Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic Education Foundation

Vicki Sims, a student at Hayden High School in Topeka, explains how receiving a scholarship from the Catholic Education Foundation made her bright future possible. Image left by Gil Raghar Isfeld

Written by Jill Ragar-Esfeld

OVERLAND PARK – When chairman Christa Dobelle asked at the end of Gaudeamus’ concert on Oct. 29, “Do we have a number for tonight?” I was met with a drum roll — literally. This came thanks to the Mater Dei Grade School drum line in Topeka, and is one of the annual highlights.

“We set a new Gaudems record tonight,” announced Catholic Education Foundation Chairman Jeff Jaworski. “Gaudeamus’ grand total for 2022 is $2,443,000.”

Dobell added that one hundred percent of this amount will go directly to fund scholarships for Catholic schools.

From left, Marilyn Cortez, Alexandra Robles, and Valeria Sanchez, students at Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas, greet Gudemus attendees and hand out name tags. Image left by Gil Raghar Isfeld

Twenty-five years ago, the center’s founders had a simple vision to help disadvantaged children attend Catholic schools. They will be amazed at the results of this year’s event.

Jaworski set the theme for this year’s event, which took place at the Overland Park Convention Center, when he opened the evening by expressing his gratitude to the founding members.

“Tonight will be another amazing chapter in the story that God is writing for CEF,” he said.

Jeff Jaworski addresses those gathered at Gaudeamus. Image left by Gil Raghar Isfeld

The center’s executive director, Vince Ansch, reminded beneficiaries that 300 children are currently in need of financial assistance, then introduced the speaker for the evening, Vicki Sims.

A senior at Hayden High School in Topeka, Sims began her Catholic school education in the sixth grade at Holy Name School there.

“I was one of those kids who got a scholarship,” Sims said in her introduction.

She went on to talk about the huge impact the faculty and staff of her Catholic schools have had on her life.

She said, “My dream in the near future is to attend university, major in communication with a minor in digital marketing. Become an architect. Become a radiologist.”

The audience laughed and applauded her massive goals.

“Catholic education shaped me into the person I am today,” she said. From the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my gratitude to all of our donors.

“Your commitment to Catholic education is as life-changing as mine.”

Choirs from CEF schools in the diocese greet those gathered at Gaudeamus. Image left by Gil Raghar Isfeld

The evening featured several highlights, including the Archbishop Joseph F. Numan Award for School of Excellence presented to the Greater St. Gregory School in Marysville.

The inaugural CEF Lifetime Achievement Award also honored the organization’s founders: Blake Mulvaney, Tom Zarda, Rich Henry, Archbishop James B. Keeler, Sister Vicki Perkins, and Leonard and Elaine McKenzie.

CEF’s first consecutive Chairman and Vice Chairman, Zarda and Henry, appeared on stage to accept the award and speak about the importance of the organization and the people who continue to support its mission.

“Our work is not done,” Henry said. Not so that every child who desires a Catholic education can receive it.

“This is the task we are still assigned to do this evening.”

Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann laughs with Gaudeamus’s audience. Image left by Gil Raghar Isfeld

Zarda agreed, praising the efforts of Catholic school teachers and faculty and the crucial role they play in children’s lives.

“I am confident that CEF will continue to grow,” he said. “I am confident that each and every one of you will help make this happen.”

Archbishop Nauman closed the evening with prayers and praise for all the people who worked so hard to make the first 25 years of CEF a success.

“I’ve been able to go to our schools and see some of the amazing work that’s going on,” he said. “Nice to see.”

In addition to the quality of education, the Archbishop noted, our Catholic schools provide “an opportunity for our young people to know the Lord and build friendship with him.”

This indicates a promising future.

“Some of the great young people you’re helping tonight are going to be the future leaders of our community, our community, and our church,” he said.

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