My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
As we celebrate the third Sunday of Easter and the joy of the Risen Christ, there are conversations happening around the table in the homes of many of our young families throughout the Diocese. They are not focused on the upcoming tax filing deadline (this Tuesday, April 17, if you still need the reminder); they are talking about the choice of education for their children.
These families are faced with the difficult decision of whether to send their children to one of the Catholic elementary parish schools or academies in Brooklyn and Queens. The decision is a difficult one, not because of whether they believe a Catholic education is best for their children, but because of whether they can afford the tuition.
More than a third of the nearly 25,000 students attending our parish schools and academies come from families who cannot pay tuition without some type of financial assistance. Driven by their desire to give their children the opportunity for a Catholic education, parents make many sacrifices to find a way, but oftentimes still come up short. It is in these circumstances where a special group of people, aptly called Angels, provides the financial support the family needs.
Through Futures in Education’s Be an Angel to a Student Program, each year 250 Angel donors make a gift of partial tuition assistance that allows 700 students to attend our academies and parish schools. Futures in Education, the scholarship organization supporting the Diocese of Brooklyn, is celebrating a milestone accomplishment this year, having provided over $100 million in scholarship support since its founding in 1989.
Since that time, the Angel program has been its signature scholarship program, where an Angel donor makes a gift, starting at $1,500, to help fund the Catholic education of one student. The Angel is matched to a specific student at the beginning of the school year. Then, throughout the year, that student corresponds with his or her Angel – writing letters, doing art and even sharing report cards to keep the Angel up to date on how things are going in school.
One of the special features of the Angel program, one of my favorite annual events, is the Angel Reception. At this annual event, this year on Thursday, April 19, Angel donors have the opportunity to meet the student(s) and families they are supporting. It is always a moving experience to see the emotions expressed that evening; there is much joy, enthusiasm and feelings of gratitude. All in attendance leave with an assurance that their sacrifices, those of the donor and those of the families, are worth it for the benefits the children realize in receiving a Catholic education.
One of the regular Angel Reception attendees is Angel donor Jimmy Hogan. He credits his involvement to his belief in a Catholic education. After learning of the program and understanding the dire financial situation of some of the parents seeking help, Jimmy was motivated to give back, knowing what a positive impact Catholic education has had on his life. According to Jimmy, “The thing I like most about the program is that, as an Angel donor, I am able to help children not only get a quality education, but also learn to develop and nurture a relationship with God. It is a pleasure to get the letters from the children and hear how much they enjoy being in Catholic school and attending Mass and how it is helping them grow as Christians.”
Our Angel donors are motivated by a variety of factors. They are alumni of our schools, educators, prominent business people, loyal parishioners and even non-Catholic philanthropists. Their common belief mirrors the mantra of Futures in Education: that no child be denied a Catholic education due to their financial situation. They believe all parents, regardless of background, deserve the opportunity to choose what education is best for their child. They believe in Catholic education to form the whole person – mind, body and soul – knowing this will best prepare them to be men and women who live their faith.
The Angel program is coordinated by the development staff at Futures in Education, led by Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, Vicar for Development. To become an Angel, you may call 718-965-7308 or visit the organization website at www.futuresineducation.org.
This Easter Season, I ask you to consider joining our current Angels as they put out into the deep to support the students in our Brooklyn and Queens academies and parish schools by giving the gift of a Catholic education.