GIVING THE GIFT OF EDUCATION
By Monsignor JOSÉ GOMEZ, Archbishop of Los Angeles
Education was always very important in my family. My father was a medical doctor. My mother also went to college, which was not very common for women in the 1930s.
My parents used to always say that the best thing they could ever do for my sisters and I was to give us an education. And I will always be grateful to my parents for that gift of my education.
Through the Archdiocese’s Catholic Education Foundation, we are giving that important gift to young people who otherwise would have no access to this education.
In the 24 years since Cardinal Roger Mahony founded it, the Foundation has provided 110,000 tuition awards totaling $108 million to our poorest families.
Today we have 80,000 students in our Catholic schools. More than one-third — 27,000 — qualify for financial assistance from the Foundation.
Through the generosity and sacrifice of our donors, the Foundation is providing tuition awards that are making a true difference in these young people’s lives.
Almost every student that we give money to — 98.2 percent — graduates from high school within four years! The same percentage — 98 percent — goes on to college or other forms of higher education. Their scores on standardized tests are on par with the best scores in local public schools.
These statistics are amazing. These are young people who have the deck stacked against them. They come from homes with an average annual income of $24,000. There is no way these families would ever be able to afford a Catholic education for their children.
Yet even in their poverty, these families sacrifice and make weekly tuition payments to meet their commitments to their schools. They do this because they recognize that this Catholic education is a great gift.
And the education the Foundation helps provide to them is life changing.
Almost all of the young men and women we assist are the first in their families to go on to college. Many are the first in their families to graduate from high school.
I have been convinced for a long time that education is vital to addressing poverty in our country. Experts tell us that education is one of the few proven engines of economic opportunity and mobility. So the Foundation is also making a vital contribution to one of the most pressing social problems in our country today.
I want to continue this great work. I want to grow our Catholic school populations, to expand Catholic schools to new areas where they are needed, and to raise the money we need to help more students go to our schools.
I have three basic priorities in this coming year. The first is to continue to strengthen the Catholic values of faith, family, friendship and community service that we communicate in our schools.
My second priority is to help better integrate our immigrant brothers and sisters into our parish elementary schools.
Latinos are the fastest growing segment of population here in California. We know that Latino immigrants, especially, come to this country and live in neighborhoods that are poor. The Catholic schools there are poor, too.
So we need to find a way to help these people and these schools. We can’t miss this chance to educate the next generation of Californians!
That brings me to my third priority.
Every child — even if he or she is poor — deserves the opportunity to learn in an atmosphere that promotes excellence and values.
Right now, we have about 10,000 children on waiting lists for our Catholic schools. What they are waiting for is tuition assistance.
Our goal should be to raise enough money to give all of these children the chance for a Catholic education.
Of course, this is not a one-year commitment. We want them to receive the full benefit of a Catholic education — from elementary school to high school.
That takes a lot of money. And it takes a sustained commitment over many years. So we need to ask more of our brothers and sisters to join us in this great mission.
This week in our prayers, let us pray for new grace to help the mission of Catholic education.
Together we can change the lives of thousands of families. And through them we can transform our city and our country.
Let us entrust our work to the patron of this great Archdiocese, Our Lady of the Angels. And I ask that the blessings of God be upon all of us as we seek to do God’s will here in this great Archdiocese of Los Angeles. VN