Lumen Gentium Award Winner Profile

Catholic educators are witnesses of faith, married life

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Over the next several weeks, Rhode Island Catholic will feature profiles of the 15 winners in the 10 categories of the diocese’s 2016 Lumen Gentium Awards. The honorees will be awarded during a dinner at Twin River Event Center in Lincoln on Wednesday, May 18. Guests wishing to purchase tickets to the dinner — whose proceeds will benefit St. Martin de Porres Multi-Purpose Center and Fruit Hill Day Care for Seniors — are asked to register online at www.dioceseofprovidence.org/lumen-gentium-awards. For any questions about the event, please call 401-277-2121.

PROVIDENCE — Ron and Veronica Procopio, recipients of this year’s Lumen Gentium Award in Catholic Education, have dedicated their entire lives to serving the students and families of Catholic schools. Whether through her position as principal of Woodlawn Catholic Regional School, Pawtucket, or his position as music teacher at St. Margaret School, Rumford, as well as music minister and RCIA catechist at St. Margaret Church, the Procopios see in their role as educators a responsibility to minister to those in need of faith.

“Faith is so lacking in our world and in our students,” said Veronica. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to work with the children and help them see the good in the world.”

For Veronica Procopio, her love of Catholic education began during her first days at St. Margaret School, the same school where her husband now serves as music teacher.

“From my early days at St. Margaret’s School as a student, I always wanted to be a teacher,” she said.

She studied at Providence College and has spent most of her career as a Catholic educator as teacher and principal at Woodlawn Catholic Regional School, where she helps students from a range of backgrounds succeed academically and spiritually as children of God. She sees the students’ faith as an important part of their early development.

“The challenges that our children come to school with are sometimes heart-wrenching, and what do they have but their faith?” she said. “What happens in elementary school is a real strong foundation for life.”

For Ron Procopio, becoming a music teacher was a dream he had since childhood. However, he never thought about music ministry or teaching in a Catholic school until the age of 13, when a religious sister at his parish invited him to play the organ for Mass. From then on, music, teaching and the Catholic faith became inseparable parts of his life, ones that have guided him through a fruitful career in both the parish and Catholic schools.

“I loved every minute of it,” he said of his early music ministry. “I’ve always had a love for the Church. Everything I do in music ministry or in school has to do with the Church.”

In addition to dedicating their lives to Catholic education and parish ministry, the Procopios serve as an example of the vocation of marriage in their constant support of each other’s efforts to live as ministers of the faith. According to Msgr. John Darcy, who nominated them for the award, Ron and Veronica are shining examples of Christian values lived through both their professional and married lives.

“I can think of no better way to acknowledge the joint blessings of Catholic education and traditional Catholic marriage than the witness of Ron and [Veronica] Procopio to the entire Diocese of Providence,” he said. “I believe presenting the Catholic Education award to such an outstanding Catholic couple gives witness not only to their unquestioned dedication to formal Catholic education, but also to the dignity of Christian marriage as a font of education within Catholic married life.”

The Procopios want to acknowledge the support of the teachers and educators who work tirelessly behind the scenes to help children realize their full potential in Christ, without whom, they say, none of the good work of Catholic schools would be possible.

“There are so many people who are very deserving but don’t get an award because they’re not seen,” said Veronica. “Being in Catholic school, it’s part of the fabric of your life.”