Fr. Joseph Gatto
The Department of Elementary Schools of the National Catholic Educational Association named Father Joseph C. Gatto, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Parish, Williamsville, one of its 2012 distinguished pastors. The award was presented to Father Gatto at the association’s annual convention in Boston on April 11.
Dr. Rosemary J. Henry, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Buffalo, described a distinguished pastor as someone who must “inspire his people to live a Christ-like life, empower his flock to assume new leadership roles in the Church, call his community to a life of service and compassion, advocate for excellence in all spheres of Catholic education and transform lives with passion and fervor.”
“The faithful in the Diocese of Buffalo,” Henry said, “see, hear, know and experience these genuine gifts from Father Joseph Gatto, a 2012 National Catholic Education Association Distinguished Pastor.”
Brother Robert Bimonte, FSC, executive director of the NCEA Department of Elementary Schools, said Father Gatto and the other recipients have “demonstrated outstanding support of Catholic education. Their commitment to providing spiritual guidance, involvement with their governing boards and support of the school administration, as well as their active involvement to assure the future of Catholic education, are the reasons they were chosen.”
Nominated by Patricia Freund, principal at St. Gregory the Great School, Father Gatto has been pastor at St. Gregory, the largest parish in the diocese, since 2006.
In her nomination letter, Freund talked about his commitment to the school including how many improvements have taken place under his direction, some cosmetic, but many academic. The school installed solar panels to reduce the cost of electricity thereby freeing up funds that could be better used elsewhere, such as to establish a 3- and 4-year-old pre-school program.
“Father Gatto has been supportive of this improvement,” Freund said, “and from this we now have a resource team made up of a special education teacher, a remediation teacher, a full-time reading specialist and two part-time reading teachers to work with the children, the parents and the classroom teachers.”
Father Gatto has recognized the financial challenges faced by families in today’s economy. To assist with those obstacles, Father Gatto established a scholarship endowment in the name of his predecessor, Msgr. Rupert Wright.
More than $50,000 was collected in the first year, but his efforts also reach beyond the classroom. Father Gatto has created paid jobs and internships within the parish in order to keep youth involved in the parish.
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