HOWARD BEACH — Catholic education in Brooklyn and Queens received a big boost on Dec. 11 when a luncheon hosted by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio raised $350,000 for scholarships and tuition assistance.
More than 700 Catholic educators, clergy and others who work in parish and school administration and youth ministry gathered at Russo’s On the Bay restaurant in Howard Beach for the event, which was organized by the Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens and which raised money for Futures in Education, the diocese’s scholarship fund, and for the diocese’s youth ministry initiative program.
“It gets us into the Christmas spirit of giving and to let people know that whatever they do, the gifts that they have are to be shared,” Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, the diocese’s vicar for development, said.
The event honored three contributors to the mission of promoting Catholic education in the diocese — Dr. Thomas Chadzutko, the superintendent of schools; Msgr. John Strynkowski, a former rector of the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Huntington, L.I.; and Veronica Tsang, a member on both the Futures in Education and St. Michael’s Catholic Academy, Flushing, boards.
Tsang, who received the “Spirit of Hope” award, said that she is a proud graduate of Catholic schools in Hong Kong, where she received scholarships.
“Catholic education is important to me because it gives the children a safe, healthy environment of learning, and we help the children remember to pray and honor the values of family and friendship,” Tsang said. “We need more children to have the longevity of the faith.”
Msgr. Strynkowski received the diocese’s “St. John Paul II Distinguished Stewardship” award. He credits the religious brothers and sisters in his parish school for helping him discern his vocation to the priesthood.
“Catholic education is essential to our faith,” Msgr. Strynkowski said. “It’s evangelization. It’s preaching the Gospel to young people and their families, and it’s catechesis. Catholic education is essential to what our faith is.”
Some students from Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst, were attendance, helping to sell raffle tickets.
“We have to support education, because God is our creator and we’re all united under Him. We’re helping other students who need help, so we can all continue to grow in our faith,” Emmanuel Malayalem, a junior at Cathedral Prep, said.
Roger Aguinaldo, a parish trustee at Our Lady Queens of Martyrs, Forest Hills, who also attended the luncheon, said all four of his children have gone or are still going to the parish’s school.
“Catholic education has changed the way they see the world,” Aguinaldo said.
“It’s not just the loving, nurturing environment you notice immediately that’s completely different from public schools,” he said. “There is added value, beyond the academics, in teaching them morals and the Bible that we want to be upfront about,” he said. “Catholic education is a worthy investment — not just of money, but of quality time and well-rounded learning.”
Aguinaldo himself has worked toward to help keeping Catholic schools going through his service on several finance committees. He wants to ensure “these organizations and schools still exist when my kids have [their own] kids,” he said.