WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) — Catholic schools throughout the statewide Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston now have access to funding to be used to give children with special needs the opportunity to receive a Catholic education.

The Foundation for Inclusive Religious Education of West Virginia is making it possible for all students to have access to an education grounded in the lived Gospel values of the Catholic faith.

The foundation was founded in 2014 by a group of parents who shared a common dream of allowing children with special needs the opportunity to attend their parish schools with siblings and friends. Its board is committed to raising the necessary funds to make their dream a reality.

“Our board is made up of parents of children with special needs, school administrators, priests and community members encompassing the entire state,” said Vincent de Paul Schmidt, the diocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools.

The foundation will offer financial grants to qualifying schools within the diocese. The grants will assist with the cost of special education teachers, para-educators and resources that will enable schools to educate children with special needs alongside their peers.

Officials of the foundation said the program will enhance the education of all children by teaching acceptance, compassion and the value of every child of God. They said the program also helps children grow up to appreciate each person’s unique gifts. Schmidt said the program started in order to address an unmet need in the diocese.

“We have special needs students in our schools,” he said. “We want them to be able to achieve their highest potential, and the (foundation) program can help them both financially and with the resources needed to be able to do that. We also want parents of special needs students to know that their children can come to us for top-quality, faith-based education for their children.”

Schmidt said the first round of applications are being accepted until Aug. 1 for the coming school year. He said grant announcements will be made soon.


Bishop is assistant editor at The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.