by Jill Ragar Esfeld
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Patrice Brewer and her husband William are both educators in the public school system. When they moved to this area, their children attended public school.
But it soon became clear the curriculum wasn’t challenging enough.
“My husband and I prayed on it,” said Patrice. “And we made the hard decision to pull our kids out of the system we work for.
“We were welcomed with open arms to Saint Patrick [in Kansas City, Kansas]. It was the best decision we have ever made for them, and we are truly grateful.”
The Brewers are particularly grateful for the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) scholarships that helped them send their children to St. Patrick School.
“As a faith-based household, we’ve always raised our children on loving God and having a relationship with Jesus Christ,” said William. “And to be able to see them thrive academically and spiritually as well, has been a blessing.
“We want to say thank you, CEF.”
Several parents whose children benefit from CEF scholarships were invited to a pre-Christmas Mass and dinner hosted by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann on Dec. 18 at his residence.
CEF staff, including executive director Vince Anch and CEF board chair R.J. Gildea, joined the archbishop in this opportunity to get to know some of the families who benefit from CEF.
The day was special to Archbishop Naumann because it was the 75th anniversary of his father’s death.
“My mother was actually pregnant with me when my father died a week before Christmas in 1948,” he told his guests. “My mother named me Joseph because she thought Joseph was a pretty good foster father for Jesus, so he would be a good patron for me.”
Despite the tragedy of his father’s death, the archbishop said his mother remained strong in her faith and became an inspiration to many, including her two sons.
“You know, Jesus doesn’t promise us we’ll never have adversities or difficulties in our life,” he said. “What he does promise is that he’ll be with us. We’ll never be alone if we have faith in him.”
The archbishop called parenthood “a great adventure,” and thanked those present for being open to life. He praised parents as the first teachers of faith.
“I think the most important thing is your own example of the importance of faith in your life,” he said. “Spend time with your children; make Sunday a special day in the family.
“It’s important for children to see their parents praying and to pray as a family.”
These CEF families expressed their gratitude for the chance to send their children to schools that support their efforts in teaching the faith.
“I thank everyone for doing this for us,” said Karla Inestroza, whose child attends Holy Cross School in Overland Park. “Our kids are strong from what they learn every day.
“When I have a bad day, my daughter comes in and she says, ‘Mom, just trust to God; he has control of everything.’”
CEF scholarships are a great help, but families still must make sacrifices to see that their children receive a faith-based education. They believe it’s worth the struggle.
“I don’t care how much we have to work,” said Teresa Espinoza, whose children attend Holy Name of Jesus School in Kansas City, Kansas. “A lot of people tell me it’s expensive, you can’t afford it. But to me, the point is faith.
“Thank you so much for helping us teach our children the way to get Jesus in their hearts.”
Many tears were shed as parents shared their struggles and their gratitude for the financial aid provided by CEF.
“I get emotional, too,” said Gildea as he addressed the guests. “So, don’t feel bad about it.
“The work you do is equally — if not more — meaningful. And we are just very proud and honored to be able to walk alongside you every day.”
Anch told parents that 700 people joined in that walk by donating to CEF last year.
“This year, we’re going to fund 1,800 kids with scholarships,” he said. “And our goal is to break 2,000 as soon as we can.”
Gildea agreed, saying, “It’s something that we continue to celebrate as an organization, and we continue to work at — adding more seats around the table in the coming years.”
Archbishop Naumann closed the evening with prayer, telling parents how important it is to make Catholic schools financially accessible to everyone.
“I’m so grateful for the foundation and the board and for our donors,” he said. “Just know a lot of people love you in the church.
“They believe in you and your families, and they want the best for your children, just like you do.”