Janet Lozinsk, with Dr. Gene P. Nocera, principal of St. Anthony School in Bristol, and Father Alphonso R. Fontana, pastor of St. Anthony Parish. (Photo by Mary Chalupsky)
SOUTHINGTON – It was an evening of accolades and achievement as more than 500 educational leaders, teachers, parents, clergy and students from the Archdiocese of Hartford recognized the outstanding service of volunteers at the 35th annual HOPES (Help Our Parish Elementary Schools) Dinner on Sept. 23 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville.
The dinner recognized 99 people from 46 schools who received the 2012 St. John Neumann Award for Volunteer Service.
The event originally was the brainstorm of Father James G. Fanelli, former superintendent of schools, now retired.
It also honored Janet Lozinski of St. Anthony School in Bristol as the recipient of the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, annually given to a person who has made an exceptional impact on a school and its advancement program.
"Without you, our schools would have no future," said Dale R. Hoyt, superintendent of the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Schools, who recognized the "time, talent, creativity, innovation and imagination" given by volunteers to support and sustain Catholic schools.
Archbishop Henry J. Mansell also expressed his deep gratitude to the volunteers for their tremendous contribution to Catholic schools, and used the occasion to remind those gathered of the importance of the upcoming national elections.
"We’re facing elections … that are of critical, critical importance," he said, because our "fundamental rights are being challenged."
Pointing out the lack of respect for religious liberty that is so rampant today, he said, "It’s absolutely important for you to contact your legislators," to preserve the fundamental rights of living in a free country, practicing belief in God and honoring the basic rights of family and Catholic schools represented by the HOPES dinner.
In presenting the 2012 Seton Award to Mrs. Lozinski, Anne T. Clubb, director of school advancement, described Mrs. Lozinski’s list of volunteer efforts as awe-inspiring. "I don’t think there is one role in which she hasn’t served St. Anthony’s School."
Father Alphonso R. Fontana, pastor of St. Anthony Parish, wrote in his letter of nomination, "Our school thrives in no small way because of her involvement, and her positive involvement goes beyond the school parking lot and into the marketplace."
The mother of two children, "parent-ambassador" Mrs. Lozinski has volunteered at the school since 2003 "in a mind-boggling number of ways," said Mrs. Clubb. She has served as president, vice president and fund-raising chair of the home-school association and has served as a school board member since 2007, working on a range of activities and fund-raising events that have helped to bring in more than $50,000 annually for the school.
In a three-year period, she donated almost 1,400 hours of volunteer service, Mrs. Clubb said.
"It’s just humbling and an honor to be recognized," said Mrs. Lozinski. "But I don’t do it for the honor. I do it for the kids."
Dr. Hoyt also announced that three schools in the archdiocese were named by the United States Department of Education as Blue Ribbon Schools for the year – a distinction that recognizes overall academic excellence. St. Dominic School in Southington, Corpus Christi School in Wethersfield and Our Lady of Mercy School in Madison are three of four private schools in New England (and three of 50 private schools nationwide) that will be presented with the Blue Ribbon award at a ceremony in November in Washington.
He also announced that the recipient of the Distinguished Elementary School Pastor Award is Father Christopher M. Tiano, for his work on behalf of St. Peter-St. Francis School in Torrington. Father Tiano, who Dr. Hoyt said has been lauded as "a sincere pastor of schools," will be presented with the award Jan. 27.
Providing entertainment for the evening was the East Catholic High School Choral Ensemble under the direction of Jennifer Moros. Father Mark R. Jette, pastor of St. Lawrence Parish in West Haven, offered the closing benediction.
The annual dinner is held in conjunction with the HOPES collection, taken this year at Masses on Sept. 23-24 in every parish of the archdiocese to benefit all elementary schools, with special support given to those city schools serving underprivileged families.
HOPES grants are then awarded through an application process, and determined according to specific criteria. The collection also supports the archdiocesan marketing campaign on behalf of all Catholic elementary schools.