Edmonton, June 19, 2018 – Those who know Mike Paonessa describe him as a dedicated educator, an inspirational leader, and a man who authentically lives the Gospel call to serve others with compassion and mercy.

This year, Mike is being honoured by Newman Theological College as the 2018 recipient of the Kevin Carr Christian Leadership Award. The award, named for the first layperson to serve as president of the college, recognizes individuals whose outstanding Christian leadership reflects the values of the college and the qualities that Carr cherished and exhibited in his work.

“We are proud to recognize Mike Paonessa’s impressive record of Christian Leadership. As an educator, administrator and volunteer leader he has made a marked impact on the Catholic community and beyond,” said College President Jason West.

Mike Paonessa holds a master’s degree in Education Policy Studies from the University of Alberta and has worked as a teacher and administrator in Catholic schools for more than 30 years. Currently he serves as deputy superintendent at Evergreen Catholic Schools, but his philosophy of servant leadership extends to many roles.

He serves as a mentor and supporter for new administrators, teachers and chaplains. He leads the division’s indigenous education projects, including its response to the calls of action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Last year he was a driving force behind the collection of 7,500 pairs of new underwear that were given out to homeless and needy people at the Uplift Day of Mercy sponsored by Catholic Social Services.

Mike is also the division leader of the EXCEL (Excellence in Catholic Leadership) Academy, which provides advanced professional development in Catholic school leadership through a partnership with Newman Theological College. He is active in the Council of Catholic School Superintendents of Alberta, and for the last two years has chaired the Blueprints Retreat, an annual event for Catholic school administrators sponsored by the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association.

In nominating Mike for the Carr award, Evergreen Superintendent Cindi Vaselenak said she is regularly inspired by his love of learning and love of children. “He is intelligent, creative, intuitive, and able to create opportunities for people to be students of their faith,” she wrote.

“More than a trained classroom educator, Mike teaches me about compassion, understanding, kindness, mercy and how we each have a personal obligation to care for each other, as
Christ taught us.”

Karen Koester, another nominator and colleague at Evergreen Catholic Schools, said Mike keeps an open door and always has time to talk.

“When he is talking with a co-worker, Mike gives the person his complete attention and he is fully present in the moment. This is a most Christ-like quality in Mike that I greatly value,” she wrote. “When dealing with a problem, Mike is a skilled diplomat who always finds a way to work things out for the common good while protecting the dignity of all parties.”

Mike is an active member of St. Charles Parish, where he has been part of a group that regularly visits the Edmonton Remand Centre to pray the rosary with inmates. Last Christmas he organized a collection of chocolate bars for the inmates so that each would get at least one small gift. During Lent he volunteered to deliver hot beverages and soup to homeless people in the inner city, as part of a personal commitment to reach out to the marginalized.

Mike and his wife Rosie have three adult children, all of whom have followed his example into teaching careers.

He will be honoured at the 15th Annual Kevin Carr Christian Leadership Award Luncheon on October 24, 2018.

For more information contact:

Michelle Maxwell
Newman Theological College


Previous Recipients of the Kevin Carr Christian Leadership Award:

2017 – Sandra Prather
2016 – Joyce Tutt
2015 – Glen Argan
2014 – Marc Barylo
2013 – Mary Molloy
2012 – Kae Neufeld
2011 – Rosanna Saccomani, Q.C.
2010 – Ben Hochhausen
2009 – Sr. Annata Brockman
2008 – Don Zinyk
2007 – Hon. Douglas Roche, O.C.
2006 – Tim Spelliscy
2005 – Ernest Chauvet
2004 – Hon. Jean Forest