Thursday, February 4, 2010

"... we're not growing Catholics in Rochester anymore"

HTparent is a frequent commenter on Catholic school-related issues, both here and on other local boards. 

He/she posted the following in response to 13WHAM.com's story on the merging of Nazareth Academy with Aquinas.

As sad as this is, Nazareth Academy could not survive with such low enrollment ... Aquinas was having it's own problems with enrollment. This is a proactive decision on the part of the administrations of both schools.

More of these announcements will come in the future. Our own Bishop does not believe in Catholic Education, so why would people continue to pay money for it?

The high schools will not be able to survive without a solid feeder system, which the diocese has systematically dismantled over the past decade. None of the people with wallets big enough for Bishop Clark to be bothered listening to have ever stood up to him on this issue.

You reap what you sow, and we're not growing Catholics in Rochester anymore.

Thank Bishop Clark.

I couldn't have said it any better.

14 comments:

Ben Anderson said...

I agree you with you Mike. But I gotta wonder how many Catholics actually have the money for schools like these - especially those with big families. Seriously - how would a family of 5+ possibly send their kids to the "cheaper" elementary schools let alone the middle and high schools? We're still a few years away from making a decision, but it seems we only have 2 options - homeschool or public school. If we do the former, it hardly seems worthwhile to stay in this area where we are paying (in property taxes) an exorbitant amount of $ for schools that we don't use.

Mike said...

Ben,

Making available an affordable Catholic education for anyone who wants it should be a priority for every diocese and every Catholic.

According to the USCCB,

The Catholic community is encouraged at every level to support the work of our Catholic elementary and secondary schools, keeping them available and accessible to as many parents as possible. Therefore, we the Catholic bishops of the United States strongly encourage our clergy and laity to market and support Catholic elementary and secondary schools as one of our church’s primary missions.

Unfortunately only one diocese in this country (Wichita) has taken this sentiment seriously and it started doing so long before these words were written in 2005. It took Wichita almost 20 years to adopt a true, diocesan-wide stewardship program with enough parishioner buy-in that it could cease charging tuition to Catholic students. It also took strong leadership from the local ordinary and all his pastors.

Absent a lot of folks with very deep pockets, I believe it's going to take something like the Wichita model operating in every diocese to make a Catholic education available to all.

Nerina said...

Ben,

My husband and I had this exact conversation the other night. We have five children ages 14 to 3 and there is no way we could afford to send them to Catholic school. If we had them all enrolled in Catholic school right now, we'd be paying out $30,000+ per year. My husband makes good money as an engineer which allows me to stay home. We tithe, so a large chunk of money goes there. The only way we could afford to send the kids to Catholic school would be to have me go back to work. And frankly, with the exception of McQuaid Jesuit, I'm not all that impressed with the schools in our area. The trade off of me going back to work to fund a Catholic school education isn't worth it. If I had to do it all again, I would homeschool. No doubt. I may still do it for my 3 youngest.

gretchen said...

Nerina,

If all five of your children were at Aquinas right now, it would run you about $35,000. Elementary school is significantly cheaper. I have four in school now - two at AQ and two at a Catholic elementary school. The oldest two both do well in school, so they have each gotten academic scholarships, which has helped some. If they did not, we would be paying around $18,000/year to educate all four. It's a lot of money, but it's not $30K+.

My husband is also an engineer with a good job, and it's an enormous sacrifice. Most of our money goes to education. (No fancy vacations for us! Heck we don't even have cable!) Still, it's something that we prayed about back when our oldest was starting Kindergarten and we continue to pray for discernment that we make the right choices for our kids.

HTfamily said...

We also have 5 children similar in age to yours. I'm home and my husband earns a decent living. We've used Catholic schools from the start. Please don't rule out Catholic schools because of cost. We are paying MUCH less than $30k "sticker price". If it is truly a priority in your life, the schools will help you afford it. That often means sacrifice- no fancy vacations, or cars, down-sizing your home- all things we've done. My husband always says it's lifestyles that are expensive, not children. Catholic education is another choice. McQ is extremely generous with aid, especially to families with many children. It is humbling to ask for aid, but worth it in our opinion. Finally, take a look at St. John Bosco Schools for a truly orthodox Catholic Classical education at a fraction of the diocese schools' cost. It's the best kept secret for a top-quality Catholic education in Rochester.

Nerina said...

HTfamily and Gretchen,

At the risk of sounding defensive, I must say that our family does not take fancy vacations (HAH - the last vacation we took was 5 years ago when we rented a cottage on Cape Cod), we don't have cable either, we live in a very modest house, we have never had a new car and we live off of hand-me-downs. Further, our kids don't have every techno gadget available (no cell phones, no DS, no gaming stations - nothing) and we love our public library. We are certainly not suffering and I don't resent the sacrifices at all, but I am not convinced the Catholic schools are very good in our diocese. How many times have I heard "well, I went to Catholic school for 12 years and still believe you can use contraception, have an abortion, divorce is okay, etc..."?

I know a couple of families in Catholic schools and they have been unable to secure financial aid of any sort. I think because their income is too high (similar to college financial aid). And, as I mentioned in my first post, we have made a commitment to tithing and I would rather have my money go to charities right now than to our Catholic schools given what I know about those schools.

I have a friend who teaches at St. John Bosco's and I am very encouraged by what I hear about that school. But it is a new school which is still developing its curriculum and can't serve my older kids since they are too old.

Our public school is serving our needs very well (our oldest is autistic and he gets support and services that the Catholic schools could not provide). All of our kids are involved in music and, again, the Catholic school programs leave much to be desired. I wish it were a straight forward decision. I wish the Catholic schools were so good in their mission that this would be a "no brainer" decision. But it's not. Every family has to make a decision based on its needs and its children. Certainly there are trade-offs. My kids have been exposed to "the culture" in ways they wouldn't have been had I homeschooled them. But I don't think Catholic schools shelter them at all from cultural influences. Some of the most worldly and materialistic children I know go to Catholic schools.

So, I ended up sounding defensive anyway :).

Ben Anderson said...

I appreciate all of your input. I concur with everyone that lifestyle is a choice - we're definitely what you might call minimalists. However, it's still hard for me to justify spending that amount of money on something I'm not completely convinced is worth it. It's not a pride thing about applying for aid, but more of a "how can I trust that I'll get it". I'm guessing we probably wouldn't qualify, but since you have to apply to find out, then I don't know. My hope is maybe to homeschool and if the kids are able to get academic scholarships to mcq, then maybe they can go there for high school.

The points you raised, Nerina, about music is probably one of the biggest drawbacks to homeschooling (although I'm sure some homeschooling parent could tell me how it's possible to do both). Ah well - there's no perfect answer and we'll take it as a year-by-year thing.

HTfamily said...

Nerina,

I didn't mean to accuse you of living a life of luxury while saying Catholic schools are too expensive. Sorry about that! Too often I hear that from people, yet they find money for an annual trip to Disney or somewhere other than grandma's for vacation. I realize raising 5 kids while trying to tithe is expensive enough without school tuition.

Although St. John Bosco Schools is new, we felt the orthodox faith, small class sizes, advanced curriculum, and value placed on the parents' role in the child's education was worth leaving the "safety" of the rigid, established diocese school we used after our school was closed. Because the school is so new, it is open to new ideas and changes. We see this as a positive. We can be a part of the future of Catholic education, not the end, at St. John Bosco Schools. It is definitely worth a second look for people frustrated with the expense and structure of the diocese schools.

Classical education is very different from the diocese schools' model of education and probably public schools' models, too. My 5 year old takes philosophy class and loves it! Some Latin, too.

We dabbled in homeschooling for a few years with one of our children due to his needs at the time. Rochester is blessed with a large,vibrant Catholic homeschool population. There really are choices out there.

Good luck with your decisions for your little ones!

gretchen said...

I would love to see our Catholic schools be more Catholic. (We moved here from an area where, in the last couple years, Catholic schools have been thriving and growing. The bishop there retired a few years ago and the new bishop is on fire in Christ and very pro-education. Gotta admit I miss the bishop there!)

There are little things we as parents can do to assist in the Catholicity (is that a word?) of our schools and parishes. My kids have made it their personal missions to try to get their friends to go to Mass more often. They often drag friends along on Saturday nights before parties or sleep-overs. It seems to be working. The friends are getting more interested. A small grassroots effort can have amazing results. (Nothing is impossible with God!)

Ben, there are lots of options out there. Nothing says you have to stay with the one you first choose or that all your kids have to be schooled the same way. I know a woman who homeschools one kid while one goes to public school and another goes to a Christian school. As she says, each kid has his own needs.

If you opt for homeschooling, the money you'd save on Catholic schools can be spent on music lessons. Hochstein has some great music programs worth checking out. You'll find other homeschoolers there as well.

The important thing is that we all work to meet the spiritual needs of our families and that we work together, not as adversaries, regardless of the educational choices we make for our children. We can all be lights of Christ. (St. Therese of Lisieux did it so well by offering all her "little things" to the Lord. I have to remember that every time I'm sorting socks!)

Time to get off my soapbox. Have a blessed First Friday and a fabulous weekend!

gretchen said...

Nerina, Ben & HTfamily, I just looked at the date/time stamps of our most recent posts. Instead of being online, it would be way more fun to be discussing this over coffee after First Friday Mass! :D

Ben Anderson said...

yes, we should meet up sometime. If we're talking schooling, my wife should be the one to meet up. She's the expert. Yes, talking on the Internet is just not that great. Aside from the impersonality of it, there's always misunderstandings and whatnot. But seeing as I live (er - I mean work) at my computer this is where I spend most of my time. Sad, but true.

Actually, we should do a big time get together sometime with every blogger/reader/commenter in the area. It'd make our online interaction much more multi-dimensional.

HTfamily said...

That would be great! I volunteer at school on Fridays and Mondays with my toddler toddling along. We do celebrate First Friday Mass at St. John Bosco Schools (as well as weekly Mass on Wednesdays plus Holy Days, of course). Today I have two sick kids so I had to stay home. If anyone wants to meet and see the school after Mass in the future, we can clear it with the headmaster. Or, we could meet at another church after Mass.

Ink said...

If I can get my mom to write me a pass to get out of school for a bit, then sign me back in (just in time for AP Physics, if possible), and sign it as "religious reasons," (it IS though...) I'll be there. Otherwise, school is... well, school. And here at the Institute, we don't teach kids about the concept of First Friday Mass.

(Ink's new goal in life: become rich so she can build a church and rectory on-campus.)

TheCrankyProfessor said...

Well...actually, what people really want are an alternative to public MIDDLE school. All across America (and certainly in upstate NY) the disaster happens at that transition.

SO - Catholics who want to start independent schools (that is to say "schools in the Catholic tradition that the diocese can't control"), pitch your effort at MIDDLE school and building up to 12 rather than K and building up from there.