On the weekend of September 13th we have the annual collection for Catholic Schools in our Diocese. I am a product of an elementary Catholic school and the diocesan seminary system. My parents believed in the value of a Catholic education, not so much for the academic component which is very important, but on developing faith and knowledge to grow in my Catholic faith and for my brothers and sister, too.
There is a great write up in this issue of the Valley Catholic on Elizabeth Ann Seton, a woman, and mother who was instrumental in beginning the early formation of Catholic schools in our country, heretofore unheard of. I find her life to be a fascinating story, brought up Episcopalian, born two years before the Declaration of Independence in the very formative years of our country in 1774. She fell in love with William Magee Seton at the tender age of 16, married and in time gave birth to three girls and two boys. Due to William’s business failure and ill health, they received an offer to go to Italy from the Fillichi family to help William recover. Sad to say, shortly after arriving in Italy in 1803 William died, and in time Elizabeth returned to New York. Inspired by the Fillichi family she pursued becoming a Catholic, even though her family and friends abandoned her. In time she found support from her new found Catholic family. At the request of Bishop John Carroll she started a school for girls near Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. Eventually she became the foundress of the American Sisters of Charity that would lay the foundation for the United States Catholic School system. Initially she provided free education for the poor while also accepting tuition from those who could afford it, (excerpted from United States Catholic Catechism for Adults.)
Elizabeth Seton was canonized in 1975 as the first native born American saint. Her longing to know God, her desire to provide education not only for her own children, and for others, especially the poor became the spark that ignited the fire in developing Catholic schools.
Ideally our own Catholic schools would like to provide an education for all those families who apply for their sons and daughters who meet the necessary entrance requirements. But not all families can afford the increasingly expensive tuition necessary to fund our Catholic schools, pay faculty, and provide a mostly lay run administration. Catholic Schools are alive, but need your support to provide tuition assistance for those who need assistance. Last year, the scholarship fund through the Catholic Foundation, was only able to help only 25% of applicants to receive some measure of tuition assistance. Whatever you can contribute will make the difference and ensure another student has the opportunity of a Catholic Education. The Department of Education’s goal is to add 200 new students this year with your help. Please be generous on September 13th.
Blessings, Father Larry Hendel