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Gehlen begins ‘In Grace and Gratitude’ Campaign

By KATIE LEFEBVRE, Globe staff reporter
(Email Katie)

As Gehlen Catholic School remembered its many blessings through the years, school officials announced a new capital campaign.

Bishop Walker Nickless joined Gehlen Catholic School and the parishioners of the Le Mars Area Catholic Cluster to kick off the “In Grace and Gratitude” Campaign on Sept. 14.

“It is a good time for us to celebrate in grace and remember everything we have comes from God and gratitude for all those blessings,” said Father Kevin Richter, Gehlen Catholic president. “As we begin this campaign seeking support for faculty and staff and the needs of the school, it is a good time to remember how blessed we are.”

The evening started with an indoor picnic sponsored by Scooter’s Natural Meats of Brunsville.

Exaltation of the Holy Cross
After the picnic, Bishop Nickless began with a prayer and reflection to celebrate the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. 

“It is my privilege to be here tonight to help you celebrate and inaugurate this ‘In Grace and Gratitude’ Campaign,” he said. “Today we celebrate a great feast in the church. It is so important at a Catholic school that we start everything and surround everything with the plea for God’s help in whatever we do.”

This feast, said the bishop, is a reflection on the cross and what it means to Catholics.

“Most of us think about the cross on Good Friday when each of us has a chance to come up, to venerate and to kiss the crucifix,” he said. “It is a very sad and solemn day. The church wanted us to have another opportunity to reflect on the glory, the triumph and the greatness of the cross.”

Bishop Nickless said even though the cross is a sign of destruction and a horrible way to die, for Christians “we know it has saving power. That should give us joy.”

“Because of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, we have a chance to get to heaven,” he said. “That is what we are all about in Catholic education – sharing in the mystery, evangelizing the world and forming our students, our faculty, our parents and everyone associated with the school.”

Lorie Nussbaum, TK-6 principal, read the petitions.

In Grace and Gratitude
Father Richter thanked the bishop and those in attendance for being present for the start of the “In Grace and Gratitude” Campaign.

“Our capital campaign is critical to the ongoing success of our school,” said the priest. “This renewal campaign is what enables us to continue to provide bonuses to our faculty and staff and address the immediate needs that are coming our way.”

The campaign will address faculty/staff recruitment and retention, along with maintaining the school’s current facilities, as part of the diocesan and school’s long-range strategic plan. The total goal is $1 million.

Bishop Nickless said that the attendance at the kickoff was “a sign of your support and the care that you give to Catholic education.”

“I like to come to Gehlen because it reminds me of the high school that I went to in Denver. You have the same colors,” he said. “It is a wonderful opportunity for me to be here with you. All of us know that the reason we send our children to Catholic schools is to pass on the great treasure of our Catholic faith.”

All those involved in Catholic education, said the bishop, have one goal in mind – “to help parents. They are the primary educators of their sons and daughters in the ways of faith.”

“Our Catholic school system, our dedicated teachers, our principals, our staff, the administration and everybody who works for a Catholic school is here to help you as parents do your job and pass on the faith,” he said. “We are so grateful for your willingness to support us and be a part of everything we do at Gehlen.”

Bishop Nickless said he loved the name of the campaign because grace and gratitude are important elements to remember.

“Everything we have is a grace, a gift from God,” he said. “So in grace we do the work of the Lord. All of us can do something special for Gehlen and all the other things we are involved in, if we remember that everything we have is first and foremost from God.”

The bishop said that the campaign is an opportunity for those gathered to be involved in something special. He wanted to thank them for their willingness to be there.

“Our teachers need our support. Our schools need our support. This is a wonderful way for you to demonstrate how much you care about them, love them and care about what we are doing in Catholic schools,” he said.

Bishop Nickless recognized Steve Shea, elementary physical education and computer teacher at Gehlen, one of this year’s recipients of the Excellence in Education Award that will be presented at the Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools on Oct. 9.

“As many of you know it is a time to give thanks,” said Lisa Niebuhr, development director at Gehlen Catholic. “We have seen the lives of our students transformed through their faith, their values and their service.”

She pointed out that enrollment at Gehlen has grown over the past seven years. This year enrollment is up to 458.

Niebuhr went on to talk about the many successes of Gehlen – resource rooms, transitional kindergarten, preschool and wellness center. She said that because of the Msgr. Lafferty Tuition Foundation “no child has been denied a Catholic education because of finances.”

“Achievements in the arts, athletics and co-curricular activities are equally impressive,” said the development director. The technology at Gehlen has also been improved thanks to investments from alumni, friends and foundations. “All of this improved student success is truly attributed to the blessings God has bestowed upon our school and our wonderful faculty and staff.”

She announced that the honorary chairs of the “In Grace and Gratitude” Campaign are Bob and Ruth Kneip. 

At the conclusion of the program, a PowerPoint was presented to highlight the impact the cluster and community’s support has had on the students of Gehlen Catholic. 

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