This week I want to return to my Reflections on Five Years — Continuing the Mission Pastoral Letter, which encompasses a look at the first five years of my time here in the Fall River Diocese. This time, we will look next at Bolstering Catholic Schools. Although COVID-19 has somewhat altered the path of these plans, the desire to strengthen the Catholic Schools in the Fall River Diocese has not changed.
As stated in the pastoral letter, “During the decades of rapid growth in the Diocese’s history, nearly every parish had a thriving parochial school, staffed by dedicated religious, which formed the next generations to succeed in faith and life. There were also several top-notch Catholic high schools that not only provided a superb academic education but also taught the faith and moral values that people could not get anywhere else. Catholic schools contributed mightily to the vitality of the Church in our country and became the envy of the entire Catholic world.
For many reasons — such as fewer practicing Catholics, smaller families, a decrease in religious vocations, the shift of Catholic families from cities to suburbs, different economic factors, and others — some Catholics schools have had to close and a number of others are struggling.”
The Task of Strengthening Catholic Education
Keeping our Catholic schools thriving will continually be a difficult, but not impossible, task. Now, more than ever, we must work together as a Catholic community to strengthen Catholic education in our Diocese. This task will inevitably look different as we navigate current and future challenges, but together we can assure viable options to Catholic families seeking a Catholic education for their children.
Here are some of the steps the Diocese has taken:
- Created a Taskforce on Catholic Education, comprised of Church, business, educational, and philanthropic leaders to assess the viability of Catholic schools of our Diocese.
- Established a Central School Board.
- Expanded tuition assistance funds and scholarships through the Diocese’s Foundation to Advance Catholic Education (FACE).
- Formed alliances with higher educational institutions and public school districts to provide greater resources for our students.
- Beefed up Religious Education formation and instituted programs for teachers to grow Spiritually and in the knowledge of their faith.
- Offered schools greater assistance with the budget and financial reporting.
No school system can be successful without dedicated, skilled, and faithful team teachers, staff, and administrators. The Fall River Diocese is blessed with people dedicated to the mission of Catholic education and, more importantly, to the families they serve. I know that many of these remarkable Catholic School employees receive far less than what their counterparts do in other schools, even though their students regularly obtain far higher results on standardized tests. For their continued faith and commitment, I thank them.
No doubt, 2020 has challenged us; and will continue to challenge students, parents, and faculty, like never before. I believe we have only begun to witness the excellence of Catholic Education.
I am excited for the Foundation to Advance Catholic Education (FACE) “Un-Gala” virtual event on Friday, July 10th. To learn more and register https://www.face-dfr.org/summer-gala-2020/. The “Un-Gala” will be a half-hour program beginning at 7 pm. Participants will hear about the considerable difference FACE makes in the lives of our students and their families, including a testimonial from one of our students and a teacher.
During the virtual event, the winners in the raffle drawings for three Amazon gift cards [all donors to the event will be entered into this special drawing] will take place. I am grateful to our co-chairs, Jim and Pat Gonet, and the entire committee for all of their hard work. Finally, there will be one special auction item: the highest bidder will enjoy a dinner for four with me. I would be pleased to host the winner at my residence when our time of social distancing comes to an end.
Happy Independence Day
However your 4th of July celebration looks this year, may it be filled with many blessings.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Bishop da Cunha