Glendon declines to accept prestigious Notre Dame award

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Citing concerns about plans to honor President Barack Obama despite his views on “fundamental principles of justice” that are contrary to Catholic teaching, former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Mary Ann Glendon has turned down the prestigious Laetare Medal from the University of Notre Dame.

In an April 27 letter to Holy Cross Father John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, Glendon said she will not participate in May 17 commencement exercises during which the award was to have been presented.

Obama supports legal abortion and his administration recently proposed new regulations that would allow the use of federal funds for embryonic stem-cell research. Both are in direct conflict with fundamental church teaching.

Msgr. Behrmann’s vision

It’s impossible to discuss the Department of Special Education without talking about Msgr. Elmer Behrmann, the visionary priest who founded the department in 1950.

To Msgr. Behrmann, it was a matter of social justice. He believed every human being had the inherent right to an appropriate education, and he discovered, while in graduate school, there was little being offered to children with disabilities.

 Msgr. Behrmann explained in an interview years ago, “There was very little being done” especially for children who were developmentally disabled, “except for three or four homes for children or adults run by (religious) sisters. And there was no departmental or organized system for educating these children.”

Many work together to carry out mission of Special Education

Karen Tichy, archdiocesan associate superintendent for instruction, has been a member of the Catholic Education Office for almost 20 years and holds a doctorate in educational administration from St. Louis University. When the Department of Special Education, formerly a separate archdiocesan agency, joined the Catholic Education Office in summer 2008, she took over administrative duties, overseeing day-to-day operations. George Henry, superintendent of Catholic education, is executive director.

“We serve almost 50,000 students in our Catholic schools,” Tichy said. “About 10 percent of our students in Catholic education have diagnosed special needs that affect their learning process. The mission of the Special Education Department is to provide quality education, success in life and a living faith for children with special learning needs.”

Parents, principals speak out on Department of Special Education’s results

Families of students served by the Department of Special Education are praising the results.

Annunziata School in Ladue and the Academy at St. Rose Philippine Duchesne in Florissant serve students with attention deficit and other learning disabilities.

Daria Gore, whose daughter Mallory has attended Annunziata School for six years, said: “It has been what every parent wishes for in a school.”

“Annunziata has nurtured my daughter spiritually, academically and socially. I’ve seen tremendous growth from the time she started there to now,” Gore added. “We are moving to Atlanta. Annunziata has set the bar for what I am looking for in an education.”

Kathy McGrath-Ray has a son and a daughter at Annunziata. “Both of my children have been going for the past three years. It’s the perfect environment for them. Not only do they get a Catholic education, which is really important to us, but they also get special attention to the things they need special help on.”

Serving all children

The Archdiocese of St. Louis continues its long tradition of educating children with special learning needs.

“Jesus said, ‘Go teach all,’” said Karen Tichy of the archdiocesan Catholic Education Office. “And that includes children with special needs.”

Tichy, archdiocesan associate superintendent for instruction, is the administrator of the Department of Special Education.

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is a leader in serving children with special needs, Tichy said. “We were the first diocese in the country to establish a Department of Special Education, in 1950 — thanks to Msgr. (Elmer) Behrmann.

Catholic schools join new academic competition league

For several Catholic schools that have academic competition teams, a new league formed earlier this year is helping them to improve their performance at what’s often referred to as the “varsity sport of the mind.”

Academic competition, sometimes called Scholar Bowl, is a game between competing teams, with questions on a variety of academic disciplines, including science, math, social studies and literature.

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