Chicago Heights, IL–(ENEWSPF)– A local pastor learned Friday that he has received national recognition for his work with his parish grade school. Fr. John Siemanowski, beginning his 13th year as pastor at St. Agnes Parish in Chicago Heights, is being honored by the National Catholic Educational Association with the organization’s Distinguished Pastor Award.
Fr. Siemanowski said the award is given to pastors who the NCEA believes are working hard for Catholic education and for their parish. He received a phone call Friday informing him of the award, and expects that he, Archbishop Francis Cardinal George, and Superintendent of Catholic Schools Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey, will receive formal notification sometime this week.
Fr. Siemanowski said he admits he is a bit embarrassed by all the attention. “I’m very honored,” he said. “I appreciate it very much.”
According to the NCEA’s Web site, the annual award, established in 2007, is presented by the NCEA Department of Elementary Schools to honor pastors who have given outstanding support to Catholic elementary education.
“Every diocese nominates one person for the award,” Fr. Siemanowski said. “It was actually the Catholic School’s Office and Sr. Mary Paul who nominated me.” Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Perry also approved the application, per NCEA requirements, Siemanowski said.
According to Fr. Siemanowski, the formal application included four letters of recommendation: one from the school’s principal, Mr. Matthew Lungaro, one from a teacher, another from a parent, and a fourth from a school board member.
Sr. Mary Paul McCaughey came to know Fr. John well during her tenure as president at Marian Catholic High School. She was pleased to learn Siemanowski received the award, “It’s certainly a well-deserved tribute to a pastor who invested his time, energy, and love into the families that he served by building up St. Agnes School. He wasn’t afraid to do pitch in and do everything it took to make sure that his families would be able to use the school.” Sr. Mary Paul considers Fr. Siemanowski “a model of what a Catholic school pastor should be. It’s a gift to the church that he’s been able to show that hard work in a school can benefit the church for years to come.”
The school’s Director of Development, Karen Zerante, said the recognition is well-deserved, “On behalf of his staff, the minute we heard the news, the reaction of those of us who work with and for Fr. John was that now the rest of the nation knows what we’ve always known and believed at St. Agnes: Fr. John is the best.”
The criteria for the award specify that the pastor must possess a clear philosophy of Catholic education, provide spiritual guidance to the school community, participate in school activities, work with the school board and/or parent association, support the school administration, engage the community in providing financial support to the school, receive high recommendations from a principal, faculty member, school board/parish council officer and parent of a present or former student; receive the endorsement of the diocesan superintendent and approval of the diocesan ordinary/vicar; have a minimum of three years of service as a pastor in a parish associated with Catholic elementary school education.
Fr. Siemanowski will receive the award at the 2009 NCEA’s April Convention in Anaheim, California.
St. Agnes Parish celebrated its centennial last year. The school has been a part of the parish from the beginning. The school is fully accredited and licensed by the Archdiocese of Chicago and the State of Illinois. The parish recently completed a major renovation project, installing an elevator and adding new offices for parish and school use.
The school’s Web site is at http://www.stagnes-parish.org.