Students, benefactors and leaders in Catholic education from across West Virginia will convene for the 20th annual Bishop’s Dinner for Catholic Schools April 6 at the Morgantown Event Center. Most Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, will present the Bishop’s Cross to one priest and three lay people and the Aquinas Medal, the highest honor a student can receive from the diocese, to 28 students.
“Catholic schools are unique because parents make an investment in their children’s future when their children are very young,” Bransfield said. “This investment comes in many cases through great sacrifice. They see the importance of sending children to an environment that is conducive to both educational as well as spiritual growth.”
“What makes our Catholic schools different from other types of educational institutions are the experiences that go along with the learning of math, science, reading and such. Our Catholic schools have Gospel values alive in every subject that we teach and in each relationship that we cultivate,” said Vincent de Paul Schmidt, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. “The experience of a Catholic school is more than bricks and mortar or pens and pencils. Our Catholic schools develop the whole child to live as Christ taught us and in His light, and these truths are infused in every moment of the day in a Catholic school. The people that we honor today are a reflection of lived Gospel values and Catholic education.”
The Bishop’s Cross is presented to individuals who, through their lives and works, have demonstrated, in extraordinary ways, their commitment to the mission of Catholic education in West Virginia. Bransfield will present each recipient with a replica of the late Bishop Bernard W. Schmitt’s pectoral cross, representing his role and responsibility as teacher. Bishop Schmitt began this annual event in 1995.
The following individuals will receive the Bishop’s Cross:
Father Edward M. Bell received a Master of Divinity Degree from St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore and was ordained a priest May 23, 1964, by Bishop Joseph H. Hodges at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling, W.Va. Father Bell served as the guidance counselor at Central Catholic High School in Wheeling and associate pastor at Corpus Christi Parish in Wheeling from 1964-1966. He was principal at Madonna High School in Weirton, W.Va., from 1966-1971. Father Bell served as the guidance director/spiritual director at St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary in Vienna, W.Va., from 1971-1980 and director of the St. Joseph Pastoral Center in Vienna from 1976-1981. He was the vicar forane of the Parkersburg Vicariate from 1980-2004. Father Bell was the pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Parkersburg, W.Va. from 1980-2004 and was involved with Parkersburg Catholic High School and Parkersburg Catholic Elementary School for those 24 years. Father Bell retired from active ministry in June 2004.
Patrice Bobbin has been a teacher at St. Francis de Sales School in Beckley, W.Va., for the past 22 years. She holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Concord College in Athens, W.Va. Bobbin has served as the chairperson of the Math Department, coordinator of Math Field Day and St. Jude’s Math-A-Thon. She is also the coach of the cross country team at St. Francis de Sales. She is a lector and Eucharistic Minister of Holy Communion at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Beckley and a member of the Ladies of Knights of Columbus. Bobbin and her husband, Henry, have one daughter, Amilee.
Danny Vance has been involved at St. Joseph Catholic School in Huntington, W.Va., for over 25 years. He served as president of the advisory school board and financial chairperson for the capital campaign to build a new grade school and to buy property to expand the playground and activity building. Vance also served as a member of the parish council, men’s club, parish renewal committee and financial committee at St. Joseph Parish in Huntington. He is currently the president of the St. Joseph School Board, a member of the St. Joseph Parish Council, an executive board member of the Huntington Chamber of Commerce and a board member of the Western Region of Catholic Charities West Virginia. Vance was formerly a board member of the City Mission, Mountwest Community College and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Vance and his wife, Barbara, have two children, Christy and Catherine; and five grandchildren, Joe, Caroline, Connor, Sara and Anna.
Tom Wise has served as principal of Bishop Donahue Memorial High School in McMechen, W.Va., since August 2011. He is a graduate of Wheeling College and received his master’s degree in guidance counseling from West Virginia University. Wise has been involved with Bishop Donahue for the past 30 years where he has served the school in many roles including assistant principal, counselor, teacher, development director, dean of discipline, National Honor Society moderator, tech club moderator as well as head coach and assistant coach of football and basketball. Wise and his wife, Jill, are parishioners of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Moundsville, W.Va.
In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Bishop’s Dinner, 126 previous Bishop’s Cross recipients have been invited to this year’s dinner.
Bransfield will also present the Aquinas Medal to 28 students from Catholic schools throughout the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and Wheeling Jesuit University. Medal recipients have been chosen in recognition of their outstanding qualities of faithful discipleship, academic excellence, leadership and service to school, parish and community, reflecting the ideals of Catholic education epitomized by St. Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic patron saint of students.
Bransfield will celebrate Mass at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Morgantown at 10 a.m. April 6. Immediately following Mass, the formal program will begin with a reception at the Morgantown Event Center and will conclude with a dinner and the presentations. Reservations are required and can still be made by contacting Donna Clark at (304) 233-0880, ext. 316. The cost is $50 per ticket.
The West Virginia Knights of Columbus are sponsoring the Aquinas Medal presentation at this year’s event. Over the past 19 years, the Knights have contributed nearly $185,000 to the Catholic schools program.
This year, Highmark West Virginia is sponsoring the Bishop’s Cross presentation. This new partnership will benefit the students of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s schools for years to come.