Manuel and Cris Garcia Monsignor Michael Coughlan Founders Awards Manuel and Cris Garcia understand the value of a Catholic education and the importance of service, and they raised their children to carry on this legacy. For this reason, we have selected them to receive the Monsignor Michael Coughlin Founders’ Award Manny and Cris Garcia have been integral members of the St. Michael’s Church and School community for nearly 30 years. All five of their children, Manuel, Natalie, Peter, Grace, and David graduated from St. Michael’s School and all five children also graduated from Catholic High School – they were represented at Saint Augustine, the Academy of Our Lady of Peace, and Cathedral Catholic. In addition, two of the Garcia clan went on to attend Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH. Cris’ mother, who was an active supporter of the church and school, instilled a dedication to service in the Garcia family. While her children were enrolled at St. Michael’s, Cris was actively involved in the Scrip program, helping to raise money for school programs. She also served the church and school by serving on the Altar Server Committee. She is still active today as a Eucharistic Minister for the parish. Manny, too, was an active supporter of St. Michael’s School. Today he serves the church as a lector and is a member of the Men’s group. The Garcia children continue the model their parents provided as the four eldest children have chosen professions to help others: Manny is a teacher, Natalie and Grace are both nurses, and Peter works at Dynamic Catholic with Matthew Kelley. David, the youngest, has just graduated from Saints and will be attending college in the fall. We thank the Garcia family for their commitment to Catholic education and for the legacy they have established.
BRIGITTE BEAS PONCE Spirit of St. Michael Distinguished Alumni Award Brigitte Beas Ponce is the recipient of the Spirit of St. Michael Distinguished Alumni Award. Brigitte graduated from St. Michael’s School in 2001 where she served the school as Student Council President. The faculty remember Brigitte as an outgoing, personable, and highly gifted singer – she was even selected to sing the national anthem at a Padres game. Brigitte graduated from The Academy of Our Lady of Peace in 2005 and then headed to New York City where she completed a two-year musical theater program. She then transferred to Marymount Manhattan and graduated in 2010 with a degree in International Studies. After she completed her thesis in Honduras, she was inspired to move to Columbia, South America in 2011. It was there that she pioneered the opening of “Columbia Sin Fronterias,” a literacy school in a poor barrio in Santa Marta. She returned to San Diego to earn money and fundraiser for the school. It was at this time she began working with homeless deportees in Tijuana. In 2014, she approached our then pastor, Bishop John Dolan, for help from St. Michael’s Parish to give a deportee an extremely needed surgery. Her passion and mercy for the poor inspired Fr. John to create the Corporal Works of Mercy Ministry, of which Brigitte is now the Director. This ministry currently raises funds to support the literacy school in Columbia, as well as Mercy Prosthetics Program that she established Tijuana, where maimed people are given prosthetics free of charge with new hope for a productive life. Brigitte initiated a weekly team of parishioners to cross the border each week with supplies and teaching lessons for an understaffed orphanage and a soup kitchen that serves 1500 people a day. She has orchestrated young adult mission trips to Haiti and Columbia, the annual walkathon for the Lost Boys of Sudan, the two-week homeless shelter in the Holy Family Center and the annual brunch in September to raise funds for Life Choices pregnancy Center here in Poway. We are so proud of Brigitte for her work in serving the poor and marginalized. She truly is a Distinguished Alumni.
KATE WIEGELE Sister Celestine Callaghan Excellence in Catholic Education Award Kate Wiegele is the recipient of the Sister Celestine Callahan Excellence in Catholic Education Award. Kate has been serving the St. Michael’s Church and School community for 31 years. She was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She attended the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, where she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Elementary Education. She began her teaching career in the Milwaukee Public School System before she transferred to Catholic education – at St. Josephat, St. Cyril and Methodius, and finally at St. Mathias. In 1986, Kate and her husband Jim moved to Poway. Sr. Celestine hired her as a third grade teacher, where she has remained for the past 31 years. During that time, she gave birth to two children, Melissa and Matthew, both of whom graduated from St. Michael’s School. Melissa went on to graduate from The Academy of Our Lady of Peace and Matthew from Cathedral Catholic. Melissa currently lives and works in San Francisco, while Matthew and his beautiful new bride are just up the road in San Marcos. During her tenure at St. Michael’s School, Kate received her Master’s Degree in Education from USD with an emphasis in Curriculum and Instruction. In addition to teaching Third Grade for 31 years, Kate also served the parish as a Third Grade Religious Education teacher for 30 years. Hundreds of students benefitted from Kate’s passion not only for education, but also for our Catholic faith. Third graders learned about the sacraments, the importance of prayer, and about the Saints, who serve as role models for us all. Kate’s students also remember her passion for teaching cursive handwriting, the multiplication tables, as well as her extensive classroom library. But what students recollect the most is how she infused fun into her teaching. She brought National Pig Day to St. Michael’s School (which is on March 1), and her collections of snowmen, musical rats, and Queen memorabilia (to name a few), put smiles on the faces of children and parents alike. Kate is retiring from full-time teaching this year, but we are grateful that she will stay remain active in our parish and school community.