Catholic schools honored for works of mercy

Aug 12, 2021
Henry Fortier (left), secretary of education and superintendent of Catholic schools, presented the St. Teresa of Calcutta Award to St. Brendan the Navigator Principal Philip Gorrasi (center) and pastor, Father Thomas Barrett (right), following the celebration of Mass during the Office of Catholic School’s annual “Educator Kick-Off” event on Aug. 9. The St. Brendan student body was recognized for their corporal works of mercy exemplified by St. Teresa, in caring for the sick during the 2020-2021 school year. (LINDA CALDWELL | FC)

ORLANDO | St. Brendan the Navigator Catholic School in Ormond Beach and Bishop Moore Catholic High School in Orlando won the Diocese of Orlando’s Office of Catholic Schools’ St. Teresa of Calcutta Award for service projects completed during the 2020-2021 school year.

Under normal circumstances, the all-schools event brings educators from throughout the diocese to a central location to celebrate a new school year. However, because of COVID-19 safety protocols, the day was relegated to individual school campuses, where the communities “celebrated” together through a virtual event.

Not to take away from the significance of the St. Teresa Award, Henry Fortier, secretary for education and superintendent of Catholic schools, personally presented the awards. “It is a great honor to visit our two school communities to thank them for the good work they have done in serving God’s people,” Fortier said. “We are happy to celebrate the works of mercy that were demonstrated by St. Teresa of Calcutta and in bringing those works of mercy into our schools today.”

St. Brendan Catholic School students were honored for care of the sick. The entire student body rallied around a beloved teacher battling cancer. The students paraded past the teacher’s home with cards, cheers, and balloons as she slowly waved to them. Unfortunately, the teacher, a 30-year veteran of the school, succumbed to her illness just two weeks later.

“As Catholic schools, we are charged to live the works of mercy and to have been recognized for doing that in a special way is humbling,” said Philip Gorrasi, principal. “This award spurs us on to always try harder to be Christ to the world.”

Bishop Moore Catholic High School Principal Erika Wikstrom (center) and President Thomas Doyle (right) proudly accept the St. Teresa of Calcutta Award from Superintendent Henry Fortier. The school was presented the award for a service project in which students gathered hundreds of computers and iPads that were digitally wiped clean, restored, and given to students without adequate technology to succeed in their studies during COVID. (LINDA CALDWELL | FC)

Bishop Moore Catholic High School students participated in a school-wide technology drive to refurbish and redistribute electronic devices to thousands of students in the greater Orlando area without adequate tools to succeed in virtual studies.

The students partnered with a local company in their mission to “empower through technology.” The partners digitally wiped-clean and prepared the computers so new software could be added. Parents and alumni also joined in this work of mercy by collecting devices at their places of business.

“The COVID pandemic brought to light various needs in our community that perhaps go unnoticed during a normal school year. One of those needs is the digital divide,” said Erika Wikstrom, principal. “At the heart of our Catholic identity is responding to the present needs around us. Our students saw people hurting, their hearts were moved, and they acted to bring Christ’s love and compassion to the world around them.”

By Linda Caldwell, special to the Florida Catholic August 12, 2021