Immaculate Conception pastor honored for dedication to Catholic education
Father Robert Wardenski got a big surprise when his students broke into song in honor of Catholic Schools Week and his receiving the Champion of Catholic Education Award. Father Wardenski, pastor of Immaculate Conception School in East Aurora, received the honor for his dedication and service to Catholic education throughout the diocese. Music teacher Glenn Colton wrote the song that the students sang for their pastor.
“I’ve always supported Catholic education,” he said. “I’ve been in parish work for 50 years. This is my 50th anniversary. Every parish I’ve been at has had a school. Everywhere I’ve been, I’ve supported Catholic education, encouraged Catholic education, worked with the principals, faculty and students. I just always was involved.”
He frequently visits the school and faith formation classes at Immaculate Conception. He teaches at all of the sacramental preparation meetings, is present at all school functions and meetings. Every year he looks forward to taking the eighth-graders on field trips to the Corning Museum of Glass and to Chef’s Restaurant for lunch. He is present at every fundraiser too. His actions embody one of his common phrases, “Parish first.”
“The leadership and the faculty are great faith-committed people and they are doing wonderful things,” he said of the school. “The theme for Catholic education this year is ‘Faith. Excellence. Service.’ Our school has always done service. Now, the kids are doing Valentines for the veterans at Veterans Administration Hospital. (They have also done food drives for Thanksgiving and gift collections for Christmas.) They’re always called to be people of service. We instill in the children a sense of service. The theme for Catholic Schools Week is pretty much lived out here at Immaculate Conception.”
Father Wardenski proudly states that he is a product of Catholic education himself, attending Holy Apostles SS. Peter & Paul Elementary School in Buffalo and Bishop Ryan High School before attending St. John Vianney Seminary in East Aurora.
“I think faith-based Catholic education makes a difference in the sense that it helps to realize that everything is a gift from God,” he said. “Creation is a gift from God. Intelligence is a gift from God. Personality is a gift from God. All these are gifts from God. As we use them and discover them and learn about them, we become more grateful in our hearts to the gifts that God entrusts into our care and asks us to use to make the world a better place.”
Friends, students, parents and parishioners can watch Father Wardenski receive his award when WBBZ-TV broadcasts the “Cocktails for Catholic Education” gala, Sunday, April 3 at 8 p.m. The television event will include interviews from teachers, principals, students and parents who will discuss the importance of a Catholic education to them. All awards, scholarship recipients, and raffle prize drawings will also be televised.
See the kids’ song below.