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Column: Don’t let costs keep your child out of a Catholic high school

by Kathy O’Hara

Dear friends of Catholic schools,

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be part of something that turned out to be very special. Jim, my husband, and I were doing business with an individual who knew I was somehow affiliated with Catholic schools. This person spoke eloquently about how committed he and his wife were to Catholic schools.

As we were talking, he said to me, “But I just can’t do Catholic high school — there’s just no way.” I asked him if he had talked with the president of the Catholic high school his child wanted to attend.

He looked at me as if to say, “What’s to talk about?” but he actually said, “Do you know how much it costs to go to Catholic high school?”

I assured him that I did know the costs, and I repeated my question.

He said, “No, I haven’t talked to anyone.”

I seized the chance to launch into my passionate plea: “At least go talk to the president about tuition assistance. Few parents would dream of sending their children to college without applying for financial aid. We need to have parents approach Catholic high school in the same way.”

When I saw that he was beginning to reconsider, I forged on with my appeal: “Of course, not everyone will qualify for tuition assistance, or, if a family qualifies, the parents may still think the amount is not enough — just like college. But we’ve got to get parents like yourselves — active Catholics who care about their children’s ongoing faith formation — to realize there is no stigma attached to applying for and receiving tuition assistance to attend Catholic schools. You’ve got to remember that receiving tuition assistance is not all about ‘taking.’ You will be giving back — not just now, by your model of living your Catholic faith and your family’s active presence in the Catholic community, but also by what you and your children may contribute in the future.”

I kept in touch with the president of the high school to see if the two had made contact, but I had not heard about the outcome of the meeting.

Then, a few days ago, I had a voice mail from the man.

He said, “I wish I could wait to tell you this news in person. . . . I want you to know that my child will be attending Catholic high school next year. Our child’s graduation party will be especially joyful! Thank you.”

I played that voice mail several times and saved it for Jim to hear. Then I said a prayer of thanksgiving to the Holy Spirit.

¡Vaya con Dios!

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Kathy O'Hara

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