“Education,” St. John Bosco often said, “is the great art of forming human beings.” And this is what happens every day across the archdiocese as children attend our schools are receive intellectual, spiritual and character formation. But the reality is that many parents perceive a Catholic education as being financially out of reach, no matter how much they might desire it for their children.
Since becoming Archbishop of Denver in 2012, I have been seeking ways to reinvigorate our Catholic school system and to make a Catholic education more accessible to people throughout northern Colorado. These inter-related goals are important to me for two reasons that might seem unrelated but are in fact connected.
The first reason I am so invested in Catholic education is that our Church and society need the witness of faithful people. During a 2010 visit to a Catholic school in London, Pope Benedict XVI explained the mission of our schools – in partnership with parents – this way: “A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints.” Our world needs more saints.
The second reason I am focused on affordability is that many parents have told me that they want to send their children to our schools but the rising costs of living in northern Colorado and raising a bigger family make it too difficult.
In response to these concerns, I have asked our Archdiocesan Finance Office, the Office of Catholic Schools, and a group of pastors with schools to work on ways to improve the affordability of our schools. The result of their efforts is a two-step plan of action.
The first step involved creating a budgeting model that is being applied to all our schools over the next three years, starting in the 2018/19 school year to ensure that their staffing and resources are properly aligned with their student enrollment. This model will also implement a tiered tuition scale that adjusts for income, family size, and other factors, allowing principals to accommodate the many situations that come with family life.
The second action that is being taken is to expand the mission of Seeds of Hope. For those who are not familiar with this wonderful organization, it was first founded in 1996 after the closure of St. Joseph’s School in central Denver, which upset many in the local community. In response a group of business and community leaders committed themselves to ensuring that Catholic schools in low-income neighborhoods could survive. “Every child,” they emphasized, “is a seed of hope.”
The historical focus of Seeds of Hope of supporting nine inner-city schools remains untouched, but beginning in the 2018/19 school year, all 37 archdiocesan schools will be included in its mission. This means that families who are unable to afford a Catholic education will be able to do so, regardless of which school they are attending.
The work of forming the next generation is vital for the success of our Church and our country. As parents and family members consider your educational plans for your children, I invite you to approach your local Catholic school to discover what new opportunities might be available for you.
May God bless you and fill you with his gifts of wisdom and understanding!