Bryan Hooper named 2014 Religious Educator of the Year

Over the past ten years, the Catholic Foundation has recognized outstanding educators in the Archdiocese as an extension of its focus on education.  At the Catechetical Congress held at the Catholic Pastoral Center recently, the Foundation awarded the 2014 Archbishop Paul S. Coakley Religious Educator of the Year Award to Bryan Hooper, the Outreach Ministries Coordinator at St. John Nepomuk Church, Yukon.

Bryan is the quintessential religious educator that portrays Christ in every aspect of adult religious education. He has been instrumental in several parish education opportunities at St. John Nepomuk and demonstrates his commitment to the Parish religious education program. In 2013 Bryan received an undergraduate degree in Pastoral Ministry and is currently seeking his Masters in Pastoral Ministry through the Aquinas Institute of Theology. Bryan began his teaching as a catechist shortly after completing the RCIA program and entering the Church in 2010. He is now the Parish RCIA team Leader and has led over 120 individuals into the Catholic faith. His work includes the organizing the content of the Inquiry phase, oversight of the RCIA curriculum, classroom sessions, field trips and our Easter Vigil Service. He provides solid teaching coupled with insightful guest speakers to help promote our Catholic faith. Bryan also is one of the Core Team Members for the parish’s Men’s Ministry, including bringing in the “That Man is You” program. His nominator said he recruited Bryan as the Coordinator of the Outreach Ministries at the parish to help each of the ministry leads focus on our Parish priorities and evangelization efforts. He said, “Bryan is truly committed to our Parish religious education program, fostering discipleship, and bringing Christ to our parishioners.

The finalist for the 2014 Religious Educator of the Year Award also included Shirley Holleman, RCIA team leader at Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Chandler and Mary Long, 5th Grade Catechist at St. Peter Church, Guymon. The award winner and two finalists were selected from nominees submitted earlier this summer and were interviewed in late August by the selection committee. The accomplishments and dedication of all three finalists made the choice of a winner an extremely difficult task.

Finalist Shirley Holleman is has been the backbone of the RCIA team at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Chandler for approximately 22 years. Before that, she taught religious education to the parish children while her own children were young. Her nominator says it is impossible to calculate just how many unselfish hours she has devoted to her volunteer job at the church, including preparing lessons, instructing, encouraging and inspiring catechumens and candidates; leading team meetings and coordinating events in preparation for the rigorous RCIA schedule and the various liturgical rites celebrated each year for those entering into full communion with the church. She is primarily responsible for keeping the RCIA program at Our Lady of Sorrows Church alive and thriving over the years. The nominator goes on to say that Shirley is a straight shooter, a go-getter, and an awesome prayer warrior. She doesn’t sugar coat anything, rather she tells it like it is – with love. She has never known a more humble, caring, giving, faith-filled Catholic woman who represents the Catholic Education mission and deserving of this award.”

Finalist Mary Long is the 5th Grade Religious Education teacher at St. Patrick Church in Guymon. She has taught in her parish for 30 years and the last 25 years with 5th graders. She has also assisting with Vacation Bible School as a catechist for the past 10 years. She does this while traveling about 27 miles from the family farm into Guymon parish weekly.  She serves on the parish Christian Formation Advisory Council and holds the Archdiocesan Catechist Certification. Her nominator says that Mary is a faithful practicing Catholic who is serious about her own ongoing faith formation by participating in parish missions, retreats and adult education programs. She diligently prepares lessons, adapting them for each year’s unique class. She mentors prospective catechists, works well with other teachers, and shares successful teaching strategies and projects with other catechists and parents. Her inclusive teaching methods enriches children in a variety of ways, incorporating inclusive practices and addressing the needs of all of our children no matter what their developmental stages, intelligence levels, family/social situations, physical development, and cultural/and/language differences.”

In making the presentation of the awards, Catholic Foundation President Karen Reiger said, “the Catholic Foundation is most honored and grateful to all of the nominees for their great contribution to Religious Education in the Archdiocese.”  The Award winner receives a $500 Award and a $5000 grant for his parish’s Religious Education Department.  There will also be a reception held at his parish in his honor as soon as it can be scheduled. The Finalists also receive a $500 Award.

Deborah Bergman named Catholic Schools Educator of the Year

 At the annual Teacher’s Fall Institute held at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Oklahoma City, the Catholic Foundation awarded its 2014 Archbishop Paul S. Coakley Catholic School Educator of the Year Award to Deborah Bergman. Deborah has been the Kindergarten Teacher at Sacred Heart School for the past 12 years. She is an exceptional educator and a highly respected member of the school faculty for the past 17 years. She is passionate about teaching and providing the best for her students. She loves her vocation as a Catholic school teacher and continues to work to learn more by attending continuing education courses. Deborah continues to integrate technology in the classroom including the use of the Mimio interactive whiteboard technology in her lessons and freely shares her time and many gifts with her colleagues. She served on a team to design a new report card for preschool and kindergarten that is easier for teachers to use and which provides clear information for parents. She has worked hard to implement the English Language Learners curriculum for her predominately Hispanic students. For the last five years, Deborah has had all students in her class reading books, and taking comprehensive tests on the Accelerated Reader computer program. Her nominator said, “Our Sacred Heart Community is greatly enriched by having the opportunity to work with Ms. Berman. She is a respected leader in our school and generously gives her time and expertise to make Sacred Heart Catholic School an extraordinary faith and learning community.”

Annually, the Catholic Foundation of Oklahoma supports many educational programs within the Archdiocese including the Catholic School Educator of the Year Award along with the Religious Educator of the Year Awards. Early in September nominations were narrowed down to three finalists from which the Foundation Committee selected an ultimate Award winner. In addition to Deborah Bergman, the Finalists for the 2014 Catholic School Educator of the Year Award are Amy Feighny, Electives Teacher and Assistant Principal at Christ the King School in Oklahoma City and Clyde Grover, chairman of the Theology Department and theology teacher at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School in Oklahoma City. The award winner receives a $500 award and her school receives a $5000 grant from the Catholic Foundation and a reception in her honor at her school. The finalists also receive a $500 award.


Finalist Amy Feighny has been the Electives Teacher and Assistant Principal at Christ the King School for the past 15 years.  She gives generously of her time and many talents to her students and their family. She is always willing to assist at the school in any way possible without concern for the amount of time involved. She helps new families and students feel a part of the community, and she coordinated assistance efforts after our school tragedy and during the recent illnesses of a school parent and faculty spouse by arranging for meals and helping the students with school work during this difficult time.  Amy offers her own time during the summer vacation to organize for the coming school year. Besides her teaching and academic responsibilities she has served as the Feed the Hungry coordinator and assists those students who need extra help and understanding by spending one-on-one time with them.  Her nominator said, “Amy Feighny never complains and is always willing to help in any way.”  

Finalist Clyde Grover has been teaching at Bishop McGuiness for the past 18 years. After retiring from the military, Clyde joined the faculty as an Economics teacher. He assumed the 9th grade Counselor position and was integral in working with incoming 9th graders and their families. In 2004, Clyde moved into the Theology department as Campus Minister, organizing class retreats, supervising the Kairos retreat, overseeing the Christian Service program and facilitating the All School Mass schedule and weekly liturgies and prayer services. In 2007, Clyde returned to the classroom and assumed the position of chairman of the Theology Department. Last year he completed his 4-year Diaconate program and was ordained a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese. In his role as deacon, he is able to teach the Gospel in an entirely new dimension to both our students and his parish family of St. Andrews in Moore. His nominator said, “Clyde humbly models his faith by the way he lives, worships and discerns God’s will and interacts with our school community. I have met no one more committed to their faith, family, the Church and Catholic education than Clyde. We have been truly blessed to have him as part of our school family.”

In presenting the awards, Catholic Foundation President Karen Rieger said, “all of the teachers nominated are superb examples of what Catholic Teachers should be -- living examples of teachers as Jesus taught. They are dedicated role models for their students and are all to be commended.”