By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Bernardette and Lewis Harvey of Rowlett regularly recall the many reasons for their dedication to Catholic educations for their three children, Cameron, Corbin and Caleb.
The parents, whose children attended five Dallas Catholic schools, said they appreciate the inspiring school leadership and the focus on teaching the faith and values emphasized in the Harvey home.
A strong commitment to Dallas Catholic schools began for Bernardette, a Dallas native, with her parents, who attended St. Peter’s Academy, and intensified when she was a second-grader at St. Anthony Catholic School.
She praised the leadership, legacy and generosity of the late Sister Caroleen Hensgen, SSND, whose 24-year service as the superintendent of Dallas Catholic Schools began in 1967 and encompassed the Dallas Independent School District’s desegregation era.
“I was dyslexic, and I recall the loving care I received at St. Anthony and St. Ann Catholic schools,” said Bernardette, who at age 53 recently resumed a flight attendant career that had been on hold for decades. “Sister Caroleen told the nuns, ‘You will find a way to teach this child.’ She is my champion, my hero. The African-American Catholic community loved her. The Catholic schools are all about leadership.”
The pace-setting Sister Caroleen was the nation’s first woman to serve as superintendent of a Catholic school system, but the Harvey children also have been blessed with exceptional Catholic school leaders, Bernardette and Lewis said.
Among those they cited were St. Monica Catholic School principal Phil Riley, Bishop Dunne Catholic School president Kate Dailey and Jesuit College Preparatory School president Michael Earsing.
The Harveys’ son Cameron, a 2017 Jesuit graduate, is a freshman at Xavier University in Cincinnati, where he is studying business and entrepreneurship.
Daughter Corbin is a Bishop Dunne senior aiming to study art and behavioral science in college.
Son Caleb, a St. Monica graduate, is a sophomore at Jesuit, where he has been tapped for his leadership qualities and selected for the Class of 2020’s Initiative Team.
Legacy of learning
Since the children started at Good Shepherd Catholic School in Garland, each school’s gifts have suited the Harvey children, their parents said.
“Being at Bishop Dunne, Corbin has really come into herself as an African-American young woman,” said Bernardette, whose family belongs to St. Monica Catholic Church. “She has peers who are doing things to make her challenge herself more. Corbin has found herself and knows who she is.”
Sacrifices and successes
Bernardette and Lewis, who is an engineer from Rochester, New York, held as many as six jobs between them to assure their children of Catholic educations.
“We made sacrifices, such as never having been on a family vacation,” said Bernardette, who attended Bishop Lynch High School before graduating from Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. “But when Caleb mentions never having been on a vacation, I say, ‘Honey, you vacation nine months out of every year. Being able to go to a Catholic school is a vacation life.’ ”
But it is no picnic, academically—which is among the key merits of Catholic schools for the Harvey family.
“Cameron said he felt well-prepared for college,” Bernardette said. “He chose Xavier because he wanted to stay with the Jesuit tradition. When he was in the sixth grade, he told us he wanted to go to Jesuit because Jesuit really was a trailblazer, having integrated before the Civil Rights Movement.”
Jesuit, then known as Jesuit High School, became the first high school in Dallas to integrate when it admitted two African-American students in 1955, including Arthur Allen, whose family was close to Bernardette’s family.
Cameron said that his entire Catholic school experience rewarded him in and out of the classroom.
“My middle school helped prepare me for the challenging workload that soon followed in high school,” Cameron said. “My high school education has helped me develop a very good work ethic for college. Jesuit taught me so many great lessons, in and outside of the classroom.”
A family commitment
Riley, who became acquainted with the Harvey children when they attended St. Joseph Catholic School in Richardson when he served as principal there, said that the family exemplifies dedication to Catholic education.
“They’ve always made it a tremendous priority,” said Riley, who praised the parents’ volunteer work including Lewis’ football and basketball coaching. “I could not find better young people than all three of these kids. They have done their very best to honor their parents. As a principal, I always was happy to work with them to keep them in Catholic schools.”
Lewis said that keeping the children in Catholic schools presented financial and logistical problems.
“There have been a lot of sacrifices, many miles driven, and times when we didn’t know if we were coming or going,” said Lewis, who attended public schools. “But I would not hesitate one bit to do it again. I am so proud of the people my kids have become, and are becoming, with religion and God in their lives on a daily basis in school.
“We’ve had work layoffs and financial hardships. We also have had many Catholic community friends step up to help, and we have done the same.”
As her children represent her family’s third generation in Dallas Catholic schools, Bernardette said she cherishes her heritage.
Much has changed since her parents’ school days and her childhood: St. Peter’s Academy now is home to The Notre Dame School’s campus; St. Anthony became a charter school, and St. Ann Catholic School is no more.
But the Harveys are realizing their dreams.
Bernardette, who flies for Southwest Airlines three days a week, said that her family celebrated her return to her flight attendant career in the fall.
“I have worked so hard to give my children a good education so that they will be able to live out their dreams,” she said. “It also was very important for them to see me live mine. Dreams do come true.
“God blessed us to have our children where they belong.”
Look for more coverage of Catholic Schools Week 2018 in the Jan. 19 print edition of The Texas Catholic.