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St. Amelia School in the Town of Tonawanda continues to rack up national accolades.

Most recently, the National Catholic Educational Association has named Monsignor Thomas F. Maloney, longtime pastor of St. Amelia parish, as one of 12 distinguished pastors from across the country for his outstanding support of Catholic education.

Maloney will be honored at the NCEA’s annual meeting in Houston in April.

“I was very surprised when I got the notification,” said Maloney. “I’m just tickled.”

The recognition comes two years after the national association named St. Amelia principal James Mule as a one of 12 distinguished principals from among 6,000 candidates. Mule was also recognized in 2011 as a National Distinguished Principal by the National Association of Elementary School Principals.

In 1999, St. Amelia was designated a “Blue Ribbon School,” or national school of excellence – the only private school in New York to receive the honor from the U.S. Department of Education.

Mule has been principal at St. Amelia School since 1995, the same year Maloney was appointed pastor of the parish.

Maloney credited Mule’s leadership for the school’s success.

“My part in it is staying out of the way,” he said, adding that the award was a school honor as much as an individual one.

Catholic elementary schools in Western New York have struggled for years with finances and enrollment, resulting in dozens of closures over the past decade. But St. Amelia School has been able to maintain quality programs and increase enrollment – it currently has about 560 students – while also reducing its dependence on the parish for money.

Parish offertory incomes now account for about a quarter of the school’s budget, down from 30 percent in recent years, Maloney said.

The St. Amelia school board, which includes professionals who have marketing and fundraising skills, is primarily responsible for determining how programs are funded, he said.

Under Maloney’s watch, the school also has been able to update its facilities, establish the St. Amelia School Foundation and promote Catholic values through liturgies, retreats for teachers and students, and special prayer services.

“Father Tom’s visionary leadership has led St. Amelia to its place as a vibrant center of Catholic education, character development and spiritual community,” said Angel Beiter, a St. Amelia Parish Finance Committee member and past school board president. “Our school flourishes under the direction of Father Tom with record enrollment and a solid financial base.”

Maloney is the second Western New York priest to be named a distinguished pastor by National Catholic Educational Association in the past two years.

The Rev. Joseph C. Gatto, pastor of St. Gregory the Great Catholic Church in Amherst, received the award last year.

email: jtokasz@buffnews.com