Father Clifford Smith, pastor of St. Mark the Evangelist Parish in Plano, has been named a 2013 Distinguished Pastor by the National Catholic Educational Association.
Father Smith will accept the national award during a ceremony at the association’s annual convention April 2–4 in Houston.
Since becoming pastor of St. Mark’s in 2005, Father Smith has demonstrated “inspirational leadership and dedication to academic excellence,” according to his nominator. He teaches middle school classes such as creative writing and introduction to theater, offers sessions for teachers on Catholic theology and often visits the preschool for afternoon dismissal. He uses parish funds to provide tuition assistance for families who need it and provides scholarships to help St. Mark’s students attend Catholic high school. During his tenure, the school was named a National Blue Ribbon School for the second time.
Father Smith has established a communication format for parents with concerns that has been recommended as a model for other schools in the Diocese of Dallas. “We meet with the family together and we meet in the principal’s office,” said Principal Suzanne Bacot. “In this manner, major concerns are addressed, but within the structure of a team approach.”
For the past four years, Father Smith has directed the school Christmas pageant, preparing the script and making the props and costumes for the 45 students who acted out the Nativity story.
Father Smith is one of 12 pastors nationwide who have been chosen to receive NCEA’s Distinguished Pastor Award this year.
“Pastors offer spiritual leadership and vital support to the schools in their parishes, helping them succeed in their mission to educate students in an atmosphere of faith and academic excellence,” said Kathy Mears, executive director of the NCEA Department of Elementary Schools. “In honoring these individuals, we acknowledge the many pastors who provide outstanding support to Catholic education throughout the United States.”