By Mary Rochford
I recently had the opportunity to speak for three minutes on Fox News in the morning. As I drove to the station, I realized three minutes wasn’t much time to get a clear message across.
When the camera pointed in my direction, there was so much I wanted to say. As the interview unfolded, the topic was a timely one and one that seems to surface everywhere I go: the financial challenges facing Catholic education today and into the future. As I responded to host’s question about the tuition scales in private schools versus our archdiocesan schools, I heard myself say something like this:
“Many of us have received a Catholic education in a time when tuition was not even on the drawing board. Our parents were the recipients of what appeared to be a totally free elementary and secondary education. Those of us coming in the next wave of students to be educated in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s continued to have either no tuition costs or very manageable expenses as another group of Catholic school students were the beneficiaries of the tremendous dedication of priests, religious and a growing number of lay teachers. The Church was financially able to provide us with an education that empowered us to enter key places in the work world of today.”
Then I heard myself say, “It is time for us to give back to the Church, to the many families who desire Catholic education for their children yet are most challenged in meeting the costs.”
I offer a challenge to all of the Boomer generation and those who preceded us to step up to assist a child to receive a Catholic education. You only need to visit one parish, regional, secondary or special education school to know that you want to get involved and support the work of Catholic education in its most powerful form – a daily program.
Our schools continue to have the presence of religious men and women as well as lay men and women who have given their lives to the service of Catholic schools. A Catholic education pays spanidends for a lifetime. Call your parish or stop into one of the secondary schools throughout the Archdiocese.
Standing on the sidelines either watching or reminiscing about how things used to be isn’t the kind of help we need. It is time for those of us who have benefited greatly from Catholic education to come forth.
From 1782 and the establishment of St. Mary Parish School until 2008, many people have come forth to ensure the future of a great gift to both the Church and the nation, Catholic schools. The Notre Dame Task Force Report on Catholic education challenges us to be these modern day supporters of parish, regional, secondary and special education schools as it shouts out the following message:
“Will it be said of our generation that we presided over the demise of the most effective and important resource for evangelization in the history of the Church in the United States? Will it be said of our generation that we lacked the resolve to preserve national treasures built upon the sacrifice of untold millions? Will it be said of our generation that we abandoned these powerful instruments of justice that provide educational opportunity and hope for families otherwise trapped in poverty? Surely not. Instead, when the story of Catholic schools is written, historians will look back on our age and marvel that against great odds, we changed that ending.”
May God be praised as we work together to build up the Kingdom of God on earth.
Mary Rochford is the superintendent of schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.