By Father Joseph Corley
Over the last 10 years a number of people have asked me, “Why and how do you keep B.V.M. (Blessed Virgin Mary School in Darby) open?” This question and recent discussions about merging other Catholic schools in South Delco made me think it might be helpful to explain how and why we keep B.V.M. open.
Let me be clear about why we want to keep B.V.M. open.
First, we believe in and love what we are doing. We think it is important that people have a choice about where and how their children are educated. We embrace and act upon the words of popes and many bishops in the U.S. who have encouraged us to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to people of all social and economic backgrounds. We understand that our leaders want our schools to remain open – especially where people have greater needs. We are convinced that faith and spirituality are essential to a holistic education and the development of mature citizens. We respect the efforts and achievements of the public school system, but we are also convinced that many parents desire to give their children a good education within a faith-based atmosphere.
Second, it is our joy and mission to support parents who want their children taught in an environment that provides “safety, discipline, challenging academics, teachers who are available and religious values.” We help children to build character and grow intellectually, emotionally, socially and spiritually. In brief, we understand that “the soul of education is education of the soul.”
Third, we are willing to make sacrifices for the good of children and their parents. We are not over-staffed. We have teachers, administrators, secretaries and a building manager who are willing to accept salaries based on what we can afford because they enjoy working in a Catholic school environment. The generous efforts of our volunteers and the outstanding work of our home and school association also helps us to keep our tuition affordable for parents who are willing to make the financial sacrifice required to have a real choice regarding the education of their children.
Fourth, we are financially responsible. We pay our own bills, “live within our means” and make our own decisions when it comes to the economics of the school. Thanks to the wisdom of our finance and tuition committees, the decades of parishioners who have consistently valued and supported B.V.M. school and the cooperation of parents our doors remain open.
Fifth, our friends support us. Past graduates and people outside of the community who appreciate what we do through our church and school express their approval by contributing to the B.V.M. School tuition assistance fund. This fund is used to give special assistance to needy families unable to pay the full cost of tuition.
Sixth, we apply for grants and have an outstanding team of talented people on our school advisory committee. Thanks to our principal, Sister Virginia Paschall, I.H.M., we have received a number of grants that enable us to advance our academic programs and expand the horizons of our students.
Finally, now and then I will hear about someone saying “B.V.M. is really not a Catholic school” because we accept children of different faiths and backgrounds. Let me assure you B.V.M. School is thoroughly Catholic in its mission and identity. We welcome spanersity and celebrate what is good in all cultures and religions. Some folks keep talking about “the good old days” at B.V.M. We refuse to live in the past or to “cling to what used to be.” In the words of Maya Angelou, our “horizon leans forward.” We are blessed with hope and enthusiasm for our mission. We are willing to work hard to achieve our goals. We keep our “eyes on the prize … (we) hold on.” Our “prize” is the wonderful reward of helping parents to raise intelligent, confident children who believe in the “transcending power” of God in Jesus. Our “prize” is helping children discover, develop and share their innate dignity and God-given talents. We are proud of what we believe and love what we do. That is why we say, “B.V.M. School is the right place to learn, grow and worship,” and that is why B.V.M. School in Darby remains open.
Father Joseph Corley is the pastor of B.V.M. Parish in Darby.