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New Catholic school principals: role models in faith

New Catholic school principals: role models in faith

by Joann Hopkins
Today's Catholic

The archdiocese welcomes 13 new principals this year. They include, from left front, Ramon F. Guerra, Sister Mary Link, FMA, Elizabeth Perez, Sister Antoinette Billeaud, CDP; from left standing, Susan Gonzales, Noris Garcia, Kimberly Patek, Karen Dupree, Bonnie Polewski, John Pelicano and Michael Fierro. Not pictured are B.J. Nelson and Sergio Terán.
Jordan McMorrough | Today's Catholic

    SAN ANTONIO • For the past 155 years, Catholic schools in the archdiocese have been fulfilling a mission — to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ. This mission has prepared students to share the spirit of Jesus through community building, Christian acts of service, word and worship.

    As Archbishop José H. Gomez has affirmed, “The goal of Catholic education is to assist parents in the formation of their children in moral and academic excellence. Catholic education is not only the best option but also the most natural one for our Catholic community.”

     The beginning of the 2006-07 school year continues that tradition of moral formation and academic excellence.

    Thirteen new Catholic school principals have been selected to make that dedicated commitment to this most important apostolate in their school communities.

    Sister Carla Lusch, SSND, superintendent of the Catholic schools in the archdiocese, said of the group, “They have served as teachers, assistant administrators, even administrators in Catholic schools in San Antonio and in other dioceses. Their commitment to Catholic education will be strengthened and challenged as they assume the role of principal. For those who are new to our Catholic schools, they will find that the added responsibility of providing spiritual leadership to students, faculties and parents will be a blessing.”

    Sister Antoinette Billeaud, CDP, is no stranger to the halls of Providence High School, She is a former principal who served from 1978-82 and a faculty member in the late ’60s. She returns to a new generation of students at the high school and also to a middle school division, Providence Preparatory. Leadership positions included principal of high schools in Schulenburg and Laredo in addition to 20 years as a high school teacher in business and religion at schools in Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma.     Sister Antoniette was the superior general, from 1999-2005, of the Congregation of Divine Providence. Her degrees include a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Our Lady of the Lake College; master’s degree in education and certification in counseling and mid-management from Our Lady of the Lake, and a certificate in religious studies from Regis College, Toronto. Sister Antoinette admits, “All education is important, but Catholic education enables students to have a faith based education that will be a strong support for all decisions in their lives. My goal would be that Providence can work with the school community so that students will be formed in their intellectual, social and spiritual life to reflect God’s providential love for all people and for all creation.”

    Michael Fierro has been named principal at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School. His credentials include a bachelor’s degree in government and international studies from the University of Notre Dame (UND). At UND, he earned a master’s degree of education through participation in the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program. He currently is a candidate for a master’s degree in educational administration from Notre Dame. His previous teaching experience was at St. Gregory the Great School in San Antonio and at St. Joseph School in Edinburg. Fierro asserts, “I am excited to join the Blessed Sacrament community. I consider children society’s most valuable gift and will work to ensure that each student learns with the gifts and talents God has given each one. Parents are the first and most important educators for their children…faculty and staff are integral. We will work together to actively promote a student-centered classroom with Christ as its foundation.”

    Ramon F. Guerra, St. Margaret Mary School’s new principal, can count his various insights into the parish and school community as added assets. He is a well-known and respected Catholic educator at the elementary school, including service as assistant principal for the past five years and a teacher since 1992. St. Margaret Mary School educates children of all faiths from K3 through eighth grade. Guerra is very dedicated to the Catholic faith and to the advancement of each child’s growth and development. He encourages new parents to send their children to St. Margaret Mary School to experience what it has to offer in rearing well-rounded children. Guerra is the son of author Mary Ann Noonan Guerra and the late Henry A. Guerra, known as “the Voice of San Antonio” through his affiliation with WOAI TV and radio.

    Sister Mary Link, FMA, brings a wealth of teaching and administrative experience to her new position as principal at St. James the Apostle School, San Antonio. Sister Mary, born and reared in Laredo, joined the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco in 1967. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Seton Hall University and a master’s degree in administrative leadership from the University of San Francisco. Her educational experience includes 24 years as a full-time teacher in Laredo and San Antonio and 15 years of administration at schools in northern and southern California. “For me,” Sister Mary affirms, ‘education is a matter of the heart,’ as St. John Bosco used to say. My goal is to help young people become better Christians and better citizens.”

    B.J. Nelsen has been appointed principal at Incarnate Word High School (IWHS). She previously served as interim principal at IWHS since January and vice principal for three and a half years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master of education in educational leadership from Southwest Texas State University (now Texas State University). She taught math for 12 years in San Marcos and Bangkok, Thailand, before her appointment to an administrative position at the Universal American School in Kuwait. For 20 years, she worked overseas as an administrator at various private American and international schools. She also taught math in Saudi Arabia. She served as an elementary principal at the American School of Brasilia in Brazil and as a secondary school principal at the School of Mary Immaculate in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and the American School of Madrid, Spain.

    John Pelicano has accepted the responsibilities of principal at Sts. Peter & Paul School. For the past two years, he served as principal at Rolling Hills Academy. Pelicano holds an associate degree in marketing/communication, undergraduate degrees in fine arts and philosophy and has a master’s degree in business administration. Pelicano and his wife, Nusha, are the parents of five children, ranging in ages from 8 months to 8 years. As a Catholic educator, Pelicano believes that “Catholic education is an integrally formative experience that guides the youth with faith to reach their God-given potential, for the eternal good of their soul, and for the eternal good of all who come in contact with them throughout their life time.”

    Bonnie Polewski, former assistant principal for academics at Central Catholic High School, is the new principal at Notre Dame School, Kerrville. She holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a master’s degree in theatre from Kansas State University. Her teaching experience includes a variety of subjects and grade levels in schools located in Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia and Germany. She and her husband, who retired after 30 years in the Army, are the parents of five children, from 12 to 25 years of age. A product of Catholic schools, Polewski believes that “Catholic educators have the responsibility to teach the whole child intellectually and spiritually. We teach the mind and touch the hearts of all our students.”

    Profiles of the other new principals will continue in the Sept. 1 edition of Today’s Catholic.


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