As it has everywhere else in our country and our world, the coronavirus has had quite an impact on life here at SVF. What I find particularly discouraging is not seeing the familiar faces at Mass when we priests concelebrate the daily liturgies that are live-screened on our website. I especially miss seeing the children for Friday morning Mass at 8:30. Having our children come to Mass as a school family each week is so uplifting for me as it is for a number of attending adults who have told me the very same thing.
This past Friday, for example, we marked the beginning of May, the Blessed Mother’s month, with the traditional devotional crowning of the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Our church was virtually empty, save for the priests and the few faithful parishioners who assist us daily. It just didn’t seem the same, even though we live-streamed the prayers and gestures that usually accompany our liturgy and connecting devotions.
Questions pop into our minds as to what will happen with the traditional Graduation Mass at the end of May. I can’t answer that, just yet, but we’re planning something to celebrate it – even if virtually – with our students and their families. We want to honor our students and acknowledge their achievements for their many years in our school. The closing of the school year in a Catholic institution is always a significant part of a passage in life, but usually it ends with a Mass for the students. This year, however, has been a bummer. We will still have a Mass on the last Friday in May for our students, and our First Holy Communion class will probably have their big day in September. Our Catholic schools celebrate these special occasions in a way that is not found in secular institutions, and we are grateful to our parents and others who support Catholic schools, especially during trying times.
Recently, President Trump spoke via phone with a significant number of U.S. Catholic leaders. He heard from several religious sisters, teachers, bishops, and lay Catholic leaders about the many challenges we face in our parieshes during the coronavirus pandemic. A major topic on the call was the critical role of Catholic schools in our country. I think you’ll find the following observations most interesting.
Timothy Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, told our President that Catholic schools deliver twice the education for half the price. Sean Cardinal O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston, explained that if all the Boston Catholic schools shut down and students entered public education, it would cost the City of Boston millions of dollars.
One Catholic leader noted that if every Catholic school in the country had to shut down, it would cost the taxpayers an additional $24 BILLION a year to teach these students in our public schools. The President was shocked by that number — clearly realizing the value in savings alone that Catholic schools provide our nation.
The President also celebrated the passage of the recent CARES Act, which allows most Catholic parishes and schools to access critical relief funds. He was instrumental in ensuring that religiously-affiliated schools qualified for these emergency funds. If not, that would mark the demise of Catholic schooling as we know it.
But the President’s phone call with Catholic leaders was not just about dollars and cents. The bishops on the phone emphasized that Catholic schools teach the whole person, body and soul. He agreed and said that’s why parents like Catholic education, and they don’t have to do battle with their own schools.
The President promised that he would fight for financial help for Catholic parents to send their children to Catholic schools — especially as schools prepare for the next school year, when massive unemployment and lingering health fears could be catastrophic for enrollment. This aid might come directly, or in the form of tax credits.
Not surprisingly, President Trump noted that members of a different political party than his aggressively oppose “school choice.” The coming months will likely be very difficult, but, right now, our churches and schools are under intense pressure, which is why it’s good to know our President has our back.
If we were to eliminate Catholic schools in our country, we would lose a very significant part of our American cultural heritage. Not only that, we would also be abandoning our children to the growing powers of secularistic and godless philosophies that have made rapid advances into our public schools and other educational institutions over the past two decades. That’s why we’re grateful to have a wonderful parish school flourish here under the capable leadership of our Principal, Mrs. Vikki Delgado, and the support of so many parents through their sacrifices. She has even worked a way to help keep our students up-to-date with the classwork and have direct contact with their teachers. May she lead us through the turmoil of the pandemic into a new and safer school year. In the meantime, stay safe and pray often as a family.