A Testimony to the Strength & Endurance of Catholic Education

As we talked, Midge reminded us that the Gourde Family had students attending Saint Olaf from the very first opening day in September 1960 through to the early 1990’s. They were invested in and actively involved for more than 30 years of faith community here at Saint Olaf Catholic School. It was really quite something to talk with Midge and Tom, touring the current building and reminiscing a bit as we pulled out some of the old original class pictures. As a 92 year old woman, Midge’s family story remains relatable as she and Richard questioned their ability to send all their kids to Catholic School, remarkable in their commitment to 30 years and beyond, and living validation of the consistency of care found in Catholic Education and our faith communities as the Gourde family is still giving back. 

In 1960, Midge and her husband Richard weren’t sure how they would afford Catholic Education. It was never a question of whether she should send her children, she knew Saint Olaf Catholic School would provide the community support, solid education, and faith formation, but with 11 children, they faced a decades long commitment. As an answer to prayer, at the time, Father MacNamara ensured tuition was met for families that faithfully contributed and were active in the Parish. God remained faithful to their family and Mr. Gourde’s career progressed. With finances less tight all 11 children went through Catholic education, graduating High School. Midge credits a large part of her childrens’ successes to Saint Olaf Catholic School. With faith always as the center, they were taught the values of strength and endurance, aiding them as they pursued challenging careers. Service and stewardship were constantly modeled as the next generation have also begun graduating Catholic Schools. She also added that her children inherited her late husband’s intellect and that  when combined with the Saint Olaf recipe for Catholic education, they have each become accomplished, thoughtful, kind people. Although in talking with Midge, it wasn’t only her husband’s intellect the children inherited. Midge is a remarkable woman of faith. In a 2018 article for the Intermountain Catholic, Family boasts 22 graduates of Utah Catholic schools, the Gourde Family celebrated the 22nd family graduate from Utah Catholic Schools. What a living, breathing legacy of faith and commitment!

Midge and her family not only sent children who sent grandchildren through our Catholic Schools, but also worked, volunteered, and have been continuously involved in the school and parish community. As our visit drew to a close, Tom Gourde requested to establish an endowment for scholarships at Saint Olaf for students in Midge and Richard Gourde’s name. Midge desires that Saint Olaf Catholic education and community remain available to all families. We are humbled by this generous gift and pray that we remain as committed as the Gourde Family to the ongoing stewardship of our school and faith community. Even after the passing of so many years, Saint Olaf occupies a special place in Midge’s heart. Three generations of Gourdes can attest, Saint Olaf Catholic School and Catholic education within faith communities, make a profound difference in the lives of students and families, far beyond 8th or 12th grade. As they drove away, the lyrics to a Beatles Song played in my head, perhaps because of the Gourde Family’s beginning here in 1960…

There are places I remember all my life though some have changed, some forever not for better, some have gone, but some remain, all these places have their moment...

Our goal, our mission, and our deepest prayer is that as Saint Olaf Catholic School continues to grow and evolve, that students and families remember their time here, throughout life, and that the education and faith received within these walls blesses, enriches, and guides them for all their days. Thank you Gourde Family for reminding us of the blessing this community was to you and for sharing that blessing with what will be countless other families and generations. Your faithful service and commitment is truly a living example of the cycle of care, the lifelong blessing we strive to create here at Saint Olaf Catholic School each and every day. We care for each other, contributing time, treasure, talents, and prayer so blessings come full circle. As we begin the 60th year of Saint Olaf Catholic School while celebrating the centennial year of the Daughters of Charity serving Utah, we see the Daughters’ original care-ism of service alive and well in this stewarding gift from the Gourde family and others like them with rich testimonies to the transformative power of Catholic education. We are each one of many, helping perpetuate the blessings received here so the cycle of care continues for the next generation.