By RENEE WEBB
Since the inception of the Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools more than 20 years ago, a significant portion of the proceeds have helped raise funds for textbooks and technology. This year’s dinner on Oct. 21 at the Sioux City Convention Center is no exception.
“We continue to have a shortfall for purchasing new textbooks to keep them updated in all areas of the curriculum,” noted Allison Liska, diocesan director of planned giving and annual gifts. “As far as technology, it continues to evolve and we need to keep up, so our students do not fall behind and are learning and using the most up to date technology.”
Dawn Prosser, development director at St. Mary School and Parish of Storm Lake who is helping to spearhead this year’s dinner, said funds raised through sponsorships of the dinner are earmarked for enhancement grants for textbooks and technology while the proceeds from the ticket sales are more unrestricted for the schools.
“It’s 2018. Our world runs on technology,” she said. “Our students must have access to the latest in technology or we would be doing a disservice to our families by not staying up-to-date. We are able to give students from all socioeconomic backgrounds access to a world of information because of our ongoing investments in technology and the infrastructure needed to run it.”
The grant dollars given to each school are determined based on enrollment, explained Susan O’Brien, diocesan director of development and communications, who further noted donors can select which school receives $80 of the ticket sale.
“We need to have a strong Catholic school system in our diocese, and we want our students to have all of the resources and tools they need to be successful in their learning and progression in their education,” said O’Brien, who added they want to remove any barriers to a strong learning environment. “When you have outdated textbooks or technology, it can cause frustration for both students and faculty, and we want to support them as much as possible, because we love our Catholic schools.”
Lisa Niebuhr, development director at Gehlen Catholic School in Le Mars who is also helping to spearhead the dinner, pointed out that proceeds from the 2017 bishop’s dinner were used by two schools to buy new religion books. Several schools purchased new reading and math textbooks, as well as other classroom needs.
Nearly all the Catholic elementary and high schools invested dinner proceeds in technology, she added, for things like MacBooks, software and Accelerated Reader Assessment technology. The Gehlen development director said four schools had purchased Chromebooks and she cited studies/articles that touted the benefits of Chromebooks in classrooms, ranging from increased student engagement and greater academic outcomes to less time for managing security and troubleshooting.
“In 2017, Gehlen Catholic was blessed to have the Bishop’s Dinner funds to purchase 154 religion books, three Epson projectors, four new access points and one wireless router to meet the growing needs of students, faculty and staff,” Niebuhr said.
For more information on how the proceeds of last year’s dinner were spent, go to: https://scdiocese.org/bishops-dinner/.
The need for up-to-date technology is also accentuated, Niebuhr noted, as it is included in both the diocese’s long-range plan for Catholic schools as well as individual school long-range plans.
Aside from being a great fundraiser for the Catholic schools, the Bishop’s Dinner serves as a chance to celebrate Catholic education in the diocese.
“We will be celebrating the successes of Catholic schools, we will enjoy the dynamic Sister Miriam James Heidland and her message,” Prosser said. “And you would be surprised at how many friends you will run into in that room of 800 Catholic school supporters.”
Liska urges people to listen to Sister Miriam’s podcast at www.abidingtogetherpodcast.com to get a taste of what the speaker will offer.
“She is such a breath of fresh air and has a wonderful story to tell,” she said. “We know that people will engage with her message and walk away feeling excited and renewed in their Catholic faith. Come to the dinner and hear her message in person and enjoy the lovely evening with great food, and of course, the bishop.”
With fall being a time of “thanksgiving,” Niebuhr said it’s a chance to give thanks and praise to God for all the blessings he has bestowed.
“The Bishop’s Dinner provides our diocese an opportunity for all of us to come together as a family to give thanks to God for all he has conferred upon our Catholic schools,” she said. “We take time to especially thank our selfless teachers, staff, priests and women religious whose ‘excellence in education’ and servant leadership have had a transformational impact on our students.”
Tickets are on sale at www.scdiocese.org or call (712) 233-7524.