Our Precious Catholic Schools

It’s Catholic Schools’ Week.

With what we’ve just been through, some might think that we’d more appropriately observe it the week of All Souls’ Day, or Memorial Day, both occasions when we remember the dead!

Last week’s sad closings could lead some to conclude that our beloved Catholic Schools are dying, or, to repeat the term I’ve used before, that our excellent schools are in hospice, a terminal patient we’re just trying to keep comfortable until they pass away.

Not so!

Jesus observed that a vine must be pruned if it is to continue providing good fruit.

Our precious Catholic schools are a vine that produces exquisite fruit: the best academics; a safe, secure, loving, disciplined atmosphere; an emphasis on faith, virtue, and character.

This vine must be pruned. This hurts. To be blunt, if we did not close some of our splendid schools now, pretty soon we’d be close to shutting them all down.

The schools we now have, after the somber decision to close the twenty-four last week, will be fuller, even better, and more financially sound. Thus, please God, we should not have any more long lists of closings in the future.

Thus, our schools are not in hospice, but in the recovery room, with a future filled with health, vitality, confidence, quality, and hope.

This hardly takes away the sting from the children, teachers, parents, priests, and parishioners of the schools that have to close, all of which, by the way, were first rate schools. They didn’t have to close because they were academically inferior — quite the contrary — but because they were at low enrollment, and were losing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. In fact, last year alone the archdiocese gave these schools $8,323,689 just to stay open. We don’t have that kind of money!

Thanks to all those who now mourn, who struggled so hard to keep their good schools going.

Not that our schools are just a business. Not so! None of them make money! If we only kept schools open which were in the black, we’d have none.

Our parishes, benefactors, and the archdiocese will always have to — and want to — support our schools. It’s just that we have to use the money of God’s people wisely, not on schools that are losing children every year, and show no signs of financial stability, or an increase in enrollment.

And there’s our main challenge: to increase enrollment! Each of the schools that grimly have to close could have remained open if more parents had sent their children there.

And, we must re-double our efforts to make sure we follow through on our pledge to provide a Catholic education to any child who seeks one, particularly those whose schools will close in June. We have placement counselors available in all the regions of the archdiocese, ready and eager to assist parents in learning about the other schools in their area, so that they can make the best choice for their children. What’s important, these counselors will remind the parents, is not that their child attend Catholic school in a particular building, but that their child attend a Catholic school, particularly one that looks forward to welcoming new students (and they all do), that has high academic standards and a record of achievement (and they all do), and provides a solid formation in the faith (and they all better!). Two years ago, when we had our first round of school closings, nearly two-thirds of the children were re-enrolled in other nearby Catholic schools. Not bad, especially when you consider that in the past we were happy if we got 50% to move to another Catholic school. With experience, we’re hoping to do even better this time around.

Why would Catholic parents not send their children to a Catholic school? Beats me. But, we better find out.

Remember the days of waiting lists and jammed classrooms? What happened?

One hears an abundance of replies: Catholic schools cost too much; the public schools in my area aren’t that bad; the school in my parish is hardly Catholic at all. Add to that our society’s de-emphasis of religion, and the decimation of the intact Catholic culture of five decades ago, and I guess we have a buffet of reasons.

Yet, the fact remains: in academic excellence, preparation for life, and formation in the faith, for all their worries, nobody does it better than Catholic schools.

Pardon the cliché, but that’s why we want to change the mourning into morning.

Our strategy is clear:

. . . Catholic schools are our “pearl of great price”;

. . . we will struggle and sacrifice not only to see that they survive but that they flourish;

. . . to do so, we can’t do “business as usual”;

. . . our system of Catholic schools may be a bit leaner than before, but it is stonger;

. . . every Catholic, every parish, must support a school;

. . . our schools will remain A+, accessible, and, affordable.

Happy Catholic Schools’ Week!

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8 Responses to “Our Precious Catholic Schools”

  1. James says:

    Not a word of this article addressed tuition.

    So, how does a stereotypical “large Catholic family” afford to send all of their children to Catholic school?

  2. Bill says:

    My Grandpa used to say, “It’s always about the money, Bill.” The annual tuition at the Catholic grade school I attended (1955-1962), was $35! The convent housed 20+ nuns. Now there are no nuns and the tuition is $6,000/year. The annual tuition at the Jesuit high school I attended (1962-1966) was $350 plus books (about $75). The high school/college building housed 150+ Jesuits. The high school now has only one Jesuit who is a non-teaching principal, and the tuition is now $14,000. You don’t need to be Einstein to figure out why Catholic schools are closing. BTW, just in case you don’t think money governs, my high school moved it’s entire school campus from the poorer part of the city, where it had been for 75 years, to its most affluent suburb. I wonder why?

  3. joseph walsh says:

    First of all, I agree with the Cardinal about the necessity of Catholic Schools. I retired from NYS public schools and returned to my catholic school (in the diocese of Scranton where we lost our Bishop Oconnor to NYC) as their Athletic Director. We served the community for students who did not fit in the local public school for one reason or another. At the same time I worked for an organization called Catholic Social Services which basically helped people. Both jobs afforded me the opportunity to give back to the church and community. My younger son followed in my footsteps and worked in the Catholic Schools of Philadelphia for a few years. Many closed including Cardinal Daugherty which at one time in the sixties was the largest Catholic school in “America (My older son worked the public schools of Philly even though he had offers elsewhere but wanted to also give back to the commuity)
    Unfortunately, my alta mater was forced to close due to financial difficulties. I often wonder what has happened to our students who had trouble fitting in . what makes a Catholic school different is the same thing our church differs from others: we have rules and stick to them. I would be more than willing to contribute to Catholic Schools of NYC as I do to the Philly schools.

  4. Raymond says:

    I don’t think the problem is primarily tuition. Of course, it is a factor to some extent. Catholic schools will never be able to compete with “free” public schools; unless perhaps some form of vouchers go through. It is certainly absurdly unfair that parents have to pay taxes for other childrens’ public education, but then also pay tuition for their own children at a Catholic school.

    Nonetheless, my parents did it and while is wasn’t always easy for the 5 of us, they were happy to do it. This is the real thing, *People will pay for value.* The problem today is not how expensive Catholic education is, the probably is that it is not valued. My parents were willing to pay for 1. a good education and 2. a *Catholic* education complete with theological instruction (not the touchy-feely, feel good nonsense that passes for “theology” in most Catholic schools today.

    The main problem today is that people don’t see Catholic schools as offering superior education and second, that people don’t recognize the value of *Catholic* education. This is because 1. what theological instruction there is tends to be highly mediocre, hence people assume (rightly) that it is a waste of time and not worthwhile. Second, in an increasingly secular society, people don’t recognize the value of religious education in general. This can be corrected in part with superior education in general and second, superior *Catholic* education. If people think they won’t get anything from a Catholic school they can’t get for free from a public school, then why pay to go to a Catholic school?

  5. Karen says:

    Catholic schools were a lot cheaper when we were younger (I graduated Catholic high school in the 70′s) because of nuns and priests. But so were houses and salaries and cars.over t Nevertheless, THEE MOST IMPORTANT thing is to teach the young, or we will have no heirs to our legacy. As it is, the young are straying away in droves. Every single parish should make it their primary goal to either support another school or have one of their own, where kids come FIRST above all else. They are the next generation of our church! No greater priority than to teach our children WELL. And no more important time to send kids to our private religious schools than TODAY, when so much of the pop culture runs contrary to our beliefs. It HAS to be a priority to keep these schools OPEN… NO “PRUNING”…. how about adding some “fertilizer”? The fundraising that was done was nothing short of MIRACULOUS and needs to be acknowledged. Give your heart over to the goal of teaching our younger Catholics WELL, in CATHOLIC SCHOOLS!

  6. Denise LaGreca says:

    Just found this blog and felt a need to bring a different persopective to the problem. I sent my two sons to catholic high school although my Westchester school district is one of the best in the nation, however after two years I had no choice but to pull them out and send them to public school. The tuition was certainly not the issue, but the poor attitude of the newly installed administration was so distasteful that many parents and faculty members (including the clergy) fled from the school. When I needed to speak with the President I was simply ignored and an issue involving my child was not given even the slightess bit of consideration or kindness. I do not need to pay to be treated poorly. I wish my children had received a solid Catholic education, unfortunately, the arrogance of the administration made that impossible.

  7. Pam says:

    Cardinal, I am certain that many of us agree that a Catholic education is one of the best investments we can make for the future of the Church, the country, and our families. However, tuition costing $4500-$7800 per child it is almost unrealistic for a family, especially a large family, to financially provide for this expense. The other issue we personally deal with is having to transport our children 30-45 minutes (without traffic) to get to the nearest high school. So trying to get the younger ones to their school at the same time getting the older ones to their school and getting to work on time becomes rather challenging. For us it comes down to money and having to transport our children.

  8. J says:

    Cardinal Dolan,

    I am a practicing Catholic and very loyal to the Church. I’m also a single mother sending one daughter to Catholic school, going on 12 years. I work two jobs,
    I AM EXHAUSTED!!!!! Catholic high schools in Florida are $10,000/year, not including books (yes families purchase books each semester, just like college), an iPad 2, uniforms, $450 registration fee each year (yes $450 per year to turn in paperwork), $75 yearly parking fee, $100 to join Lacrosse, etc., etc., etc.!

    Full disclosure, I receive $1,500 discount due to my income, so personally I pay $8,500/year. I am most deeply grateful for this, however, my parish priest employs an administrator who threatened to take my discount away because I attend Mass 70% of the year and not 80% of the year (based on church envelopes). Does this sound pleasant? This compounds the stress and I want to pass out.

    I will do everything possible to keep my daughter out of public schools, she is receiving an excellent education. However, dealing with all the bureaucratic baloney, fees, incompetent Superintendents, and rising tuition is exhausting and it takes every ounce of energy I have not let my daughter see how frustrated I am with Catholic schools.

    Many kids in the K-8 schools do not go on to Catholic HS because the tuition increases by $4,500. By the time a student goes from Kindergarten through eighth grade, families are wiped out. You asked why parents don’t send their children to Catholic schools? This is why and I’m just scratching the surface.

    BTW, vouchers from the state barely cover a fraction of the tuition and families are still faced with all the other charges.

    Respectfully yours,

    J (The exhausted, frustrated, and poor Catholic woman in Orlando.)