BRIGHTON — A stuffed handyman-like bear, adorned by several tiny tools, is among the knickknacks that Sister of St. Joseph Kathleen Lurz has kept on a shelf near her office doorway. The small item represents a big priority for her: "Building the City of God."
Those words are the mission statement for Seton Catholic School, where Sister Lurz, 70, served as longtime principal. She retired at the end of the 2007-08 school year.
Sister Lurz has overseen construction of that city, so to speak, in a variety of ways: encouraging her students to thank God for things they might otherwise have taken for granted, such as their gift of sight or the ability to smell freshly cut grass; developing a relationship with God by learning to talk to him but also keeping in mind "that listening is an important part of prayer"; and remembering "that God loves them more than anyone." She said that students have readily picked up on these points, with many of them being eager to lead morning prayer over the school’s public-address system.
"I think our people are yearning for a real knowledge of God," she said.
Sister Lurz also spoke glowingly of the parents and faculty of Seton Catholic, who honored her with a retirement party at the school on June 29. Although her need for a knee replacement keyed her decision to retire at this time, she remains as passionate as ever about Catholic schools.
"If I were five years younger and had two good knees, I’d probably stay in there and fight for the schools," she remarked, expressing her concern about the future of Catholic education following the closing of 13 of Monroe County’s 24 diocesan elementary and junior high schools in June.
Sister Lurz, a native of Rochester’s Holy Rosary Parish, has been a Sister of St. Joseph for 52 years. Interestingly, she began her ministry with a focus on nursing, but was told by her congregational leaders that the need was greater in teaching. Asked if she’s enjoyed having traveled that alternative route, she quipped, "Well, I haven’t put 50 years into it for nothing."
That half-century has included teaching assignments at the following schools: St. Stephen, Geneva; St. Jerome, East Rochester; Holy Trinity, Webster; and the Rochester schools of St. Anne, St. Ambrose, Holy Rosary and St. Anthony of Padua. She also was secretary at Greece’s Our Mother of Sorrows School.
Sister Lurz has worked at Catholic schools in Brighton since 1986, having previously served as principal of the former St. Thomas More and St. Thomas More/Our Lady Queen of Peace schools. She has been stationed since 1993 at Seton Catholic, which is located on the campus of Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
Her vision for Seton Catholic’s prekindergaten through grade 6 students is to develop their faith and values well before adulthood.
"I’m looking beyond," she said.
But she also keeps in mind that kids are still kids, and for that reason many students have ended up in her office over the years — not to be disciplined, but so she could give them presents on their birthdays.
Sister Kathleen Lurz retired as principal of Seton Catholic School in Brighton last June. (Courier photo by Mike Crupi)