November 14, 2014

Record $6.1 million raised to send children to Catholic schools

With his mischievous sense of humor and his deep heart for Catholic education, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, captivated the audience at the archdiocese’s 19th annual Celebrating Catholic School Values event in Indianapolis on Nov. 5. (Photo by Rob Banayote)

With his mischievous sense of humor and his deep heart for Catholic education, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington, captivated the audience at the archdiocese’s 19th annual Celebrating Catholic School Values event in Indianapolis on Nov. 5. (Photo by Rob Banayote)

By John Shaughnessy

Shortly after it was announced that a record $6.1 million had been raised this year to help children in the archdiocese receive a Catholic education, Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin wondered if other people had the same reaction he did.

“I hope you gasped as I did when I heard that figure,” the archbishop told the 600 people who attended the 19th annual Celebrating Catholic School Values Awards event at Union Station in Indianapolis on Nov. 5.

“It’s an incredible sign of life in our archdiocese. A lot of you heard me thank God that last April at the Easter Vigil across the archdiocese, 1,000 people were received into the Church through baptism or through the profession of faith. This figure of $6.1 million is another sign of our faith. It’s a sign of the generous gifts of people within the Church and without, because they believe in what we are trying to do with Catholic education.”

The record $6.1 million—more than twice last year’s previous record $3 million—was among an impressive set of numbers shared during the event.

In recent ratings by the Indiana Department of Education, 59 of the 67 Catholic schools in the archdiocese received either an “A” or “B” grade—and 21 schools improved their ratings since last year.

During the event, the archdiocese’s superintendent of Catholic schools Gina Fleming also announced that “over the past five years, our enrollment has grown from just over 22,000 students in 2010 to almost 24,000 this year.”

That collection of numbers seemed destined to steal the celebration’s spotlight—at least until the keynote speaker with a rich Irish brogue, a mischievous sense of humor and a deep heart for Catholic education took the stage.

After regaling the audience with several humorous stories, Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick focused on putting the importance of Catholic education into perspective. (Watch his address here)

He started with a salute to Catholic school teachers.

“They are dedicated,” said the archbishop emeritus of Washington. “This isn’t a job. It’s a vocation. They know your youngster. They know what he or she can do, what he or she is doing. Our teachers in Catholic schools are extraordinary, sacrificial workers—people who are there because there’s something better than coming home with jewels. And that’s coming home and knowing that you have made jewels of the children that you work with.”

He then stressed the difference it makes when saying prayers and learning about God are part of a child’s education.

“You open up a whole new world. Of course, you learn geography, you learn history, you learn mathematics. But it’s even greater to learn what makes geography, what made that world, who is the master of history who brings all things together.

“How terrible it would be if the youngsters from our schools didn’t know who God is, and don’t know what he has done for us, and don’t know that he sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to change the world. How can you teach history without knowing Jesus? How can you teach geography without looking at the world and its beauty and its wonder, and be reminded that somebody made this?

“So to pray here opens a whole new culture, a whole new understanding, a whole new vision of what the world is about. You have to say to yourself, ‘This is a good thing. This is something worthwhile. This is something important. This is something our society can’t do without, let alone our families.’ ”

The result of a Catholic education is priceless, the cardinal said.

“You see those kids who have learned something about love, something about duty, something about the world, and more than that, something about God. You can’t put a price on that except to say ‘thank you’ for all the people who have made it possible.

“Our greatest gift is to show what we do. Our greatest wonder is to show how wonderful Catholic education is. Don’t let anybody stop it because you’re on the road to making the next generation better, smarter and even holier. And that can’t be bad.”

That belief guided Mike McGinley and Bob McKinney as they led this year’s fundraising effort to help children receive a Catholic education. McGinley served as the event chairperson of the Celebrating Catholic School Values event while McKinney was the chairperson of the event’s development committee.

“Tonight, we have much to celebrate, including our commonality,” said McGinley, a member of St. Pius X Parish in Indianapolis.

“Quite simply, all of us have been positively influenced by Catholic schools. Due to our collective efforts, thousands of Catholic and non-Catholic families will receive the lifetime gift of a Catholic education.”

The $6.1 million record amount this year was raised mostly through the Tax Credit Scholarship program. A Tax Credit Scholarship of at least $500 per child, given for one year, allows an income-eligible student to receive an Indiana school voucher the following year and for up to 12 years of education in a Catholic school—a potential of $60,000 in state voucher assistance.

“Last school year, 4,749 students qualified for Indiana Choice Scholarships in our schools,” Fleming told the audience. “This year, we serve 6,775 students eligible for vouchers, with growth of more than 600 students at the secondary [high school] level over last year.”

At the end of the celebration, Archbishop Tobin thanked Cardinal McCarrick for his inspiration, and praised McGinley and McKinney for their efforts.

The archbishop also saluted the four people who were honored during the event for the way they represent the values of Catholic education. Father James Wilmoth and Robert Desautels received Career Achievement Awards, while Daniel and Beth Elsener were honored with the Community Service Award. (Related story: Honorees committed to leaving ‘this world a better place’)

“We have an incredible opportunity to leave this world a better place than we found it,” the archbishop told the audience.

He closed the celebration with a blessing—and a nod to the impact of a Catholic education.

“God, we thank you for all the encouragement you give us along the way. We thank you for the opportunity to share your encouragement, to share literally a new heart with the little ones, so that they will come to know as we know that you love us, that you forgive us and that you share with us your life, and this life is meant to last forever. All praise to you, God. Please bless us.” †

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