Tomorrow marks the beginning of Catholic Schools Week, and our blog will have a specail series of posts highlighting the importance of Catholic Education and the innovative work of Holy Cross to ensure the future of Catholic schools in our country. So on the eve of that great week, it is a great joy to share the news that one of our Holy Cross pastors, Fr. Neil Wack, C.S.C., was named a Distinguished Pastor by the National Catholic Education Assocation (NCEA) for his "outstanding support of Catholic Education". Fr. Neil is pastor at the parish he grew up in as a child - Christ the King Parish in South Bend, IN. Under his leadership, Christ the King School (which he attended) has continued to be one of the flagship schools in the Diocese of Fort Wayne/South Bend.
The National Catholic Education Association has awarded Rev. Neil Wack, CSC, the Distinguished Pastor Award for his outstanding support of Catholic education. Since taking the helm at Christ the King, Rev. Wack has enacted a five-year plan for school improvement, eliminated the parish debt, implemented a bullying prevention program, and personally raised funds for a safe new playground for the students. Additionally, he has initiated a twinning relationship with a parish in Bangladesh. "Not only does this encourage global learning for the students, but provides them with the opportunity to practice Christian works of charity," said school parent Kathleen Kloska.
Under Rev. Wack's leadership, Christ the King School was recognized nationally in 2008 by the U.S. Department of Education, earning the status of Blue Ribbon School.
Rev. Wack begins every school day in the parking lot opening car doors, greeting students and parents. He is frequently seen in the classrooms and school hallways, and is the regular presider at all-school masses. "He engages the children in a faith-filled experience each time. As a teacher I can't help but notice how my students light up when Father begins his homily with a grand 'Good Morning', and their exuberant response resonates throughout the church," said Jean Watts, third grade teacher.
Rev. Wack illustrated his commitment to the students in May of 2010 when he walked a marathon (26.2 miles) to raise funds for a new playground. The walk occurred on a treadmill in the school gym where he had interaction with students throughout the day. Following the success of this fund-raiser, Rev. Wack pulled on his work gloves and labored side by side with parishioners, school parents and contractors to install the playground equipment. Rev. Wack believes that the school is the largest ministry of the parish. He is also a 1984 graduate of Christ the King School.
Christ the King is a nationally recognized Blue Ribbon School with an enrollment of 467 students, serving grades Pre-K thru 8. Christ the King is one of 7,094 Catholic elementary and secondary schools serving over 2.1 million students.
Established in 1904, the NCEA is the largest private professional education organization in the world, representing 200,000 Catholic educators serving 7 million students in Catholic elementary and secondary schools, in religious education programs, in seminaries and in colleges and universities.