Save Our Schools

May 30th, 2014

We haven’t let up in our efforts to pass the Education Investment Tax Credit bill.  My thanks to Bill McGurn in today’s Post for his support.  Here’s an excerpt:

Why does this matter to others? It matters because a child who attends a Catholic school is much likelier to finish high school and attend college than his or her public-school counterpart.

In Buffalo, for example, 99 percent of Catholic high school students graduate — more than twice the 47 percent rate for public-school students. Ninety-eight percent of the Catholic-school students go on to college.

Meanwhile, fewer than 10 percent of Buffalo public-school students leave high school ready for college.

Earlier this year, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stressed to The New York Times how especially vital these Catholic schools are to people of color or little means — and why she was so “heartbroken” to learn her own alma mater, Blessed Sacrament High School in The Bronx, is shutting down:

“It’s symbolic of what it means for all our families, like my mother, who were dirt-poor. She watched what happened to my cousins in public school and worried if we went there, we might not get out. So she scrimped and saved. It was a road of opportunity for kids with no other alternative.”

Translation: If access to a decent education is indeed the civil-rights issue of our day, Catholic schools play an irreplaceable role in New York.

You can read the full article here.

Defending a Tax Credit for Education

May 27th, 2014

In the beginning of April, I wrote a column in the New York Post, of my disappointment of the Education Investment Tax Credit not being included in the state budget. My thanks to Michael Goodwin for his column on the tax credit in this Sunday’s New York Post.

 

Here is an excerpt:

A prime example is the mystery of how a popular plan for an education tax credit failed. It would have ­reduced taxes for donors who give money to nonprofit educational funds.

Supporters ranged from Cardinal Dolan and other Catholic leaders to Orthodox rabbis and other Jewish groups. They joined forces over the high cost of parochial education, a cost that penalizes families who pay taxes for public schools and also private tuition for their children.

The double cost is a killer, with as many as 200 Catholic schools closing across the state in the last 15 years because parents cannot afford tuition.

Anticipating opposition from unions, the plan also would cover contributions to public schools.

The well-crafted idea, already succeeding in other states, enjoyed the support of Gov. Cuomo and, publicly at least, a majority of both parties in both houses. And then it died in the back room, leading Dolan, among others, to feel betrayed.

You can read the full article here.

Congratulations to Our Graduates!

May 20th, 2014

This is the season of graduations!  College, high school, eighth grade . . . Even my nephew Patrick has invited me to his kindergarten graduation!

Congratulations to our graduates and to the folks who sacrificed to get them to this exciting stage in life.

Over the weekend, I had the privilege of receiving an honorary degree, and offering the commencement address, at Iona College, one of our excellent Catholic colleges here in the archdiocese.

Let me share with you my remarks, hoping that all of our graduates might find them somewhat helpful . . .

 

Iona Commencement

May 17, 2014 

 

Thank you, Dr. Nyre, faculty, Mr. Hynes, and members of the board, for the distinction of this honorary doctorate.  Since I not long ago just finished paying off my tuition for the degree I earned way back, I particularly savor this one which cost me nothing!  Thanks for the joy of being recognized by a splendid Catholic institution of higher learning, and thanks to the leadership and support of generous people who keep Iona strong.

Congratulations, my now new classmates, beloved class of 2014!  You’ve strained and struggled for this bright day of accomplishment, and, I trust, along the way had a good time with friends you will cherish forever.  With you and for you I say alleluia!, the Hebrew word for “praise God.”

I have the satisfaction of attending quite a few commencements, where I’m not, as usual, the only one wearing a funny costume! I always have a box seat for the lengthy but significant ritual as your names are called and degrees are granted.  From this box seat I will see not only you, class of 2014, as you process up for your diploma; I can see the beaming faces of your moms and dads, your grandparents, family, and friends whose smile is expansive, eyes a bit moist and throat somewhat lumped as they stretch to see you of whom they are so rightly proud.

My congratulations go to all of you as well, you who today are hardly spectators, but who have been loving, supporting hands, hearts, shoulders, and wallets for the graduates we applaud today.

Usually, the long-awaited event of graduation is a celebration of what we can now do as college is completed, and a celebration of something we now have, namely, a diploma representing new skills and competence.

Yes, let’s toast indeed what we can do and what we now have . . . but might I propose that the wisdom presumed in a college graduate prompts us as well to celebrate what we cannot do and what we still do not have?

For as the Bible reminds us, the wise person is he or she who is aware of what he does not know, of how much there is yet to learn; and the blessed person is she who realizes her value comes in who she is, not what she can do.

As the Christian Brothers who founded our alma mater would put it, our identity , who we are as a child of God, made in His image, is a lot more important than what we can do; or, as Pope Saint John Paul II reminds us, “being is more important than having and doing.”

So, you bet, today we bask in what you can now do:  teach history, for instance – - although, good luck, that’s what my degree is in and I could never get a job! – - or marketing design, auditing, nursing, advertising, physically rehabilitation – - wonderful things you can now do, thank God . . . but we today humbly admit what we can’t do by ourselves:  alone, we cannot find love; alone, without God, we cannot achieve salvation; alone we cannot communicate or construct; alone, we cannot bring peace, advance goodness, virtue and justice; alone, we are useless.

So, yes, Iona has given us new knowledge and skills that will help us do things; but Iona has also imparted a wisdom which reminds us of what we can’t do alone, as we detect that longing within that seeks God, love, family, friends, community, and a culture that sustains us as together we count on one another to achieve what we can’t do by ourselves.

That’s why the most important item on your parchment is not the title of this esteemed college; not “B.A.,” “M.S.,” or even “Ph.D”; not “science,” “arts,” “education,” or “business”  – - as significant as all of those tags are, what is most essential on your diploma is … your name.

. . . the name given you at birth or baptism;

. . . the name cooed by your mom and dad when they held you as babies;

. . . the name known by God, your Creator, who, as the psalmist tells us, already knew you as He knit you in the womb;

. . . the name enrolled in this college;

. . . the name which brings smiles to your friends and classmates;

. . . the name that will be toasted today and appear on cakes;

. . . the name which God calls you in prayer, whispers in times of crisis and, yes, a the moment of death.

You . . . your name . . . for who you are, dear new classmates, who you are - – a child of God, made in His very image, the apple of His eye, redeemed by His Son, Jesus, destined for love and joy and purpose and meaning in this life; intended to live forever with Him – - who you are is far more important than what you have or can do.

The degree to which you are loved or can love hardly depends on the degree you’ll happily receive in a moment;

For God and the folks who share His eternal penetrating vision do not so much care about the letters after your name as much as the name before the letters;

For the Lord and the people who look at life as He does do not only care about what you can do, but about what you acknowledge you can’t do without them;

Because, when all is said and done, when the cap and gown is returned, the diploma framed, the tuition paid, the careers and jobs embarked upon, we don’t really care what you know, but sure want to know that you care!

 

Thanks!

Congratulations!

God’s blessings!

The Importance of Pope Francis’ Trip to the Holy Land

May 20th, 2014

The USCCB Media Blog is previewing the upcoming visit by Pope Francis to the Holy Land.  Yesterday they carried a piece by me on the visit deepening the friendship between Catholics and Jews.  Today, Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines blogs on bringing hope to a hopeless situation.  They will have more entries in the days to come. Stay tuned!

The Gift of Catholic Schools

May 19th, 2014

In Sunday’s New York Post, Naomi Schaefer Riley had an excellent article on the value of Catholic schools, and why we must work to save them!  She shares a wonderful story of a student, Jason Tejada, who attended Incarnation School  in Washington Heights and All Hallows High School in the Bronx, and went on to Columbia University, and is now working at JPMorgan.

The details of Jason’s story may be particularly poignant, but the success that Catholic schools can bring underprivileged students is widely understood.

The achievement, graduation rates and college completion rates are much higher for students who attend Catholic school than public school, even controlling for family income. A recent Brookings/Harvard study found that African American students in New York who won and used a scholarship to attend private school starting in kindergarten were 24% more likely to attend college than those who applied but didn’t win a scholarship.

You can read the entire article here.

Heading Home From Jordan

May 8th, 2014

Heading home from Jordan today.  What an inspiring and informative journey!  My thanks to Deacon Greg Kendra for posting these updates on the CNEWA blog.

From their home, the sisters offer Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria counseling, schooling, formal catechesis and emergency assistance to those in dire need. The sisters’ “House of Mary” also offers a safe haven, a refuge from the storm that has enveloped these innocent families.

Read the rest here.

More on my pastoral visit to Jordan with CNEWA

May 7th, 2014
Here is more on my pastoral visit to Jordan as Chairman of the Board of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association.  My thanks to Msgr. John Kozar and Deacon Greg Kendra for making the blog post possible!

Continuing their pastoral visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Bishop William Murphy and Msgr. John Kozar visited two key holy sites before spending the rest of the day with the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary. They visited the site on the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized, touring the archaeological remains associated with the early church.

Read the rest here.

Getting a first-hand look at the work of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association

May 6th, 2014
One of the responsibilities – it’s actually a privilege – of being the Archbishop of New York is to serve as the Chairman of the Board of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support.  This week I am in Jordan, along with Bishop William Murphy, getting a first-hand look at the work that CNEWA is doing here.

Deacon Greg Kendra has a blog post along with a few photos of our visit.  You might want to take a look.  I’ll pass along any updates.

I am extraordinarily proud of the work CNEWA is doing, but there is so much more that needs to be done.  Please keep all those who support CNEWA in your prayers.

Pastoral Planning Since Pentecost

May 6th, 2014

The readings from God’s Holy Word in the Bible during this bright Easter season are most enlightening and encouraging.

A facet I enjoy a lot, especially evident in our selections at Mass, and in the Divine Office we clergy and religious daily pray, is the narrative, particularly in the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of Paul, Peter, James, and John, about the growth and structuring of the infant Church.

So, the apostles, disciples, and faithful women and men had to pray for guidance, then debate, and finally make tough decisions about such things as preaching the Gospel outside of Jerusalem (Who would go? Where? What language?); taking care of the “widows and orphans” (thus the development of deacons); the flow of the liturgy and other sacraments; attracting new converts and preserving the faith of those already in the fold; how to relate to pressing cultural and social issues, bringing the light of the gospel to the public square; and, how best to spend the offerings of God’s People.

One legitimately asks: hasn’t the Church been into strategic pastoral planning since Jesus ascended to His heavenly Father?

It’s hardly novel.  Our current Making All Things New is only the 2014 chapter of an opus which began to be composed in 33 a.d.

That’s why we’ve stressed from the start of our present round of planning that it’s more than a question about buildings, addresses, closings or merging.  Yes, some of this will be called for, and the sound recommendations from our pastors, clergy, religious, and people are now “on the table,” to be further prayed over, refined, and finalized.

But, driving all of this is the same set of values we sense in our Easter readings: is the invitation of Jesus, and the truth of His message, being extended effectively in our preaching, religious education of the young, faith formation of adults, and our schools? Are the poor and rich being served?  Are the “fallen away” being welcomed back?  Do God’s people have available to them the spiritual sustenance of prayer and the sacraments? Are the offerings of God’s People being spent well, or squandered?

Some are tempted to observe (and the press readily reports it!) that this strategic pastoral planning is all the result of a new, unprecedented crisis in today’s Church, caused by such things as mismanagement and stupidity by bishops and priests; the stubbornness of the Church to change settled teaching (woman’s ordination) or discipline (priestly celibacy) to correct the shortage of vocations; the loss of money paid to victims and attorneys due to the sex abuse nausea; or the mistakes of past bishops and pastors in overbuilding and over-expansion.

Baloney!  There’s not much radical, dramatic, or crisis driven in sound, patient, prayerful pastoral planning.  It’s been going on since Pentecost.

Thanks to all of you leading and cooperating in this current phase!  It’s not easy, but it’s sure essential.  And you’re in good company with the apostles and first generation disciples.

Revive Our Catholic Schools

April 23rd, 2014

Here is a great piece on Catholic education from the New York Daily News by Peter Meyer:

Church officials and educators have not given up, and there are numerous initiatives that have been launched in the last 20 years meant to staunch the hemorrhaging. The church’s extensive network of religious orders have picked up some of the educational slack, expanding their networks of schools, especially for the poor…

These are promising initiatives, but in this Holy Season, Catholics should consider their history, especially those times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when they were not the dominant American religion, but an outcast group. And it was in 1884, at a Baltimore enclave of Bishops, that church leaders ordered every Catholic parish to create a Catholic school and all Catholic parents to send their children to them, creating one of the most successful grassroots church revivals in history.

Read the rest here.