Back-to-school Mass unites teachers, staff in prayer for new year

September 12, 2023

Daniel Cardinal DiNardo (far right) and Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell'Oro, CRS, (second from left) are seen with the 2023 Sally Landram Excellence in Education Award winner Jean Bauer of St. Laurence School in Sugar Land. Also pictured are Bauer's family and Reneé Nunez, assistant superintendent of academic excellence with the Catholic Schools Office. (Photo by the Catholic Schools Office)

HOUSTON — To welcome the new school year in prayer, about 1,000 teachers and staff filled the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart on Aug. 11 to celebrate a back-to-school Mass with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo and Auxiliary Bishop Italo Dell’Oro, CRS.

“For our precious and life-giving students, we will seek to serve and teach,” Cardinal DiNardo said in his homily.

The theme for the school year is “This is Jesus,” based on Matthew 26:26 and the Eucharistic Revival. Cardinal DiNardo and Catholic Schools Office staff also presented almost 200 service awards to teachers and principals celebrating milestone years of service.

Four major awards were given to top achievers, including the Archdiocesan Leadership Award to Father Jeff Johnson, SJ, of Strake Jesuit College Preparatory. The award honors an exemplary leader who significantly and positively impacted advancing Catholic education in the Archdiocese by involving people, events, programs, projects and teams in a common purpose.

The Sts. Peter and Paul Award was earned by Father Clark Sample, former St. Thomas More pastor and now vicar of clergy, along with the principal of St. Thomas More Catholic School, Carolina Bowman. That award is given to a pastor and principal who showed excellent collaboration and cooperation in managing their school.

Similarly, the Catholic Impact Award was given to Our Lady of Guadalupe pastor Father Rafael Querobin, SCJ, with Our Lady of Guadalupe School Principal Irazema Ortiz. Lastly, the Sally Landram Excellence in Education Award, which comes with a $1,500 award, was awarded to Jean Bauer, a teacher at St. Laurence Catholic School in Sugar Land. The award is funded by the generosity of the John W. and Alida Considine Foundation in honor of the memory of Sally Landram, an educator, former superintendent, and advocate of Catholic education in the Archdiocese.

More than 18,000 Catholic school students started back to school the week of Aug. 14 at 55 schools in the Archdiocese.