Column: Private appeal will help keep our high schools affordable

Archbishop Naumann

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Today (Feb. 7) is my mother’s 91st birthday.

For her age, she is blessed with very good health. My mother worked for more than 40 years as a Catholic school teacher and for part of her career as a Catholic elementary school principal.

The final week of January, we celebrated Catholic Schools Week! I always enjoy that week, because it affords me the opportunity to celebrate Mass for some of our Catholic school communities and it allows me to witness firsthand some of the tremendous good that happens every day in our schools.

In northeast Kansas, we have a wonderful history of supporting Catholic schools. Bishops, priests, religious Sisters, and the laity have sacrificed heroically to build and sustain our schools. I am reminded of this when families, who have moved to Kansas from other parts of the country, marvel at the availability and the quality of our Catholic schools.

Last week, I wrote about the youth formation assessment that was part of the plan to address the most critical needs in the archdiocese. Another component of the plan was the Archbishop’s Private Appeal for Catholic high schools that was designed to shore up the financial foundation for some of our Catholic high schools with special challenges.

The private appeal gives me the responsibility to approach a relatively small universe of donors, asking them to make a major gift to help reduce the debt at St. James by $6 million and Hayden Catholic by $1.5 million, as well as to provide $5 million to help build an endowment for Bishop Ward. If we fail to reduce the debts at St. James Academy and at Hayden High School, the tuition at these schools will have to increase and scholarship revenues will decrease. The leadership at both schools has developed well-conceived plans to address the remainder of the debt and to keep these schools operationally sound in the future.

Father Michael Hermes, the president at Bishop Ward, and the school’s board and staff have done an exceptional job in growing the enrollment and increasing annual alumni giving. Yet, despite these efforts, because of the financial limitations of many of the families as well as the limited resources of the Wyandotte Region parishes to subsidize the school, Bishop Ward needs a steady stream of endowment income or some other form of archdiocesan subsidy. Without this, Bishop Ward is not sustainable financially.

The goal for Bishop Ward is to create a $10 million endowment in the near future. Father Hermes has already secured donations amounting to more than $2 million in addition to the $5 million we are attempting to raise by the private appeal.

The private appeal also provided over $600,000 to fund the Year of Faith Initiative — “Faith: Love It, Learn It, Live It.” A large portion of this money was used to subsidize the School of Faith catechism classes that continue to be offered this year and the “Living in Love” retreats for married couples. The private appeal funding also helped promote the missions conducted by the Apostles of the Interior Life, the Vatican II lecture series, Faith in the Workplace seminars and the invitation to every member of the archdiocese to make a personal commitment to do something significant to deepen their prayer life and grow in their knowledge of the faith.

The minimum goal for the private appeal is $14 million. I began approaching donors almost two years ago, inviting them to make a sacrificial gift to the private appeal without reducing their charitable giving to other Catholic ministries.

Specifically, I have asked them not to reduce their support to their parishes, Call to Share, Catholic Charities, School of Faith, etc., but to make their gift to the private appeal in addition to these commitments. I invite potential donors to reflect upon how God has blessed them, their own family needs, their other charitable priorities, and to consider what would be a sacrificial gift for them.

Donors have been incredibly generous. To date, we have raised $11.4 million for the specific appeal goals. We have also received $500,000 for scholarships for any of our Catholic high schools. Most donors have chosen to make commitments over a five-year period. We have received two gifts of $3 million, two gifts of $1 million, one gift of $500,000, several gifts of $100,000 or more, many $50,000 gifts, and several smaller gifts. I am so grateful for the sacrifices made by each donor. Their generosity is helping to keep Catholic education affordable for more families and helping to build a firm financial foundation for all of our Catholic secondary schools.

One more $3 million gift or three $1 million gifts or six $500,000 gifts would allow us to exceed our goal. Twenty- six gifts of $100,000 or 52 gifts of $50,000 or 104 gifts of $25,000 would raise the $2.6 million that we need to reach our minimum goal. If you have not been approached for a gift to the private appeal and wish to make a pledge, please contact John Haske via email at: jhaske@steiergroup.com or call (913) 647-0313 or (913) 544-7145. He will be eager to provide you with information.

I believe our Catholic high schools are stronger than they have ever been because of the commitment of our presidents, principals, faculties and staffs to their own on-going faith formation. Every member of the faculty is expected to integrate the truths and principles of our Catholic faith into every part of the curriculum and every aspect of school life.

Yet, our faculties understand that it is not enough for them just to teach the intellectual content of what we believe as Catholics. Our students need and deserve to find in their administrators, teachers and coaches authentic witnesses of living our Catholic faith. This is what we expect from our high school staffs and this is what they are striving to do each and every day.

Everyone in the archdiocese is not being asked to make a donation to the private appeal for our Catholic high schools, but everyone is asked to pray for its success. In our increasingly secular culture, our Catholic schools are more important and necessary than ever in our history. Pray that we can make our Catholic high schools both financially sustainable and keep them affordable so they can continue their important mission of forming the next generation of disciples for Jesus Christ and his church.

Finally, I ask you also to offer a prayer for my mother on her birthday and for all of our retired Catholic school teachers. We owe them so much.

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