St. Gabe's Pastor John Haney Earns Elite National Honor
National Catholic Educational Association recognizes Father Haney as one of eight "Distinguished Pastors" nationwide.
The National Catholic Educational Association selected St. Gabriel of the Sorrowful Virgin Church and School's Father John R. Haney as one of eight "Distinguished Pastors" nationwide for 2010.
Haney, who turns 76 on April 6 and celebrates 50 years as a priest on May 20, has been with St. Gabriel's in the Borough of Whitehall for 27 years.
St. Gabe's Principal Barbara Sawyer nominated Haney in November as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh's entry in the NCEA competition. Sawyer gathered recommendation letters from faculty member Dane Ross, former St. Gabe's parent Paul Kay and Parish Council member Francis J. Nowalk (along with her own letter) as part of Haney's nomination. The nomination process also called for Sawyer to answer questions as to how positively involved Haney is with St. Gabe's School.
Haney was selected by the diocese as Pittsburgh's entry before then being chosen as one of the eight best Catholic pastors in the United States. He joins one pastor each from Evansville, Ind.; Tulsa, Okla.; Napa, Calif.; Rockport, Texas; Mundelein, Ill.; Brandon, Fla.; and South Bend, Ind.
Sawyer and Haney were notified of the honor on Jan. 6.
"I was shocked," Haney said. "I had heard about the award before, but I never thought that I would get it."
The NCEA Department of Elementary Schools describes the purpose of the award in its nomination materials as "honor[ing] pastors who have given outstanding support to Catholic elementary education."
"[Haney] is revered by all," Sawyer wrote in her recommendation letter, "and envied by most. It is not rare to hear, 'How does he do it?" when in the company of Catholic educators as they consider with wonder the non-tuition status of our school. As one who has observed him for the past 11 years, I can say that there is no magic, no unknown benefactor, no secret formula for his success. There is simply a man who loves his ministry more than life itself, whose humble beginnings have made him keenly aware of the value a Catholic education holds for families and their children as they journey toward eternal life."
"During his tenure," Nowalk wrote in his letter, "Fr. Haney has committed himself to providing a high quality, Catholic education to all children, regardless of their families' ability to pay, by urging all parishioners to support the school through the parish's tithing program. All members of the parish are encouraged to tithe as well as to give freely of their 'time, treasure and talent.' Through his prayer, determination and example, he has shepherded the parish through a number of financial crises and parishioners have responded time and time again. Thus, St. Gabriel School has remained one of the few tuition free Catholic elementary schools in the country."
Haney (accompanied by Sawyer) will be honored at an NCEA banquet in New Orleans on April 26.