Foundation grants close gap for cash-strapped schools

Principal Kathleen Byrnes can still visualize opening the envelope that contained The Catholic Foundation’s annual salary grant for inner-city schools.

As then-principal of Sts. Peter and Paul School in Wheat Ridge, Byrnes said the grant was a welcome blessing that helped pay for the school’s continuing education and teacher’s salaries.

“It was just like this weight was lifted off my shoulders,” said Byrnes, now principal of St. Louis School in Louisville. “You don’t want to cut anything that’s a support service for children and you have to pay your teachers. I remember celebrating it as a whole community.”

Grants from the northern Colorado endowment organization are given to poor and inner-city Catholic schools to help supplement teacher’s salaries.

Sts. Peter and Paul School was one of 14 schools awarded by the $600,000 in total grants, distributed between December and January for the 2013-2014 school year. The Foundation has distributed more than $8 million through its Teacher Salary Assistance program since 2003.

Richard Thompson, superintendent of the Office of Catholic Schools in the Denver Archdiocese, said the grants help close the gap for school’s lacking financial resources.

“Some of our schools are in parishes with offertories than run over $2 million a year, but some have offertories that barely reach $150,000,” he said. “Because of this diversity, we could quickly develop ‘haves and have-nots’ in our schools with some not being able to afford a salary scale to attract quality educators.”

Thompson assists the Foundation in assessing the needs and grant amount to give each school.

The schools selected to receive grants this year include Annunciation, Assumption, Blessed Sacrament, Guardian Angels and St. Francis de Sales, all in Denver; St. Louis in Englewood, Sts. Peter and Paul in Wheat Ridge and St. Therese in Aurora.

Teachers at these schools consider their work a personal vocation and are seen as representatives of Christ in the classroom, Thompson said.

“None of our teachers are here for the money,” he said. “Our teachers are here for the mission. If we are going to accomplish that mission, we truly must focus on our teachers in the classroom.”

By helping schools cover the cost of salaries, resources are made available to provide for other financial needs, he said.

“These grants help maintain a portfolio of God-based schools that are affordable and accessible to as many families as possible,” Thompson concluded. “They help us to avoid an ‘elitist system’ because all schools, whether they receive grants or not, are thus able to hire teachers at the same level of quality.”

The Foundation was established in 1998 to establish gifts and endowments to benefit more than 200 organizations mostly within the Denver Archdiocese. Gifts entrusted to the Foundation may be designated for specific endowments, program funds or donor-advised funds.

 

Recipients of The Catholic Foundation’s 2013-2014 grants

Annunciation School                  St. Francis de Sales School

Assumption School                    St. James School

Blessed Sacrament School         St. Louis School, Englewood

Guardian Angels School             Sts. Peter and Paul School

Our Lady of Lourdes School        St. Rose of Lima School

St. Bernadette School                St. Stephen School

St. Catherine of Siena School     St. Therese School

COMING UP: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.