It was a rock star’s welcome. Children cheered and waved flags as a bus rolled onto blacktopped playground of Holy Redeemer School in North Portland.
After a dramatic pause, out stepped — several young Catholic school teachers and a priest. The men waded into the four-foot-tall crowd, giving high fives.
It was part of the University of Notre Dame’s “Fighting for Our Children's Future” national bus tour. The big blue and gold vehicle, decorated with photos of children and the names of every Catholic school in the country, traveled 28,000 miles and went to 50 cities to highlight the good work being done in Catholic education. On board were Notre Dame graduates who served at schools in low-income neighborhoods. They are part of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, which recruits young teachers and does research to support the institutions.
Holy Cross Father Lou DelFra, the alliance’s director of spiritual life, took the bus tour and served as master of ceremonies at stops. The biggest cheer came when Father DelFra announced that Holy Redeemer students had out-raised their pastor, Holy Cross Father John Dougherty, in the annual jogathon.
“The news about Catholic schools hasn’t been great lately. You hear about schools closing,” said Father DelFra, who served at Holy Redeemer as a seminarian and presided at his first Mass during a school liturgy there. “But the more you visit schools like Holy Redeemer, the more you see all the great things going on.”
The alliance at Notre Dame is part of the University Consortium of Catholic Education. So is the Pacific Alliance for Catholic Education, housed at the University of Portland, also founded by the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Joe Manning, principal of Valley Catholic Elementary School in Beaverton, was recruited by the Notre Dame alliance to teach at a Catholic school in South Central Los Angeles.
“It instilled in me a commitment to Catholic education and to be present to students served by the schools,” Manning says.
At Holy Redeemer, a ceremony included remarks by Holy Cross Father John Dougherty, the pastor, principal Anna Rainieri and Becky Summit, an eighth grader. Summit described the way students have learned to serve one another, especially during hard times. The Holy Redeemer string orchestra and choir performed.
While in Portland, the bus crew presented awards to luminaries in the city’s Catholic education scene.
One went to David and Julie Brands, longtime supporters of scholarships and other contributions of their time and resources. The Brands, whose children attended All Saints School and Jesuit High in Portland, still back financial aid and have marshaled innovations in school business and governance.
The other Sorin award went to Msgr. Tim Murphy, who has served as principal, president, teacher, coach and counselor at Central Catholic High School in Portland. Msgr. Murphy made news in 2009 when he jumped out of an airplane at 13,500 feet to raise money for financial aid.
The Sorin awards are named after Holy Cross Father Edward Sorin, the French missionary who founded the University of Notre Dame in 1842 and St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas in 1878.