The annual celebration of Catholic Schools Week reminds us of the inestimable value that a Catholic education has for our young people. The responsibility of the Church is to educate its young in the practice of the faith. This responsibility extends to all of our children, even those not in Catholic schools. Hopefully, as we improve our religious education programs, we can serve those not attending Catholic schools better than we have in the past.
As we concentrate on Catholic schools, we are reminded that they are the preeminent instrument available to the Church today to communicate the faith to a new generation.
Catholic schools are always a joint venture between parents and schools. Catholic teaching reminds us that the responsibility for education relies primarily on the parents, and others assist the parents in fulfilling their responsibility.
The challenge of Catholic education today is not so much regarding its quality, but the quantity available to our general Catholic population. As the cost of a Catholic education has risen, so has it become less available to many in our diocese.
The Diocese of Brooklyn is particularly blessed to have the Alive in Hope Foundation and the Alive in Hope Endowment Fund. There are two separate extra-diocesan corporations that assist the diocese in raising scholarship funds to assist parents in paying for the Catholic school tuition — our Annual Catholic Appeal, which has a special category for tuition assistance, as well as the generosity of Trans Video Communications, Inc., a Catholic television corporation, which assists us through the Alive in Hope Foundation. There are other groups that assist the diocese with tuition assistance. When all is said and done, annually we are able to contribute about $8.7 million worth of tuition assistance when the request for assistance has been verified as financially needy.
Even with this amount, we still have a gap in the amount that would allow us to assist all of those who would like to receive a Catholic education. Tremendous efforts and expenditure of resources goes into the process of maintaining a Catholic education as available in the diocese.
Auxiliary Bishop Frank Caggiano, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, has spearheaded the “Preserving the Vision” project, and works with Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, Superintendent of Schools. The main goal of this program is to establish Catholic academies, supported by one or more parishes and governed by lay boards. Already, almost one-third of our schools have been reconfigured into the new management institutional structure and hold great promise for the future as we ensure that Catholic education is available in all parts of our diocese, in Brooklyn and Queens, to all income classes.
When we undertook the “Preserving the Vision” program, we put out into the deep not knowing where the process would bring us. We do see the light on the other shore at this time. Our efforts have proven successful in that none of the established academies lost students in the past year. Unfortunately our other Catholic schools have lost students.
We will continue to support this process and I take this opportunity to thank all who have given of themselves to this effort, including our pastors, principals and lay volunteers. Let us again celebrate Catholic Schools Week with great hope and confidence that our Catholic schools will be here to serve us well into the future.