Pioneering administrator ends tenure - Catholic Courier

Pioneering administrator ends tenure

To what degree has Mercy Sister Mary Edwardine Weaver influenced Catholic-school administration? Consider this: 51 percent of all current administrators in this diocese are products of the Catholic School Leadership Program, founded by Sister Weaver at the University of Rochester in the late 1980s.

Sister Weaver also served as the program’s only director until she retired July 1. Her replacement is Evelyn Kirst, who served as principal of Our Lady of Mercy High School in Brighton from 1994-2004.

"I’ve been told to slow down a little bit. It’s a difficult decision for me because I love what I do, and the program is at an all-time high," said Sister Weaver, who will celebrate her 70th birthday in October. "It’s like leaving your baby, so it’s a really emotional time for me. But I am sure that it’s God’s work and it will continue."

Prior to her tenure at the University of Rochester, Sister Weaver served in several teaching and administrative capacities in the Diocese of Rochester before becoming diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools in 1981. She held that position for five years before moving on "with the intention of developing lay leadership for Catholic schools," she said.

From 1987-90, Sister Weaver was an educational consultant and supervisor of student teachers at Nazareth College and the University of Rochester. It was during this time that the Catholic School Leadership Program developed.

"We started with absolutely nothing, not even a paper clip," she remarked.

Prior to the University of Rochester program, the only available graduate studies in the Rochester area for Catholic-school administrators were at SUNY College at Brockport. However, since Brockport is a state school, Sister Weaver said that religion could not be brought into the curriculum due to separation of church and state.

Sister Weaver explored the possibility of founding her program at two Rochester-area colleges with Catholic traditions, St. John Fisher and Nazareth. Though she said both schools expressed interest, neither offered degrees in school administration. Eventually she linked up with the University of Rochester’s Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development. Unlike a state college, "as a private institution, it can deal with the religious question," she said.

The Catholic School Leadership Program prepares people for administrative roles in Catholic elementary and secondary schools, in such positions as principal, vice principal and department chair. It is cosponsored by the Diocese of Rochester and also includes students from the Syracuse, Ogdensburg and Buffalo dioceses, as well as African priests who use their training to launch educational initiatives in their native countries.

Tuition for the program is offered at a reduced rate, thanks to diocesan and university support. Even so, Sister Weaver said, students make considerable sacrifices to attend.

"One of the things that motivated me over the years has been the commitment of the individuals in the program. They may have families, work full time, might have sick parents. But they give time, energy and money to strengthen their commitment to the mission," Sister Weaver said.

She acknowledged that participants believe so strongly in Catholic education that they have repeatedly bypassed the chance to make more money in public schools: "The people in this program are in it for the long haul, not a stepping stone."

Sister Weaver said she has always emphasized the crucial role that a school administrator plays: "The potential power of one person to make a difference in other people’s lives — I’ve tried to make them hang on to that."

Her directorship is chief among several departmental roles that she has held at the Warner School. Sister Weaver’s final commitment occurred July 7-8 with the 16th annual Institute on Catholic Education (see related story on page B8), which she began during her second year at the University of Rochester. The symposium deals with current issues in Catholic education.

Following some sabbatical time over the next couple of months, Sister Weaver plans to make herself available to the University of Rochester as a consultant while maintaining membership on various committees, including the Monroe County Catholic School Board — for which she served as president this past year — and the board of trustees for Our Lady of Mercy High School.

"I’ll always want to serve the cause of Catholic education, for as long as I can," she said.


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