April 22, 2016 (CHICAGO) The Midwest Augustinians honored Ernie Mrozek, President of Saint Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago, for his outstanding commitment to Augustinian education. He was one of three to be honored at our fourth annual Augustinian Gala. He shared some great thoughts about the values that the Augustinians bring into our society after comedically explaining the advice his wife gave him in preparing his speech below:
I turned to my wife for advice and she said, “Don’t try to be charming, don’t try to be interesting, don’t try to be witty: just be yourself.” Now, think about that! Because that does not say much for your honoree.
This is an especially humbling honor because it comes from a group that I have such tremendous respect for, and because I know that there are so many others that are more deserving of this than I am. That would certainly include my colleagues at Saint Rita and they’re scattered around the room... Men and women who dedicated their careers at great economic sacrifice to make a quality Augustinian education available to all who are willing to work for it. I’d also like to thank my wonderful wife of 42 years-plus, Diane. My children Maggie and Matt and my family, very dear family. They’ve done an awful lot for me in my life, but especially important in this context was the encouragement and support they provided me when I decided to leave the business world after almost 40 years to return to Saint Rita to try to help contribute to the cause of inner-city Augustinian education.
You know, Father Tom McCarthy often tells our current students that they’re standing on the shoulders of the roughly 25,000 Ritamen that have come before them over our 111-year history. But the truth is, all 25,000 of us - particularly me - stand on the shoulders of Augustinians. Several hundred men who, during their lives at Saint Rita, were dedicated to building men of faith and character, developing them to their full and unique potential and preparing them to succeed not just in school but in all aspects of life.
You know, the Augustinians do a lot of great things. I’m just going to comment on a little bit about the education arena.
We’re in a world that’s faced with some very serious challenges, and I think that makes the centuries-old Augustinian philosophy of education more important and relevant than it’s ever been. It’s a non-elitist approach. It recognizes the unique skills and potential of every student. It’s called meeting them where they are and developing them where they can and need to be. Results are measured not just by grades and test scores - although those are important - but by the degree of achievement of each student’s unique potential. And that’s so important, guys. Don’t leave any kid behind. Don’t give up on any kid.
Their approach also recognizes the responsibility to develop the whole person - not just intellectually, but spiritually and emotionally as well. And aren’t we tired of leaders who are intellectually brilliant but lack emotional stability, strong values, or both? Our current slate of presidential candidates comes to mind when I think of those attributes… on both sides! Needless to say, none of them were trained by Augustinians! And as we look to the future, wouldn’t it be great if the media did a more balanced job publicizing and our society did a more equitable job rewarding those who teach, who inspire, and who dedicate their lives to helping others? People like Bishop Turley, Father Bernie, Father Tom, and all the other Augustinians in this room. Imagine if they and others like them were held up by society as role models for others to emulate and admire rather than some of the undeserving athletes, politicians, rock stars, Kardashians, and everyone else depicted as role models today in society. If we follow the lead of these true role models, maybe then we could look forward with greater optimism to the world that we’re leaving behind to our children and our grandchildren like my 2 ½ year-old granddaughter Sydney.
I want to thank the Augustinians for the positive impact they’ve had on so many lives, especially my own, and I ask all of you to be generous in supporting them in tonight’s worthy cause. And as always, Saint Rita pray for us. Thank you very much.