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  Principal of St. Joseph Catholic School in Manhattan wins prestigious Bishop Kaffer Award from Lewis University

Colleen Domke, principal of St. Joseph Catholic School in Manhattan, has been named the 2021 recipient of the Bishop Roger L. Kaffer Outstanding Principal Award from Lewis University.

The honor serves as the premier accolade for Diocese of Joliet principals.

Granted by Lewis University’s Institute for the Advancement of Catholic and Lasallian Education, the annual award recognizes a Catholic school principal in the Diocese of Joliet for visionary leadership based on a nomination from his/her pastor and recommendations from peers. The award celebrates the legacy of Bishop Kaffer, who served as rector of the former St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Romeoville for five years, and principal of what is now known as Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox for 15 years. He also served as an auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Joliet from 1985 until his death in 2002.

Michael Boyle, superintendent of the Catholic Schools Office of the Diocese of Joliet, applauded Domke for her innovative guidance and management skills.

“Colleen exemplifies the best of Catholic education,” Boyle said. “We are blessed to have her leadership in the Diocese of Joliet.”

The Rev. John Lindsey, pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church and School, noted Domke began her tenure at the school in 2014 during financially challenging times.

“She brought together teachers, school board members, key parents and community leaders to join forces to reverse our school’s decline,” Lindsey wrote in his recommendation.

He also commended Domke for implementing new programs for teaching math and language arts.

Dana Berg, principal of Bishop McNamara Catholic School in Bradley, praised Domke’s ingenious techniques, calling her an “out-of-the-box thinker who imagines creative solutions for problems at her school.”

Domke was surprised with the award earlier this fall by the entire St. Joseph Catholic School community. She will be honored at a Mass on Tues., Nov. 9  at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Manhattan.

Domke attends St. Boniface parish in Monee. She previously served as principal and teacher at St. Damian School in Oak Forest, and taught at St. Christopher School, Midlothian; the former St. Isidore School, Blue Island; and St. Linus School, Oak Lawn. She earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from St. Xavier University in Chicago.

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