He is now a student at Boston College.
He spoke eloquently about Catholic education – “an education not just of the mind,” he said, “but of the whole person; body, mind and spirit.” He said Catholic schools instill the values of faith, hope and charity in their students, and then he demonstrated the results of having those values.
“At a time in our country when we are politically, culturally and morally divided, the institution of Catholic education must continue to stand above the rest as a beacon of hope,” he said.
He is studying business and political science at Boston College and is an active volunteer in 4Boston, a service organization at the college.
He told a story about an experience he had one day at Rosie’s Place, a homeless shelter for women in downtown Boston. He said a woman walked in, nine months pregnant and crying. He admitted he wasn’t sure what to do for her, so he simply gave her a hug. She stopped crying.
“It was no grand gesture of benevolence nor life-changing moment,” he said, “But in many ways it was an important moment of mutual love.”
He said he saw in her the love and dignity that every person deserves. “Through this simple act of kindness, we stood in a moment of kinship,” he said.
“Our world will never be whole until we choose to see each other as belonging to each and every one of us,” he exclaimed with wisdom beyond his years.
Then he went on to make the connection with school. “I am not telling this story because it is my story, this is the story of Catholic education. This is what it means to have a Catholic education,” he said.
“We as Catholics cannot rest until the world is whole again. We must strive to be the most inclusive, the most loving, the most caring, the most giving community in the world.
“If the world out there is a place where others have no time for each other, then we must teach the world to act the way we do; with loving, and caring, and kindness,” he said. Those were lessons he learned well in his family and in his schools.
“Every day a student goes to a Catholic school, we as a people take a step toward a more loving world. And in the end, as Catholics, that is all we can ask for,” he said.
One man who made an impression on him as a young student is Msgr. Doran who was always available to people. Mr. Alario said you often hear the words “caring, giving, loving,” but when you meet Msgr. Doran, he embodies those words. After the death of a classmate’s brother, in eighth grade, Msgr Doran “sat with us, he prayed with us,” Mr. Alario said. “He’s been there for countless people in the St. Leo’s community.”
A video, produced by the diocesan Office of Communications, allowed several others to tell how Msgr. Doran had influenced their lives too. Among them were Sister Brian Elizabeth Barnicle, principal of St. Leo’s for 23 years. She said she considers Msgr. Doran a friend who was “always very supportive.”
Carol Poselli, principal at St. Leo’s for 17 years,
recalled that he had a gift of remembering all the children’s names.
Msgr. Peter Beaulieu, a friend of Msgr. Doran’s, told of his frugality and wit and said he was a “good priest.”
A teacher, Karen Leger, said he was a blessing to her.
Bishop McManus, who was at the dinner and presented Msgr. Doran with a gift of an engraved glass bowl, said in the video that what characterized his ministry was his “availability.”
Msgr. Doran spoke to the audience expressing his gratefulness for the award, but then turned the spotlight back on to the consortium, teachers, parents and supporters.
He was one of six pastors in the North County when the consortium was formed; now none of them are in the area. The consortium started with six schools and now there are five, he said.
He made the point that “we have to look to the consortium and laity and community for continuity.” The consortium will need to be the steadfast organization that continues the work of making sure that all children who want to attend Catholic schools have the ability, financially, to do so, he emphasized.
“This award is really for all involved in the schools. An award may be given to me or to Michael, but it really is for all who supported Catholic schools, “ he said.
Years ago it was the nuns who started Catholic education in the North County, “and we own them a great deal of gratitude,” he noted, pointing out those present in the room. He also pointed out the dedicated lay teachers.
“Don’t take Catholic schools for granted, continue to work hard for them, continue to support the consortium,” he said.
Bishop McManus and Superintendent of Schools Delma Josephson closed the evening by distributing monetary awards to each of the school principals.
“Catholic school is one of the privileged ways of passing on the faith from generation to generation,” Bishop McManus noted.