As Catholic Schools Week comes to a snowy end, I’ve got stress! Brothers and sisters, I work at a school whose original mission in 1828 was to “Teach the children of slaves to read the Bible.” Clearly, the foundress of my school, Mother Mary Lange, OSP, saw a dire need for ministry to the neglected and used the concept of a Catholic education to address that need. Despite the reality that her ministry was against the law in the slave state of Maryland and that most of her students could not really afford the tuition (approximately $1.00 per year) I now have a job because of her efforts.
Many still cannot afford Catholic Schools
In studying the story of the foundress of St. Frances Academy and the Oblate Sisters of Providence, I find myself under a bit of stress. On a positive note, I am convinced that my faculty and staff, as well as the faculties and staffs of others urban schools like mine, have matched the resolve of 1828 in ensuring that a Catholic education is available to those who might not otherwise get one. On the other hand, I have got stress because Mother Lange depended on the generosity of others to fulfill her mission. She depended on clergy, religious congregations and parishes for money and at times, a place to live and teach. I’ve got stress because I wonder if that support is waning.
My brother’s keeper
As the principal of urban high school, I have countless stories of generosity with regards to my school. Nonetheless, not everyone understands their responsibility to support Catholic education. For example, as the elementary school at my parish in Hyattsville began to experience financial challenges, I heard more than few parishioners comment, “I don’t have a child there. I want my money to go to the Church.” My response was that if your money goes to a Catholic school, it is going to the Church! More specifically, it is going to the Church’s future.
One Body, One Church:
Many of the benefactors of my school are alumni but many others did not graduate from Saint Frances. They may have graduated from another Catholic school and now want to help a new and different generation build their faith. Some did not go to Catholic school at all but want to make sure this generation has the choice. A few are not even Catholic but simply recognize that Catholic schools make our community a better place.
I have never been incarcerated, but I fully support prison ministry. I have never directly experienced a crisis pregnancy but I support Catholic pregnancy centers. Just because I don’t have a child in my parish or regional school doesn’t mean that it is not a vital ministry in our Church.
Catholic School Graduates, Step Up!
My challenge to you, especially if you benefited from a Catholic education, is that if you have not contributed to a Catholic school, consider a gift. It doesn’t have to be a gift to the one you attended. The one you attended may be relatively wealthy so, find on that isn’t. Any Catholic school that needs your help will do. Remember, all of us benefit from Catholic schools, even if you never set foot in one.