The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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May 19, 2000 Issue
Local News

Leaving roof service to others

Appleton principal retires from school, but not from people service

By Linda DeVries
Compass Correspondent

How many school principals eat lunch on the school roof? How many play drums in a rock band? Or willingly get plunged more than 300 times into a dunk tank?

Sr. Mary Shawn Fagan, ANG, has done all of these and more in her 20-year tenure as principal at St. Pius X School in Appleton. She will retire from that post at the end of this school year. A farewell Mass will be held at 10:30 a.m., Sunday, May 21, followed by a luncheon. Students and former students will crowd the parish hall.

"I love children," Sr. Shawn said. "I was a teacher before I became a principal, and I didn't want my ministry of administration to make me lose touch with the children. I've tried to remain visible and interact with the children. I've enjoyed watching them develop over the years, both in their faith life and academically."

"In her 20 years of leadership in the educational ministry here, Sr. Mary Shawn has truly modeled the spirit of St. Francis," said Fr. Don Zuleger, pastor of St. Pius. "I think the fact that many teachers have been here 10 to 15 years shows that she has maintained a work environment that inspires people to longevity."

Born in Detroit, Sr. Shawn joined the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity in Manitowoc at age 14. She got her Bachelor of Science degree at Silver Lake College and then a master's in education from Mary Grove College in Detroit. Thirteen years ago, she left the Manitowoc order to join the Sisters of A New Genesis, but her career in education continued.

Over the years, she has taught almost every grade from first through seventh, all but two of those years in the Green Bay Diocese. Before coming to St. Pius, she served as principal at St. Joseph and Corpus Christi Schools in Sturgeon Bay and St. Rose in Clintonville. In 1990, she was named Principal of the Year for the diocese.

Sr. Shawn has witnessed many changes in education, including St. Pius changing from a parish-based school with kindergarten through eighth grades to join other schools in the Appleton Catholics Education System (ACES). Now St. Pius School has pre-kindergarten through fifth grades as part of ACES.

"ACES has been a wonderful thing for us," she said. "Our school has grown in enrollment since we joined, both because our parish is growing and because ACES schools are recognized as giving a quality education."

Sr. Shawn has also enjoyed working with parents. "We try to make parents feel welcome and appreciated. When they get involved, our teachers feel loved and supported. Two years ago, parents decorated the school offices, and they faithfully provide treats for the faculty each week."

"Our school motto is to ask, 'What would Jesus do?'" said Sr. Shawn. "One year, we gave the children bracelets as reminders. I want to help kids become the best they can be. I've seen children completely turned around because someone believed in them."

Nor will she slow down when she retires. She plans to embark on two new careers. For 20 hours a week, she will serve as St. Pius parish volunteer coordinator, and she will also work part-time as a certified pharmacist technician. Over the last two years, she studied on-line to become certified, and she shadowed a pharmacist to gain hands-on experience.

"I'm a people person," she said, "and I want to continue to work with people."

"We're really excited to have her join the parish staff," Fr. Zuleger said. "As a member of St. Pius, she's been the progenitor of service and outreach activities. She works tirelessly behind the scenes for the good of others. Her spirit and simple style bring people together and draw out their own God-given giftedness."

So, what about eating lunch on the roof? During the school's annual fundraiser, the children ask Sr. Shawn to do something unusual if they meet their goal. One year, she found herself eating lunch on the roof, while the children ate in the grass below.

Will she miss it? The roof, probably not. The kids, definitely so.

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