A Publication of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Oakland
Catholic Voice Online Edition
Front Page In this Issue Around the Diocese Letters News in Brief Calendar Commentary

U.S. Catholic bishops: Catholic schools a ‘sound education rooted in the Gospel message’
Principal and renowned singer to receive Seton Awards
O’Dowd teacher one of six NCEA recipients of national honor
Catholic school in San Lorenzo is proudest accomplishment of parish Women’s Club
Carondelet High School grief group helps students cope with death of parents
Holy Names High senior: My vision for Oakland’s youth
Students bridge digital divide in exchange program
Moreau Catholic High named an Apple Distinguished School
St. Clement School honored for its wide use of technology in learning
What was the greatest value you learned in Catholic school?
Oakland cathedral has on-line teaching tools
National campaign to add more Hispanics in Catholic schools
Catholic school fifth-grader in Mississippi voices Tiana in ‘The Princess and the Frog’


Catholic Voice
  January 25, 2010   •   VOL. 48, NO. 2   •   Oakland, CA
Principal and renowned singer
to receive Seton Awards

A Bay Area opera singer and a Hayward school principal are the 2010 recipients of the Saint Elizabeth Seton Award, given annually by the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools.

Armond Seishas

Armond Seishas said he was shocked, and then humbled, by the news that he had been selected to receive the Seton Award.

“I feel very honored, especially since I know there are many who are deserving in this diocese,” he told The Voice.

For the past 12 years Seishas has served as principal at St. Joachim School in Hayward, a place that has special meaning for the veteran Catholic educator. He graduated from the school in 1972 and is a lifelong member of the parish. He described his long association at his alma mater as “truly a blessing.”

“The school and parish community of St. Joachim has a long tradition of excellence, exemplifying gospel values and Catholic tradition,” he said. “I am so very fortunate to be part of the pastoral leadership of the parish. At the same time it is an awesome responsibility to continue the great work of the school at which I have so many fond memories.”

Seishas, 53, was drawn to education for two reasons — his faith and the opportunity to contribute to the academic and spiritual lives of young people. He likes the opportunity to interact with students on a daily basis and encourage them to reach beyond their potential and “prepare them for a challenging world.”

Seishas said he receives both support and inspiration from his family, including Pam, his wife of 28 years, their son Andrew, and his mother Alzira. His role model is his brother Paul, who began his teaching career at Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High School and is now at Jesuit High School in Carmichael. “Paul taught me about living one’s faith and being dedicated to the students for whom we work.”

Seishas was nominated for the Seton Award by Dana Bayer, associate principal at St. Joachim School, on behalf of the school’s faculty. They credited Seishas for building and nurturing a community of faith by “creating opportunities for students to pray together and participate in service opportunities.”

Seishas brings his skills as a musician (piano and guitar) into the classrooms each week, teaching liturgical music. He also directs the school choir.

“My goal is to prepare them for their role as full, conscious and active participants in the liturgy as called for by Vatican II,” he said. “Children love to worship and are such quick learners. Their joy and love of God comes out through their voices.”

Elizabeth Guneratne, principal at neighboring St. John School in San Lorenzo, said in her nomination letter that her colleague is always sharing his gifts, bringing out the best in others and empowering them to “contribute and grow.”

Seishas has been a moral and spiritual support for countless others, including herself, Guneratne said. “This is who Armond is for so many people: he shows up, he listens, and he walks with you. He consoles and he inspires. He reminds us of why we are doing what we are doing.”

Frederica von Stade

Frederica von Stade, internationally renowned mezzo soprano who directs a children’s choir at St. Martin de Porres School in West Oakland, and Armond Seishas, principal of St. Joachim School in Hayward, will receive their awards Feb. 22 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of Christ the Light, with a reception following in the Conference Center.

Named for Mother Elizabeth Seton, the first American born saint and founder of the Catholic school system, the Seton Award honors individuals who best typify the spirit of the Catholic school in its traditions of proclaiming the Word, building community and rendering service.

Von Stade fulfills those requirements in every way, said Religious of the Sacred Heart Sister Barbara Dawson, president of St. Martin de Porres School, in nominating von Stade. She is “simply a generous, committed and very genuine woman who exemplifies the living of the Gospel in everyday life. While some people view her as a famous opera singer, the children of St. Martin de Porres know her only as a faithful friend and someone who is always ready to bring them into the world beyond West Oakland.”

A passionate proponent of music programs for all children, von Stade has been volunteering as a choir director at the school for over two years. She first arrived at the school the day after meeting Sister Dawson at a diocesan scholarship fundraising dinner and learned that St. Martin de Porres had no music program. Von Stade quickly launched a kindergarten through fifth grade choir. She meets weekly with the group.

Last year, she invited several students to accompany her to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. to sing for Senator Ted Kennedy’s 77th birthday. To help pay for their travel expenses, von Stade staged a benefit performance at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.

On a regular basis, von Stade brings small groups of children to the opera in San Francisco so they can experience the beauty of this art form.

Sister Dawson said the singer, a member of St. Joseph Basilica Parish in Alameda, helps raise funds for the regional school, and “is always thinking of the needs of our kids. She seems to really empathize with the joys, challenges and sufferings of our kids and then she always tries to find ways to make their lives more livable.”

During a Voice interview last year, von Stade talked about the positive impact music has on human beings. ‘It is so good for the soul. With music you get stature, discipline, expression, and all of that is good for everybody.”

In 1961, von Stade graduated from the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Connecticut, a school operated by Sister Dawson’s religious community. She earned a degree from the Mannes School of Music in New York City and later received a contract from Sir Rudolf Bing during Metropolitan Opera auditions. Since her debut in 1970 she has built up a large repertoire of roles.

She won critical acclaim for her role as the mother of convicted murderer Joseph De Rocher in “Dead Man Walking” with San Francisco Opera in 2000. Her 2008-2009 season included recital appearances in Denver, Chicago, Cleveland, Singapore and San Francisco.

She is also known for numerous benefit recitals. Her most recent was at a Jan. 24 concert at Oakland’s cathedral to raise funds for Catholic Relief Services aid work in quake-devastated Haiti.

To attend the Seton Awards ceremony and reception, e-mail Cielo Branco at sdept@csdo.org, or phone (510) 628-2154.

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