Saturday, July 4, 2020

Diocese Hires New Superintendent of Catholic Schools

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Suzanne Hammonshttp://dioceseofgallup.org
Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

Mrs. Jeanette Suter

As of July 2013, the Diocese of Gallup has  hired a new superintendent of Catholic Schools. Jeanette Suter, a teacher and administrator from the Catholic Schools system in Fresno, California, has spent the last few weeks becoming acquainted with her new position, which includes administration duties for the 11 Catholic Schools throughout the Gallup Diocese.

“I truly believe in the vocation of Catholic education,” Suter said in an interview with the Voice. “[I] want to be able to assist administrators, teachers, and faculty members of our Catholic schools in providing the best Catholic education available to as many children as possible.”

Suter comes from a long and experienced background in Catholic education. Early on she felt called to a career as an educator, dedicating her time in college to pursuing teaching. For over two decades afterwards, her career included experience as a parish catechist, Catholic School teacher, and lately as an administrator. She received a Master’s of Education in Administration and Supervision from Marymount University last spring. Now, she explains, the Gallup Diocese is where she felt called to come to serve due to its unique status as a mission Diocese.

“I had felt a longing to serve Christ and the Church through mission work, but never really knew how to go about it,” Suter said. “As I advanced in my years in Catholic education, I became familiar with the mission, life, and works of great holy women like St. Francis Xavier Cabrini and St. Katharine Drexel. I greatly admired their vocations and dedication to serving the immigrants and native peoples. When I learned of the position in the Diocese of Gallup, and its ties to the missions and work of St. Katharine, I began to consider the possibility that this was the way in which the Holy Spirit was moving me.”

In recent years, the Diocese has undertaken the process of returning its Catholic schools to parochial, or parish, status. Looking ahead, Suter says that this is one of her main jobs as the new superintendent.

“I have been directed by Bishop Wall to assist the school communities in maintaining true and faithful Catholic identity, and in assisting the newly formed advisory boards in understanding their role in supporting the administration…in the endeavors of the school.”

Suter said another beginning priority is to get to know the people in the Diocese who will be working with her.

“To begin with, my goal is to get to know the administrators, faculty, staff, students, families, and communities to whom the schools of the diocese minister and serve. I want to know what their greatest accomplishments are, and in what areas of Catholic education I can best serve them in this position.”

Suter explained that there is also the matter of attending to educational standards.

“My long-term goals for our schools include the implementation of the National Catholic School Benchmarks and Standards, the integration of the new Common Core State Standards…and joining the Western Catholic Educational Association (an accrediting agency focused on school improvement and excellence in all aspects of education and Catholic identity.”

Finally, she outlined the importance that Catholic schools have not only to the Diocese, but to the Catholic Church as a whole.

“The goals of Catholic education are to provide formation of the whole child in such a way that body, mind, heart and soul are united in the pursuit of academic excellence, full participation in the life of the Church….and joyful evangelization of our fellow man,” said Suter. “We, the schools and the people of the Diocese of Gallup, need to continue to celebrate the great blessing we have in our Catholic schools, and to work to increase the number of students who are able to attend and benefit from all that our schools have to offer.”

(Find the full interview with Jeanette Suter below.)

Anyone seeking additional information about our schools, the enrollment process, or ways they can help is encouraged to contact the school closest to them or to contact the Office of Catholic Schools at 505-863-4406. The complete listing of schools in the Diocese can be found here.

Full interview:

VoSW: Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you come to work in education?

Suter:

I am a cradle Catholic and attended Catholic schools from 1st grade through high school and into college. Like most teenagers, I rebelled during my high school days against that which I loved the most, the Church. I refused to go to confirmation classes, or to church, outside of the activities of my Catholic high school. My mother was very wise and advised my dad not to force me to go; knowing that I would come around when I was ready. I did so when I was 20, completing the parish RCIA program and making my confirmation at Easter Vigil. One Sunday, following Mass, the director of the parish catechetical program, Sister Kathleen, approached me and said since I was now fully initiated, she thought I should teach catechism. I had never thought about teaching before then, but I was raised that you never say no to a nun, so I agreed to teach one class. I was told I would co-teach with an experienced catechist my first year. What actually ended up happening was my co-teacher and I were both brand new catechists, and we were assigned to the Spanish-speaking First Communion class- neither of us spoke Spanish. Luckily, I was the confirmation sponsor to my little sister’s best friend, who was fluent in Spanish. She and my sister became our “aides” to earn their confirmation service hours for the year. We made it through the year, and through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, the students were prepared for their reception of the sacraments in the Spring. Through the course of that year, I also had come to know that education was what God wanted me to do with my life. I had benefited greatly from the Catholic education and faith formation I had over the years, and it was now my duty to give the same gift to others. I returned to college that fall to pursue my teaching credential, and never looked back. I have since served in Catholic education and/or faith formation as a parish catechist, DRE, Catholic school teacher, and Catholic school administrator for over 20 years. I completed the course of study last spring to obtain a Master of Education degree in Administration and Supervision from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia. I truly believe in the vocation of Catholic education, and want to be able to assist administrators, teachers, and faculty members of our Catholic schools in providing the best Catholic education available to as many children as possible.

VoSW: What attracted you to the Gallup Diocese?

Suter:

What attracted me to the diocese of Gallup was what I had come to know of the mission of the diocese in serving the Native American people of this area. Since learning of the Maryknoll Sisters in junior high school, I had felt a longing to serve Christ and the Church through mission work, but never really knew how to go about it. As I advanced in my years in Catholic education, I became familiar with the mission, life, and works of great holy women like St. Francis Xavier Cabrini, and St. Katharine Drexel. I greatly admired their vocations and dedication to serving the immigrants and native peoples. When I learned of the position in the Diocese of Gallup, and its ties to the missions and work of St. Katharine, I began to consider the possibility that this was the way in which the Holy Spirit was moving me…both as a way to put to use my experience and training and as a way to answer that longing I had felt since childhood, right here in my home country.

VoSW: What are your goals for your time here?

Suter:

To begin with, my goal is to get to know the administrators, faculty, staff, students, families, and communities to whom the schools of the diocese minister and serve. I want to know what their greatest accomplishments are, and in what areas of Catholic education I can best serve them in this position. As the diocese moves through the process of returning schools to the status of parochial (parish) schools, I have been directed by Bishop Wall to assist the school communities in maintaining true and faithful Catholic identity, and in assisting the newly formed advisory boards in understanding their role in supporting the administration, both principal and pastor, in the endeavors of the school. My long-term goals for our schools include the implementation of the National Catholic School Benchmarks and Standards, the integration of the new Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts and Mathematics, and joining the Western Catholic Educational Association (an accrediting agency focused on school improvement and excellence in all aspects of education and Catholic identity). We, the schools and the people of the diocese of Gallup, need to continue to celebrate the great blessing we have in our Catholic schools, and to work to increase the number of students who are able to attend and benefit from all that our schools have to offer.

VoSW: How would you sum up your philosophy on the importance of Catholic education?

Suter:

Catholic schools provide the most comprehensive, holistic education available to students anywhere in the world. The goals of Catholic education are to provide formation of the whole child in such a way that body, mind, heart, and soul are united in the pursuit of academic excellence, full participation in the life of the Church through worship and the sacraments, merciful service to others, and joyful evangelization of our fellow man with a deep understanding of what it means to be part of and in service to the entire human community. Catholic schools are vital to the future of our students, our communities, our nation, and our Church.

VoSW: Is there anything you would like to add in the way of introductions to the parents, teachers, and people of the Diocese?

Suter:

Having had my teaching concentration in English, I tend to love the written word. I love stories, poetry, musical lyrics, and any other inspirational slogans, sayings, quotations. I love to read biographies of the saints and other morally heroic people, and their writings as well. I am also a fan of history – reading it, watching historical documentaries, and even reading an occasional historical fiction piece from time to time. That being said, I can’t wait to learn of the stories and histories of our schools, our faculty and staff members, our families and students, and the rich and varied stories of the many Native American communities that live throughout our diocese. I would also like to share a motto that has stuck with me over the last 25 years- the motto of my Catholic high school, Presentation High School in San Jose, California, “Not words, but deeds.” While a teenager, I really didn’t appreciate it very much,  daily walking over the tile on which it was emblazoned on the floor of the main entrance to the school without giving it much thought. As a Catholic educator, I have come to run that motto through my head every day, and on many days, more than once. Words can be hollow and empty…actions speak volumes.

It is not primarily in my words that I represent Christ, His Church, and His schools but in my actions. I have Catholic education to thank for the woman, wife, and professional educator I am today. I also have my parents to thank for the sacrifices they made to provide me with that education. When I was a junior in high school, my father was laid off from his job, and my parents told me they might have to take me out of Catholic school. Not wanting to leave my friends, and the school in which I felt comfortable, I had the one and only temper tantrum of my life…even threatening to run away to my aunt’s house across the country if they took me out of the school. To this day, I don’t know what my parents did to keep me in that school, but they did…and I thank God every day for that (I should probably thank my parents more often for that as well!). I commend the parents of our Catholic school students for making the sacrifices you do to provide a Catholic education to your children, it is well worth it! I encourage other Catholic parents in our diocese to prayerfully consider their family’s budget, and examine the items that might be rearranged to cut expenses that bring only temporary happiness to allow for enrollment of your children in Catholic school-a benefit that will last a lifetime. Also, don’t be afraid to talk to the administrator of your local school about the tuition assistance available for families. Lastly, I want to encourage all members of the Catholic family of the diocese of Gallup to reconsider the way in which you can support Catholic education in our schools. Giving of your time, talent, and treasure to build up the programs in our schools is a great way to serve the Church of today and the Church of tomorrow.

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