By Arlene Edmonds

Special to The CS&T

Sister of St. Joseph William Adele, principal of St. Luke the Evangelist School in Glenside, received the prestigious 2009 Robert J. Kealey Distinguished Principal Award from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) recently. She will be presented the actual honor at the Elementary Department Awards Banquet to be held in Anaheim, Calif., in April. It is a culmination of Sister William’s educational career that began 43 years ago when she became an elementary school teacher.

Perhaps no one is more excited about this tribute than the honoree herself. Though she considers herself “a seasoned principal” who has effectively integrated management and leadership, her primary focus is the faith formation of her students. She also leads by example in reaching out to the surrounding community and engaging in service projects.

“I am just delighted and excited about this,” said Sister William. “It’s been a blessing being here at St. Luke School. The pastor is a wonderful leader who values education. He’s very visible and involved in the life of the school. We work together as a faculty, and I have the greatest staff. They have an unusual cooperative involvement. I am also blessed with great parents who are the P.R. (public relations) people. We have great kids, too, who work together toward those high goals we set for them.”

Sister William heard about the national honor at the school’s Christmas program last month. The school community decided to surprise her with a presentation. An astute principal, Sister William suspected she had won the award when she saw Mary Rochford, archdiocesan superintendent of schools, approach the stage. Still, Sister William had to take a few moments to regain her composure after the announcement was made.

“It was an awesome experience for the entire school,” she said. “I am amazed that so many kept it a secret, which is hard around here since we are so open. I was just thrilled for our school.”

Sister William has been principal of St. Luke’s for the past eight years. Before coming to St. Luke’s she was director of curriculum for the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education for four years, and served as principal of St. Matthew School in Conshohocken and Visitation B.V.M. School in Philadelphia. She also spent 13 years as a teacher at four other elementary schools.

An alumnus of Chestnut Hill College with a bachelor’s degree in education, Sister Adele earned her master’s degree in elementary education from Villanova University. She earned her curriculum supervisor certification and principal certification from St. Joseph’s University.

“I am a hands-on principal when it comes to the faith formation of our students,” said Sister William. “This is one area that provides me with the opportunity to be a teacher of religion. I believe that our children should learn the practices and customs of our faith in the elementary grades. Most recently, we have put our efforts toward enhancing the way we pray with children. I am intent on having our teachers understand that teaching prayer or saying prayers is not the same as teaching children to pray … Each experience, while devotional, also teaches our children about the practices of their faith.”

Every fall Catholic school superintendents from around the nation are asked to nominate one principal from their Diocese or Archdiocese for the Robert J. Kealy accolade. From the large pool of submissions only 12 are chosen as finalists.

“Sister William excels at creating and sustaining a Catholic school culture of mutual support and collective responsibility for the religious, education and personal development of every student in the school,” said Rochford, in her Oct. 15 recommendation letter for the award. “Upon entering the doors of St. Luke School, the Catholic identity is immediately evident. The school’s commitment to service-oriented thinking at every grade level is outstanding.”

Other recommendation letters came from entrepreneur Thomas M. McDermott who noted that the school has “a God-centered atmosphere,” parent Beth Stierity who said the principal’s office has “an open door,” and teacher Elva M. FitzGerald who said the principal’s educational lead takes the educators “beyond the walls of this school” in “teaching leaders of tomorrow.”

In a Dec. 12 letter from the NCEA, Sister Edward William Quinn, I.H.M., congratulated Sister William on the distinction. “Your contribution to Catholic education over the last (43) years are truly impressive,” Sister Edward wrote. “The letters of recommendation that were received indicate your service and your commitment to Catholic education. You have been a source of great inspiration during your eights years at St. Luke.”

Arlene Edmonds is a freelance writer and St. Raymond of Penafort parishioner. She may be reached at