ACE celebrates Catholic education at Immaculate Conception

BLESSING — Father Timothy Scully, who cofounded the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, sprinkles holy water on Immaculate Conception School students during a celebration of the program’s involvement with the downtown L.A. school. — Credit: R.W. DELLINGER

When the navy blue bus entered the lower schoolyard of Immaculate Conception School at exactly 10 a.m. on May 6, the students around the perimeter of the high chain-link fence started yelling and screaming almost as loudly as Immaculate Conception students did in 1987 when a helicopter landed and (recently canonized) St. John Paul II stepped out to greet them.  

The event celebrated the 20th anniversary of the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) two-year program, which provides right-out-of-college teachers in training to many Catholic schools, like Immaculate Conception, serving poor and working class minority urban families.

On its 43rd leg of a 50-city national tour to highlight the success of Catholic education, the theme was plainly spelled out in white letters on the sides of the bus: “Fighting for Our Children’s Future.” In four stages, the bus had been to New York, Boston and Washington, D.C., as well as New Orleans, through Oklahoma and Texas, and then onto Tucson, Orange County and Los Angeles, where ACE has supplied teachers to Catholic schools in the archdiocese for many years.

Currently, nine ACE teachers serve in local schools, including two at Immaculate Conception: Sarah Kennedy, who has sixth grade homeroom and teaches middle school science, and Ashley Armendariz, who teaches second grade.

“It means energy and commitment to the kids and passion for what they’re doing,” explained principal Mary Ann Murphy, who received an award for her years in Catholic education. “And also involvement in the parish; they’re bringing a different presence to the parish. And they’re very well prepared. The quality of their preparation is phenomenal. They come in having been in a very intensive summer preparation, and they’re earning a master’s degree in education, too.”

Father Timothy Scully cofounded ACE with inspiration from his spiritual advisor, Sister Lourdes Sheehan, who was directing the office of Catholic schools for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The priest, who teaches political science at Notre Dame, confided to the nun that he didn’t become a Holy Cross priest to be a professor.

Sister Sheehan countered by asking Father Scully why — with sisters having less and less a presence, especially in urban Catholic schools — didn’t he try to fill that growing gap? After all, he had a ready supply of young talent at Notre Dame

So he took out a full-page ad in the university’s newspaper with the enticing words: “Tired of getting homework? Then give some! Become an ACE Teacher.” He thought there might be 20 to 30 responders, enough to start a small service project. Instead, well over 200 graduating seniors filled LaFortune Ballroom on campus.

To date, there have been more than 1,300 ACE teachers. Some 75 percent have continued after the program plying their craft in the education field, mostly in Catholic schools.

“I knew there was a supply, and I knew there was a demand from what Sister Lourdes told me,” Father Scully told The Tidings. “So that’s what started ACE in 1993. It was kind of my night job, with a half-time employee and $5,000. But today we have six Holy Cross priests in our movement. And now we have 110 people working fulltime on supporting and sustaining Catholic schools across the country. It’s wonderful.”

After a while, he added, “Imagine what our country would be like if we only had state-run schools. Where would be the pluralism? And I understand why public schools base all of their metrics on student achievement data. But we have two things we’re interested in.

“We’re interested in [getting students into] college, but we’re also interested in heaven. You know, we’re interested in a living encounter with the living person of Jesus Christ resurrected. And you can’t get that anywhere but here.”

As a graduate of St. Alphonsus School in East L.A. and member of the last class from all-girls’ Sacred Heart of Mary High School in June 1991, Sylvia Armas-Abad knows the value of a Catholic education — especially for Hispanics like herself. Today she’s turned that personal experience into being the field consultant in Los Angeles for ACE. She tries to get the dual message out that there are quality Catholic schools in many local Latino communities and that tuition is affordable with the help of the Catholic Education Foundation and other aid and scholarship programs.  

“A part of Catholic schools in America has always been to close the achievement gap for the most under-resourced, under-privileged children across the United States,” she said. “I mean, that really is our legacy in the Catholic school system — that we were always able to educate children of immigrant families in a way that no educational system has been able to do. And we still are.”

At the morning celebration, two graduating eighth-graders at Immaculate Conception School lent concrete proof to that. Xenia Martinez spoke about how in the primary grades at Immaculate Conception, studying and getting good grades made her more self-confident and her mother happy and proud. But when her family moved away and she went to a public school, she felt unsupported and completely on her own.

Xenia’s family moved back to Los Angeles and she returned to I.C.S. “Not only was I challenged in my education, but I was given the knowledge of prayer and the importance of study in my life,” she told the outdoor assembly of ACE staffers, guests, students and educators. “And my confidence came back and I’m deeply grateful.”

In his speech, Reuben del Rosal acknowledged he had grown personally, intellectually and spiritually during his nine years at the parochial school. “My experiences in Catholic education have been the best years of my life,” he said. “It’s very good to know that my mother is working so hard to pay for my education. She knows that there are great people here, and she knows the quality of education is the best.

“I believe that Immaculate Conception School has helped me grow in book-smarts and life-smarts,” said Reuban. “But I think the best feature in Catholic education is that you get to know God.”    


Jean Beliveau, RIP


Jean Beliveau was more than an athlete, though certainly he was a one-in-a-million athlete. The record of his achievements almost defies belief. He played in the National Hockey League for 20 seasons and retired with 10 championship rings. 


Together in Mission 300x250


December 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31

December 20, 2014

  • Saturday, December 20

    St. Margaret's Center Christmas Program, 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m., Morningside High School (Cafeteria), 10500 S. Yukon Ave, Inglewood. St. Margaret's Center, Inglewood School District, Doorking, Inc., and Centinela Hospital Medical Staff invite you to join them as they create a holiday wonderland with Christmas surprises for more than 1,000 poverty-level children and their parents. (310) 672-2208. Click here for more information.

    Christmas Shop at Holy Grounds, 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m., St. Monica Catholic Community, 725 California Ave., Santa Monica. (310) 566-1500.

    Dancing Festival of Lessons and Carols, 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Holy Spirit Retreat House, 4316 Lanai Rd., Encino. A concert by Valyermo Dancers & Co., choreographed by John West. $15. Contact Sr. Deborah for more info, (818) 784-4515.

    Christmas Dinner Dance, 6 p.m., Knights of Columbus Hall, 21433 Strathern St, Canoga Park. Tickets, $28. (818) 371-0473.

    Las Posadas, 7 p.m., Parish Hall, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 600 W Mariposa St, Altadena. Posadas means “the inns” or “the shelters” in Spanish. A religious and social celebration, Las Posadas commemorates Joseph and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem and their search for shelter prior to the birth of Christ. We invite you to join us in a one-day celebration of this tradition. (626) 794-2046.

The Tidings - Home Delivery 300x100

Get our news by email

Retirement Fund for Religious
Bob Smith BMW 300x250
Bob Smith Toyota 300x250
Bob Smith Mini 300x250