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St Paul Consortium honors Connors family

Posted By November 20, 2014 | 4:16 pm | Lead Story #3
Kit and Marty Connors honored by Consortium. Photo by Patricia O'Connell
Kit and Marty Connors honored by Consortium. Photo by Patricia O'Connell

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

LEOMINSTER – Casmir Mawra grew up in Tanzania, where he had the benefit of a Catholic education.
“I went to seminary school myself,” he explained. “I used to be an altar boy myself. So Catholic school’s my everything.”
Of course, Mr. Mawra wants his daughters to have the same advantages. His oldest child, Sabina, 8, attends St. Leo Elementary School. His youngest daughter, Rhobi, isn’t in school yet.
Last week, Sabina, Rhobi, their father and adopted grandfather, Don Richards, were at the DoubleTree Hotel, where Sabina performed as part of a childrens’ choir during the St. Paul Consortium 7th Annual Celebratory Dinner.
Mr. Richards met Mr. Marwa a number of years ago, after he left Tanzania and moved to the area. Sabina and Rhobi call Mr. Richards “Babu,” which means grandparent in their native Swahili.
The St. Paul Consortium was formed in 2007 under the direction of Bishop McManus. Its goal is to strengthen and provide support to the five North County elementary schools, located in Fitchburg, Leominster and Gardner.
Following the dinner, Bishop McManus spoke about the historical role the country’s Catholic schools have played in educating the children of immigrants. The bishop noted that he had just returned from the annual fall General Assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, in which the state of the Church in America was a topic of discussion. This included the future of Catholic education.
Bishop McManus said the nation’s Catholic schools were established years ago to protect the faith and to pass it along to the next generation.
“Our Catholic schools have become vehicles of the new evangelization,” he said.
Right now, Bishop McManus explained, it’s important for Catholic school leaders to invite underserved populations into the schools. An example he gave is the many Hispanic families moving to the area, many of whom are Catholic.
Just before his talk, the Bishop recognized the ongoing dedication of Marty and Kit Connors, of St. Leo Parish, to the cause of Catholic education. The couple, whose two children, Martin III and Kelly, were educated in the Catholic school system, received the annual Elizabeth Ann Seton Award. This is the highest honor given by the diocese to someone who works to help the Catholic schools.
Mrs. Connors was also the keynote speaker during the dinner.
“We really have a simple message tonight,” she said. “Catholic school is worth the investment. It really is a sacrifice for these families.
“Marty and I are passionate about Catholic education,” she added. “We have seen the benefits of a faith-filled education. We feel the benefits outweigh the cost.”
Mrs. Connors then described some of these benefits.     “The values taught at a Catholic school go beyond the core curriculum,” she said. “Students learn to focus on others instead of themselves. What greater gift can you give your child than a Catholic education?
“When you compare costs and benefits, we believe that a Catholic education is priceless,” she concluded.
The Connors family has established a new $25,000 scholarship in honor of Marty’s mother Marion, also a champion of Catholic education. It will be called The Marion Connors Leadership Award.
The $25,000 fund will be distributed over five years to graduating students from the five consortium schools who are bound for Saint Bernard Central Catholic High School. Each incoming freshman will receive $1,000 toward tuition, based upon recommendations and demonstrated leadership ability.