By JOANNE FOX
In absence of a director of development for the Diocese of Sioux City, Bishop Walker Nickless asked two long-time parish/school stewardship officers for their help with an important project.
And when the church called, they listened and responded positively.
Development Directors Lisa Niebuhr of Le Mars Gehlen Catholic Schools and Dawn Prosser of Storm Lake St. Mary Parish and Schools will help to spearhead the 22nd Annual Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools.
The event will take place Oct. 21 at the Sioux City Convention Center. Sister Miriam James Heidland, a Sister of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, is the keynote speaker. Dan and Roxanne Flattery along with Dave and Debbie Flattery, all of Fort Dodge, are chairing the event.
Neither Niebuhr or Prosser hesitated in saying “yes” to the bishop’s request.
“As a member of our school’s faculty and staff, I am always asking fellow colleagues, parents, students and parishioners to volunteer,” Niebuhr pointed out. “By serving as a bishop’s dinner volunteer over the years, it has provided me an opportunity to ‘practice what I preach’ – by giving the best and first of my fruits to God.”
“I have been fortunate to have attended every bishop’s dinner since its inception and have been on the committee for many years,” Prosser added. “With the teamwork of the diocesan development office, the chancery staff and the vast generous donor base, I’m confident this dinner will be a successful event for the diocesan Catholic schools.”
As with most non-profits, continued funding is always a challenge, stated Prosser, who has served at St. Mary’s for almost 23 years.
“Expenses continue to increase as we struggle to pay our educators, administrators and staff a just and competitive wage while raising funds for tuition assistance so that all families have access to a Catholic education regardless of income,” she said. “The funds we raise through the bishop’s dinner is an important piece of the income/revenue mix for all the diocesan Catholic schools.”
“The gift of Catholic education was once made possible by our priests and women religious. Today, our faculty and staff are ‘religious’ men and women,” said Niebuhr, who has been at Gehlen for 15 years. “They are God’s servants who give of their time, talents and treasurers – not for the financial rewards – but to change the lives and hearts of our youth for the glory of God.”
She added, “The gift of Catholic education is even harder for parents today. They sacrifice their time, talents and treasures to provide their children a strong faith and a solid academic education.”
Prosser and Niebuhr both pointed to long-term friends and relationships they have cultivated through their association with the bishop’s dinner.
“I have enjoyed meeting people from around the diocese over the years and seeing ‘old’ friends at the dinner,” Prosser said. “I look forward to meeting new people from around the diocese as we embark on calling upon our supporters in the near future.”
“I love coming together as a diocese to see ‘old’ friends and make new friends,” Niebuhr said. “It is also humbling every year to hear the stories and meet all of the Bishop’s Dinner Excellence in Education and Good Shepherd Award recipients. They inspire me to be more like them through their selfless service.”
As work on the dinner continues over the summer months, Niebuhr speculated more will be asked of other diocesan school and parish development directors, families, administration, faculty and staff to be a part of this year’s event.
“I hope people will think of this year’s bishop’s dinner as all of our schools coming together for a night in which we celebrate the gifts of each of our Catholic schools,” she said. “Without this event, I believe our Catholic schools could not afford to make the gift of Catholic education possible.”
Prosser confessed to looking forward to the taste-testing of the options for the dinner.
“The only person more excited about the taste testing than myself is my husband (Deacon Mark Prosser),” she said. “When I told him I accepted this task, his first question was ‘Is there a taste-testing?’ His second question was, ‘When is the taste-testing?’”
With a more serious insight, Prosser noted, “I will be anxious to hear Sister Miriam’s presentation at the event. I started following her on social media (@onegroovynun) once I learned she was the program speaker and I found her conversion story fascinating.”