BUSHWICK — Rafael and Mayra Diaz enrolled their two children, a kindergartner and a seventh-grader, in St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Academy in Bushwick because they want their kids to have the best opportunity possible and could see that happening only through a Catholic education.
“I’ve seen public schools get progressively worse since I went through,” Rafael Diaz told The Tablet at St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini on Sept. 4, the first day of school. “I wanted something better for my kids.”
Mayra Diaz agreed. “It’s the balance between the academics, the spiritual life, and the important relationship to have with God,” she said.
St. Brigid’s and St. Frances Cabrini, which were a mile apart, merged over the summer after St. Frances Cabrini closed because of financial reasons. The newly merged school has about 100 students in nursery school through the eighth grade.
“With so many new students in the building, it’s wonderful,” Principal Marcia Soria said.
“It’s great that parents leave their children in the Catholic faith in a building where Catholic values are going to be taught,” Soria added. “I’m hoping to keep the enrollment up, especially for this coming year. It’s very crucial this year that we maintain a wonderful school environment, not just in academics, but also teaching the faith.”
Across the Brooklyn Diocese, 75 parish schools and academies opened their doors on Sept. 4, with about 21,000 students. Also opening were 17 Catholic high schools in the diocese with about 11,000 students.
“It feels good going back to school because I’m going to meet new friends,” said Delilah Castilla Cosme, 7, a second-grader at St. Brigid-St. Frances Cabrini. “I like wearing the uniform.”
Outside a classroom at the school, Jennifer Castro waved a teary goodbye to her 3-year-old twins, Jax and Ava Hernandez, who were starting pre-K.
“I feel anxious, I don’t know what to expect; it’s just part of being a parent,” she said.
Castro, a parishioner at St. Brigid’s, said she trusts the parish academy, especially with the lack of 3K programs for her children in the neighborhood.
“I believe that a religious environment is always enriching, and I do believe in spirituality,” she said. “I feel that when my kids are in this environment that they are actually learning and getting the best Catholic values and education as possible.”
Father Jorge Ortiz-Garay, the new pastor of St. Brigid Parish, said he’s excited to welcome the new students to the school, which has a new STEM lab and a renovated auditorium.
“I want them to have the same creative opportunities I had [in Catholic school],” Father Ortiz-Garay said. “I really wish for them to enjoy the first day of class and also to [feel] that this is home for them.”
He called Catholic education “an investment of life.”
“It’s important [for students] to grow in faith, so that they can answer in faith all of the challenges of life,” he said.