Please Support Our Schools, Beginning With the One You Attended

A couple of years ago, at the graduation ceremony of a prestigious Catholic university, I sat next to a very wealthy and prominent civic leader, who, along with me, was to receive an honorary degree.

The president of the university had let me know that this gentleman, an alumnus of the university, had given over 20 million dollars to his alma mater over the years.

No wonder he was receiving an honorary degree! I wondered why I was!

Anyway, chatting with this gentleman while the diplomas were being given out, he talked to me, not about the university, but about the Catholic grade school he had attended! Without that foundation, he claimed, he never would have gone to the university that was then honoring him.

Nothing to lose, I figured, so, I “popped the question”: “Glad to hear of your gratitude to your Catholic grade school. Not surprised at all, since I hear the same from so many, and feel the same way about mine. But, let me ask you: have you ever donated money to that school?”

He seemed startled. “Why, come to think of it, no, never have.”

Then he observed, “But, then again, nobody’s ever asked!”

Well, I did! And now I’m asking you!

I hear it everywhere, as everybody—leaders, politicians, physicians, teachers, business men and women, nurses, police officers, cab drivers, stewardesses, waiters, (even bartenders)—tell me how grateful they are for their Catholic grade school education.

Yet, I fear most of them have never given back. They might give to universities they attended—glad they do—and maybe to Catholic high schools where they went— thanks—but their grade school? Not on their radar.

Why, I wonder. Maybe it’s because they just presume that the parishes and the “rolling-in-dough archdiocese” subsidize their schools and so they need no help.

Well, we do! Parishes with schools contribute, usually, over half their budget into their school, and this year alone, the archdiocese will apportion a total anticipated support of $23.1 million to our struggling elementary schools.

But, as is so evident from painful closings, that’s not enough, and the parishes and archdiocese can no longer do it to such a towering expense! We’ll always be of assistance to our grade schools…but we can’t keep doing it like we have.

Maybe it is because nobody’s ever asked. So, I am: will you support the Catholic grade school you attended? Will you support the one in your own parish now, or the one in your region? Don’t say I didn’t ask!

The education of our children is a huge expense. But, it’s worth every dime. We Catholics do it for half the price (and twice as good) as the public schools, who are also always telling you they need more of your tax money.

It’s interesting: when we do have to make the somber decision to close a school, we’ll, understandably, get a lot of criticism. Often, we’ll discover that the loudest complainers have never given a cent to their “beloved school,” or, for that matter, to their parish, or to the Cardinal’s Annual Appeal, from which a big chunk of our annual subsidies to strapped schools comes.

Two weeks ago, I attended a reception for a group called the Catholic Alumni Partnership.

“CAP” is the brainchild of a remarkable philanthropist, Robert Wilson, who, while himself not a Catholic, has a sparkling admiration for our schools. He has invested millions into CAP, convinced that the alumni of our Catholic grade schools, if asked, would also donate to their schools.

It’s working! When contacted through CAP, our grateful alumni have already given over $3.5 million to their grade schools.

One such school, Good Shepherd in Inwood, looked as if it might have to close. Not when an alumnus from six decades ago, John Brennan, heard about it! He has now corralled other proud alumni who have to date raised over $1.2 million, and the school is flourishing!

“That school was there for me when my folks needed it for me. Now we have to be there for the kids today!” he tells us.

Part of our new school strategy, Pathways to Excellence, calls upon every Catholic—not just parents of the students—to support our splendid schools, and every parish—not just those with their own parochial schools—to contribute to a nearby school they claim as their own.

Every Catholic has the responsibility to support our grade schools. Our proud and grateful alumni should take this duty with special urgency.

We can no longer rely only upon the sisters, the parishes, or the archdiocese. We can no longer depend only upon bake sales, bingos, and raffles.

It’s payback time.

Everywhere I go, people beg me, “Please, don’t let any more schools close!” We don’t want to! It’s time to put our money where our mouth is: support our schools! Start with the one you attended, or the one in your parish or region, or the one your nephews, nieces, or grandkids attend.

And don’t say, “Nobody ever asked!” I am asking! CAP is asking! Our kids are asking!