Celebrating 50 years of Catholic education; awards honor duo for 50 years of service

With an early-evening mass and awards banquet, Aurora Catholic Education Foundation celebrated its 50th anniversary Monday, Sept. 18.

Activities opened when the Rev. David J. Malloy, bishop of Rockford diocese, led a 5:30 p.m. Mass at St. Peter Church in Aurora.

After the Mass, more than 100 people attended an anniversary reception and dinner at Aurora Country Club. Staff and teachers from Aurora Catholic grade schools, high schools and religious education programs were invited.

John Bonk, ACEF president and event emcee, opened the program with introductions. Bishop Malloy then gave the invocation.

In after-dinner remarks, Bishop Malloy praised the Aurora Catholic Education Foundation for supporting Catholic education efforts that confront the challenges of society. "All knowledge has a place in God's plan," the bishop said.

He was followed by a surprise addition to the program. In an untitled speech, with excerpts from her fourth-grade report card, Lisa Williams Roscoe recalled beginning Catholic school in fifth grade at Annunciation Church school after a transfer from a public school. She chronicled her Catholic-education experience, praising priests, teachers, coaches, custodians and other educators who "helped me become what I am today."

Highlighting the event was presentation of 50-year service awards to two foundation board members.

Bonk presented the awards to Al Schuler of Sugar Grove and John Verdeyen of Aurora, the foundation's financial advisors.

Bonk credited Schuler for lining up event, table and individual sponsors for the celebration. Revenue beyond expenses will go to the foundation, he said.

Bonk reminded the audience that the Aurora Catholic Education Foundation is the lone surviving Rockford diocese foundation of seven initiated in 1972 by then Bishop O'Neil.

Distributions from 1972 to 2023 have totaled $3,688,984 Bonk said.

He noted distributions benefit 1,000 Aurora students at three Catholic high schools, four grade schools and 11 parish religious education programs. Previously funded were a social worker, school nurse, learning disabilities teacher and Aurora Area Religious Education Center.

A closing benediction was given by Fr. F. William Etheredge, pastor at Church of St. Mary parish in Sycamore and former chief administrative officer at Aurora Central Catholic High School.

John Bonk, center, president of Aurora Catholic Education Foundation, greets guests at the foundation's 50th anniversary celebration at Aurora Country Club Sept. 18. Courtesy of Al Benson
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