Catholic Coalition for Special Education
“Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me.” (Matthew 18:5)


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April 21, 2008
Contact: David Kane
CCSE Communications Committee
(301) 933-8844


If You Believe in Me. . . I'll Believe in Me

Kensington, MD — The Catholic Coalition for Special Education, Inc. (CCSE) this year was privileged to have Mrs. Sandra Andreas McMurtrie, a personal friend of the Blesssed Mother Teresa, serve as Honorary Chair of its Spring Benefit “If You Believe in Me… I’ll Believe in Me”, held on April 26, 2008 at the home of Theresa and Manus Cooney in Potomac, Maryland.

In the spirit of Mother Teresa who once said that “the biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted,” CCSE’s mission is to steadfastly ensure that all children, including those with developmental disabilities, are welcomed and accommodated in our neighborhood Catholic schools. “We are all so inspired by the work of Mother Teresa and hearing stories from Mrs. McMurtrie brings not only joy, but courage to all of us at CCSE to continue the hard work of helping our deserving children find a home in a Catholic school,” said Francesca Pellegrino, president of CCSE.

Encouraged by Mother Teresa, Mrs. McMurtrie adopted a child, Maria, with Down Syndrome. Maria, then, inspired another of Mrs. McMurtrie’s daughters, Amanda, to become a special education teacher at Our Lady of Mercy in Potomac.

A highlight of the evening was the premier of CCSE’s first video, which tells the story of CCSE and the students and schools it serves. The goal is to use the video as a way to effectively promote the work of CCSE in order to reach a broader audience of supporters and friends, raising much needed funds for this cause. A live and silent auction capped off the night. Last year’s Spring Benefit raised $65,000 and it is expected that the 2008 fundraiser will be even more successful.

During 2007, CCSE received Requests for Funding (RFA) from Catholic schools around the metropolitan area that totaled more than $300,000. Clearly, there is a strong need and a keen interest on the part of Catholic schools for the support provided by CCSE. Due to limited funds, however, CCSE was able to award only $83,500, but CCSE is hopeful that additional fundraisers will generate the money needed to expand its Grant-Making program to meet the community need. The expectation is that these RFAs will increase in 2008 and beyond.

“In my travels with Mother Teresa, I learned a great deal about belief in the goodness of another human being,” said McMurtrie. “Mother Teresa guided me to believe in Maria and I applaud CCSE’s mission to believe in the blessedness of all children so that these children can believe wholeheartedly in themselves.”

Event Committee members of the Spring Benefit are: Francesca Pellegrino, Mary Brogan, Carin Collins, Missy Lesmes and Lucy Nolan. Corporate sponsors for the event include Coakley & Williams Construction, Dietze Construction, McCormick Spices and Ritz-Carlton.

CCSE is an all-volunteer 501(c)3 independent non-profit organization established in 2004 to advance, support and promote the implementation of special education services in Catholic schools in Maryland and Washington, DC by awarding grants and providing technical assistance to Catholic schools.

To advance its mission CCSE relies on donations from individuals and local businesses, as well as pro-bono services. To make a donation, to volunteer or for more information, please visit the CCSE website or contact them at

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