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Light of God Award for Educators

The Church of the Immaculate Conception, together with Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata High School, is blessed to congratulate our 2024 Lux Dei Award Honorees
Posted on 02/01/2024

At Immaculate Conception School and Immaculata High School, educators and students come together each day to participate in the formation of faith, inspire academic excellence, and promote social growth. While students are at the heart of the schools, the schools’ mission would not be fulfilled without a dedicated faculty. In February 2023, Monsignor Joseph Celano, Pastor and Director of Schools of the Immaculate Conception, began the tradition of recognizing one staff member from Immaculate Conception School and one staff member from Immaculata High school during Catholic Schools Week for their exemplary commitment to the sacred mission of Catholic education. This year, the award was renamed the “Lux Dei Award,” or the “Light of God Award.” 

In the early weeks of 2024, both schools invited their communities to play an integral role in the nomination process, and soon after began receiving countless nominations highlighting the dedication and excellence of the schools’ educators. Two individuals - Mrs. Cecilia Cullen, Music Teacher & Liturgy Director at Immaculate Conception School, and Mrs. Nancy Bonham, AP English Teacher at Immaculata High School - received an abundance of nominations that articulated their outstanding service, and the impact they have had on the lives of  hundreds and hundreds of children. The Light of Christ consistently shines through these two teachers’ personal examples, their priorities, their teaching, and their leadership. As such, Mrs. Cullen and Mrs. Bonham have been named as the 2024 recipients of the Lux Dei Award. 

Mrs. Cecilia Cullen, 2024 Lux Dei Award Recipient
Mrs. Cullen has impacted every single student that has attended Immaculate Conception School since 1995. For 29 years, she has taught students how to use the gift of their voice to praise God. She has dedicated a lifetime to creating, growing, and enhancing the ICS classroom music and vocal music programs. Throughout the preparation of weekly liturgies and special events, such as the Blue Mass, May Crowning, Veterans Day service, Grandparents Mass and reception, CSW Family Mass, Living Rosary for Life, Living Nativity, Living Stations of the Cross, among others, she rehearses, organizes, and orchestrates thousands of details behind the scenes to create some of the most memorable moments of our school years.

During sacramental preparation for First Penance, First Holy Communion and Confirmation, she has a direct impact on the beauty and richness of the ceremonies. She also prepares students for three concerts per year, and for the PreK, Kindergarten and 8th grade graduation ceremonies – in addition to teaching every student in the school. In her spare time, she can be found leading early morning rehearsals for Chorus and the Forensics Club, and she also dedicates countless hours towards organizing the school schedules, preparing school prayers, and serving on the HSA Board.

The sound of children lifting up their voices in songs of worship, patriotism, joy, and praise is a gift that ICS has enjoyed for decades –  Decades that included this teacher’s 5 children attending ICS, and now, the first 7 of her 13 grandchildren. For Mrs. Cullen’s unconditional dedication, her evident devotion, her unceasing effort, and her humble servitude, Immaculate Conception School is so very grateful.

Mrs. Nancy Bonham, 2024 Lux Dei Award Recipient
A long beloved teacher at Immaculata High School, Mrs. Bonham presently instructs AP Literature and AP Capstone courses, in addition to serving as the co-coordinator for Immaculata’s prestigious Marian Scholars Program. Teaching in her content area for many years, Mrs. Bonham has always been someone that students can go to when they may feel they have no place else to turn. One student recently said, “I knew she would listen and help me figure it out.” Her kindness is clear when you step into her classroom and the balance she is able to strike between the necessary work of the day, with the hustle and bustle of high school life, makes her students feel like they matter just as much as the lesson of the day. This kindness leads them to ask so much of her. 

Mrs. Bonham is asked to write a staggering amount of college recommendation letters each year, and she has proofread more college essays than anyone should have to endure in their lifetime. But she has done it all in love and, importantly, compassion for the time of life the students find themselves in. 
Dealing with a serious medical issue last academic year, this teacher often put her own health, comfort and even pain aside while keeping her students' success and classroom experience at the forefront. Surrounded by her team, she forged ahead in what was most certainly a difficult time in her own life. But always the consummate educator, made it a teachable moment for not just her students, but also for those who were witness to her heroic journey.  

Over the years, this educator has worn many hats at Immaculata. Teaching percussion for the marching band, building advanced academic programs that rival some of the best high school academic work in the country, working on countless subcommittees for accreditation, scheduling and various other needs and taking on the enormous task of welcoming, teaching and onboarding our newest Spartan educators. Her talents have been a gift to the Immaculata Family. 

When not in the Chapel or her classroom, she is found spending time with her family, her son Jack and daughter Casey, both ICS and IHS graduates, and her husband Dan of many years. For Mrs. Bonham’s endless and unceasing dedication to the mission of Catholic education, Immaculata High School is so very grateful.