NCEA Honors Distinguished Leaders In Catholic Education At The Seton Awards Gala

Faithful service and active evangelization are the hallmark of the NCEA 2017 Seton honorees.

Washington, D.C. — The National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) will present the 2017 NCEA Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards on October 2, at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. The Seton Awards commemorate individuals and organizations devoted to faithful service to Catholic education.

"Our honorees selflessly work in service of the gospel for Catholic school communities," said NCEA President/CEO Dr. Thomas W. Burnford. "Through their dedication to Catholic education, the awardees bear witness to their faith and help transform lives and ultimately society."

NCEA’s Seton Awards are named for Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, in recognition of her lifelong dedication to teaching and children. The Seton Awards are presented annually to individuals and organizations whose support and service positively impact Catholic education and the well-being of our nation’s youth. In addition, Seton honorees have a scholarship presented in their names to deserving Catholic school students from their local communities.

The 2017 NCEA Seton Award Honorees include:

The Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis: Archbishop Carlson’s passion for education, vocations, youth ministry and priestly formation has been instrumental in his work with all of the dioceses in which he has served. A native of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Archbishop Carlson was ordained to the priesthood in 1970 in his home Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and in 1984 was ordained as auxiliary bishop for the same archdiocese. In 2005, he became the Bishop of Saginaw, Michigan, and in 2009 he was installed as Archbishop of St. Louis. Archbishop Carlson previously served as chair of the USCCB Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations and as co-chair of the Mission Advisory Committee for the Institute for Priestly Formation. In 2017, Archbishop Carlson and the Archdiocese of St. Louis hosted the NCEA Convention & Expo.

Archbishop Carlson’s Seton Scholar is Reginald Love from Trinity Catholic High School in St. Louis, Missouri.

Dennis J. Smith (posthumous): Dennis (Denny) Smith was inspired by his own faith formation in Catholic school. He upheld the Catholic Church’s mission to make “God known, loved and served in the world.” Leading by example, Denny was as committed to volunteering his time and experience to support Catholic education as he was to providing financial support to his alma mater Bishop McNamara High School, the Diocese of Joliet’s Catholic Education Foundation and the University of Notre Dame, to name a few. Denny created the Smith Family Challenge for Bishop McNamara, which has become an integral part of the school’s annual capital campaign. Inspired by his life of service, the Dennis J. Smith Legacy Foundation was created by Denny’s nieces and nephews, prior to his death from ALS in 2007. In tribute to their uncle, the foundation celebrates the many charitable ways he impacted his community, embraced the less fortunate and supported education — especially Catholic education. His foundation is a living example of God’s love and presence.

Denny’s Seton Scholar is Bishop McNamara High School senior, Sophia Keigher, from Kankakee, Illinois.

Rita and Lamar Hunt, Jr.: Founders of the Loretto Foundation, the Hunts work with Catholic elementary schools and diocesan high schools in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and in Kansas City, Missouri. For them, faith and family come first and the foundation works to promote the dignity of all persons with special concern for the poor and underserved. Thanks to their generosity, Resurrection Catholic School has proper heating, ventilation and air conditioning this school year and they led efforts in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph’s Forward in Faith campaign to build a new school last year, St. Michael the Archangel. Mr. Hunt states that the Loretto Foundation reflects his and Mrs. Hunt’s desire to be "responsible and just stewards and support strategies that reflect Christian ethical principles faithful to Catholic social teaching."

The Hunt’s two Seton Scholars (one from Kansas and one from Missouri) are Adrian Daniel Deharo, from Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas and Aprille Castaneda from Notre Dame de Sion, Kansas City, Missouri.

Joseph Weston: Described as "an ordinary man of his time," Joe Weston has done extraordinary things for Catholic education. Mr. Weston has made sure his commitment and support of Catholic education grows along with his successful businesses. His charitable work began with a contribution of $500 to the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal in his local diocese. To date, he generously has contributed more than $8 million to Catholic education. Because he cherishes his own Catholic education, Mr. Weston is committed to providing scholarships, matching grants and strengthening Catholic school endowments. In 1991, Mr. Weston established the OCF Joseph E. Weston Public Foundation, a reinforcing base of the Oregon Community Foundation, which makes grants to local charities with emphasis on primary and secondary education, the economically disadvantaged and the elderly.

Mr. Weston’s Seton Scholar is sixth-grader Cielo Itzel Barroso Espidio from Holy Cross Catholic School in Portland, Oregon.

NCEA’s 2017 President’s Award Honoree:

Sr. Mary Angela Shaughnessy, SCN, J.D., Ph.D., has served Catholic education in nearly every capacity — elementary school principal, college vice president, graduate school dean, legal counsel. A Sister of Charity of Nazareth, "Sister Angie" is the leading expert on Catholic education and the law in the United States. Superintendents, principals and diocesan leaders rely on her vast experience and knowledge for assistance for those times when the law and Catholic education and ministry intersect. From 2008 through 2016, Sr. Angie was the general legal counsel at St. Catharine College in St. Catharine, Kentucky. Currently, Sr. Angie is the senior distinguished fellow of Catholic education at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. She is the author of more than 30 texts and is a highly sought-after speaker nationwide.


Rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) is a professional membership organization that assists its members to fulfill their teaching mission of the Church and to lead, learn and proclaim the good news of Catholic school education. For more information, visit