Father Craig A. Collison
Father Craig A. Collison
April 21, 2014

Father Craig A. Collison, pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church of Sioux City and former teacher and administrator at Kuemper Catholic Schools, will receive the 2014 O'Neil D'Amour Award from the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) for his national contribution to Catholic education.

The O'Neil D'Amour Award is presented each year to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution of statewide, regional, national or international significance to boards of Catholic education. Collison will be recognized with this honor during a ceremony at the NCEA annual convention on Wednesday, April 23, in Pittsburgh, Pa.

Collison has done extraordinary work in reorganizing Catholic schools and administering two long-range strategic plans. Collison has served as a registrar, chief administrator and president at various secondary schools in the Diocese of Sioux City and has served for 11 years as a representative of Sioux City pastors. He served for nine years as the vice chairman on the Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools Board of Education.

The award honors Monsignor O'Neil Charles D'Amour who was special assistant on boards of education for NCEA and chair of the key superintendent's committee that proposed formation of the NCEA commission that became the National Association of Boards, Commissions, and Councils of Catholic Education. Because of his unique role in promoting participatory decision making in Catholic education through boards, Msgr. D'Amour is considered the "Father of the Catholic Board Movement in the United States."

Collison played key roles in creation of two education consortiums - Kuemper Catholic School System in Carroll and Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools in Sioux City.

Collison served two stints at Kuemper. From 1979 to '82 he taught freshman religion and was assistant pastor at St. Lawrence Church.

From 1994 to 2003 he chaired the Kuemper theology department, and he was school president the last three years, while he also was pastor at St. Mary Church in Willey.

Collison was directed by the bishop to create the Kuemper Catholic School System, which consolidated Holy Spirit, St. Lawrence, Holy Trinity and Christ the King Grade Schools as well as Kuemper High Schoool.

"It was unique in the sense we tried to help everyone have representation on the board until we got Kuemper Catholic School System off the ground," Collison said in a phone interview last week. "I was charged by the bishop to get that all put together so that we could get a start, and start to grow."

Collison, who was assigned to Sacred Heart Parish 11 years ago, added, "I did bascially the same thing here in Sioux City in developing the Bishop Heelan Catholic Schools.

At Sioux City, he said, several school boards all were "trying to co-exist."

The diocese's former bishop, Daniel DiNardo, brought Collison and other pastors who had strong school experience to Sioux City parishes.

"I'd just been through the Kuemper experience of trying to bring that system to birth," he said.

Sioux City Heelan Catholic Schools was created from consolidation of the various grade schools with Heelan High School.

"So we have one board making policy for the entire system," Collison said.

He explained reasoning behind the consortiums, "We could do a lot of things centrally as far as administration is concerned. Schools were getting so small in some areas, for them to be viable this was a way, by sharing a lot of things together and becoming one school. Hiring is done out of one place, general administration is done out of one place, and there's some central purchasing.

"It means we could rely on each other within a system more easily than everyone trying to do everything and trying to afford everything. Plus, with the parishes, this way their investments financially and otherwise came together and are working together, not having to invest financially in their own schools and a high school."

NCEA's convention, held this year in collaboration with the Diocese of Pittsburgh, is the largest private education association gathering in the country. It draws participants from all facets of Catholic education, including elementary and secondary schools, education boards, religious-education programs, and colleges and universities. The event features professional-development sessions, liturgies and an exhibition of educational products and services.

This year's keynote speakers include Cardinal Donald Wuerl, archbishop of Washington, D.C., and author of the best-selling catechisms, "The Teaching of Christ" and "The Catholic Way," who will discuss the New Evangelization; and Robert Marzano, Ph.D., co-founder and CEO of Marzano Research Laboratory in Colorado, who will explore the art and science of teaching.

NCEA, founded in 1904, is a professional membership organization that provides leadership, direction and service to fulfill the evangelizing, catechizing and teaching mission of the church. NCEA's members include elementary schools, high schools, boards, parish religious education programs and seminaries.

Collison said of the award, "I'm very surprised. It's just doing every day what God's blessed you to do, and this really came out of the blue. It's deeply appreciated."

A native of Boone, Collison, 61, has for many years enjoyed public-address work at school sports events as well as State High School Basketball Tournament in Des Moines. He currently announces many events for Heelan High School, Briar Cliff University and the Sioux City Explorers minor league baseball team.

His sister Mary Hughes teaches computer and science at Kuemper Catholic School's St. Lawrence Center (sixth through eighth grades).