BRIDGEPORT – Sister Mary Grace Walsh, Ph.D., a member of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will leave her post as Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport on Dec. 31 to accept the newly created position of Provost for Education, Evangelization and Catechesis of the Archdiocese of Hartford, effective Jan. 1, 2016.
The announcement was made jointly Oct. 22 by Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of the Archdiocese of Hartford and Bridgeport Bishop Frank J. Caggiano.
Archbishop Blair said the position of provost has grown out of the pastoral planning process of the archdiocese and its overall effort to strengthen and expand the organizational effectiveness, efficiency and responsiveness to the changing needs of the parishes, schools, clergy and faithful of the Archdiocese of Hartford. As such, Sister Mary Grace will be responsible for developing a continuum of faith development and formation that extends from childhood to adulthood.
“I am very happy to welcome Sister Mary Grace to her new position with the Archdiocese of Hartford,” said Archbishop Blair. He said that her “many personal gifts, talents and wealth of experience will enable her to bring vision and leadership” to the newly formed Office of Education, Evangelization and Catechesis. “As a religious of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, she will also bring the dimension of con-secrated life to the exercise of her responsibilities for the good of our local church,” he said.
As provost, she will be responsible for the Office of the Permanent Diaconate Education, Office of Catholic Schools, Office of Religious Education and Office of Faith Development and Evangelization. She will work closely with a broad coalition of archdiocesan leadership, staff and parishes to develop a detailed plan or academic vision for addressing the educational and developmental needs of school children, teenagers, adults and those in consecrated life.
“Although we are at a transforming moment in the life of the Diocese of Bridgeport where Sister Mary Grace’s exceptional leadership would be essential, I must respect the movement of the Holy Spirit in all of this,” said Bishop Caggiano. “The promptings of the Spirit essentially point to this simple fact: it is very clear that the archdiocese needs Sister Mary Grace right now to accomplish what needs to get done there. I said that with conviction but also with tremendous sadness because I have the greatest respect and admiration for Sister, and I will miss her terribly,” he said.
Bishop Caggiano noted that Sister Mary Grace will be returning to the archdiocese where she was born and raised, and that her new assignment is both a significant new challenge and a homecoming.
“Sister Mary Grace is a strong and gifted leader whose faith, wisdom, creativity, vision and commitment to spreading the Gospel have brought education and pastoral formation in our diocese to new heights of excellence. I am grateful to Sister for her tireless work on behalf of thousands of young people and adults, and we will never forget how hard she worked to keep Christ at the center of our lives,” he said.
Bishop Caggiano said that in her long and accomplished career in the work of Catholic education, Sister Mary Grace has demonstrated a true love for its mission, along with an outstanding professional competency to lead our schools effectively into the future. He praised her “unwavering commitment to strengthen the Catholic identity of our schools that has created a foundation for further growth and vitality.”
Bishop Caggiano named Sister Mary Grace Superintendent of Catholic Schools of the Diocese of Bridgeport in October 2013, almost immediately after his installation. She was responsible for more than 9,000 students and 1,000 faculty members in the 31 elementary and high schools sponsored by the Diocese of Bridgeport.
As part of the diocesan reoganization Bishop Caggiano undertook in October 2014, she was also named Secretary for Catholic Education and Faith Formation.
Among her many achievements while working with the bishop to reorganize Catholic education in the Diocese of Bridgeport was the development of the new Education Commission in 2014 and the initiation of a strategic plan for education to ensure the viability and vitality of Catholic schools in the diocese. Consistent with the mandates of the recently completed diocesan synod, Sister Mary Grace also played a role in the integration of the Faith Formation Office into the new secretariat that included schools.
Sister Mary Grace said she spent much time in prayer and reflection when the new position was created.
“I am grateful to Bishop Caggiano for the many opportunities he gave me and for the honor of serving as both superintendent and secretary,” said Sister Mary Grace. “I also look forward to the new assignment in the archdiocese where I was educated and formed in the faith.”
She went on, “In my 10 years of service in the diocese, I have witnessed our schools flourish with the assistance of parents who, as the primary educators of their children, choose to entrust their children to our schools, often at great sacrifice. I want to express my gratitude to all those who worked to make our schools faith-filled communities: the parents, faculty, clergy, school advisory boards and generous donors who embrace the mission of Catholic education,” she said.
Born and raised in New Haven, Sister Mary Grace earned her doctorate in educational administration and supervision/church leadership from Fordham University in New York and a Master of Arts degree in education administration and supervision from St. Louis University in Missouri. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English at Albertus Magnus College in New Haven.