Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
"Looking around the corner"
by Bishop Blase J. Cupich
(From the February 16, 2012 edition of the Inland Register)
This past month a major archdiocese announced the recommendations of a Blue Ribbon Committee to close 48 of its Catholic schools. While the results of the committee’s study were based on solid research and study, the announcement nonetheless sent shock waves through parishes, schools and families. While students, teachers and parents complained that they did not see this coming, committee members noted that the problems leading to the closures were longstanding and systemic. “Ten years ago,” one member stated, “if we had looked around the corner, we might have been able to do something to save them, but now it is too late. We have hit the point of no return.”
Dioceses around the country are facing similar challenges as parishes have shrunk with changing demographics, as dioceses have suffered financial setbacks and rising education costs have put the choice of a Catholic school out of reach for many families.
The Catholic schools in Eastern Washington are not immune to these trends, but happily the situation has not developed to “the point of no return.” We are blessed by many supportive parishioners, pastors and parents. There is a strong legacy in the diocese predisposed to Catholic schools. That is why I have decided to gather a group of leaders together to help strengthen and stabilize the viability of our Catholic schools. To that end we have formed The Nazareth Guild, a separate 501(c)(3) corporation, which will have a multi-pronged purpose aimed at keeping our schools financially healthy, academically excellent and accessible and safe centers of learning. One of the initial goals is to build an endowment to ensure that our exceptional educational programs will be available to students in all income groups, by providing tuition assistance for students who may otherwise be unable to afford this educational opportunity.
Taking its name for the town where the child Jesus was educated, the Nazareth Guild will promote a professional, strategic and high quality development plan for our schools. Some of that work has already begun.
The board members held their first plenary meeting on Feb. 6. All of the members are very busy people, who nonetheless care about Catholic schools and themselves have benefited from them. They are Susan Bloom, Patsy Etter, Carmella Garabedian, Steve Helmbrecht, Don Herak, John Luger, Rob McCann, Dan Murphy, Mike Patterson Duane Schafer, Nada Stockton, and Tim Welsh.
I publicly want to thank them for generously accepting my invitation to serve as the charter members of this very important board. This is an historic moment for our schools and you will be hearing more about the work of the Nazareth Guild in due time.
It is good to know that this Blue Ribbon Committee will help us all look around the corner.
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