Reverend Stephen Dudek, pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Wyoming and canonical administrator of San Juan Diego Academy (SJDA), has been honored with the National Catholic Education Association’s (NCEA) 2022 Lead. Learn. Proclaim. Award at this year’s NCEA convention in New Orleans.
“NCEA commends the extraordinary efforts, contributions and achievements of these exceptional leaders in Catholic education,” said Lincoln Snyder, NCEA President/CEO. “They are recognized as ambassadors of faith formation and academic excellence imparting the fullness of the Church’s faith for all of us working in Catholic school education.”
Rev. Dudek was one of 13 honorees from across the nation. Rosa Fraga, the first principal of SJDA and diocesan Catholic school board member, said it so beautifully in her nomination video, “In the early 2000s, many Catholic schools were closing due to low enrollment and ever-increasing operational costs. The time came when his parish, Holy Name of Jesus, was ready to make that same decision.
But Fr. Steve had a vision. Every Sunday, he saw growing numbers of children at the Spanish- speaking Mass. He noticed the very recent Latino immigrants who were quickly moving into the neighborhoods near the church. They were hard working and faithful Catholics, but their poverty proved to be a challenge and very few, if any, had ever attended a Catholic school themselves. The reason they came to America was to provide a better life for their children. What better way to do that then to provide them with a Catholic school education!
This is where the idea of San Juan Diego Academy came from. Instead of closing the parish school, Fr. Steve dreamed of turning it into an affordable Catholic school for neighborhood Latino children. The school faced numerous obstacles, opposition, and challenges on the road to opening. Today, San Juan Diego Academy enrolls around 200 students in K-8 and its 8th grade graduates go on to attend high school and college, usually a first for their families.
He made sure this was a collaborative and inclusive labor of love which extended beyond the parish, the diocese and even outside the state. SJDA is no longer just a parish school. It is a beacon of hope for new immigrant families!”
Please join us in congratulating Rev. Dudek on this prestigious award!