Families Local

Parents appreciate what CEF makes possible for their kids

Angela Swisher, right, a member of Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish, Topeka, told guests how much her son Santiago loves his Catholic school and expressed gratitude for the support of CEF. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

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.”

William Brewer shares how the Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) has shaped his family during a dinner at the residence of Archbishop Naumann on Dec. 18. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

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.”

Archbishop Naumann shared with parents of children who receive CEF scholarships to attend Catholic school how her mother remained steadfast in her faith despite the difficulty she experienced following her husband’s death. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

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.”

Parents of children who receive CEF scholarships share a laugh with Archbishop Naumann during an evening at his residence on Dec. 18. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

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.”

RJ Gildea shares with Archbishop Naumann and parents of children benefiting from CEF scholarships how important the parents’ work at home is for their children’s success. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

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.”

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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