A shared passion for Catholic education helps bring supporters and educators together
Barbara Snively and Francis Tafelski share a passion for Catholic school education but differ in how they show that desire.
Snively is principal of Holy Angels School in Newark, with just over 400 students enrolled. She ensures her students receive an education steeped in Catholic faith and tradition but realizes many of her parents struggle to send their children to Holy Angels, which has a $6,118 tuition for a single child from a Catholic family. “Parents want a Catholic education for their families, but the costs keep going up,” she said.
Tafelski understands the challenges families face in sending children to Catholic schools. “Our household income was minimal. It’s hard to believe, but the row of houses I lived on [had] no sewer system at the time,” he said. “[But] we were fortunate enough to go to St. Hedwig School.”
He cherishes the education, discipline and values he received as a child at St. Hedwig School in Wilmington in the 1950s so this weekend he will once again contribute to the Share in the Spirit collection.
Funds from the collection go into the Diocese of Wilmington’s Vision for the Future Education Trust. Interest earned on the trust provides tuition grants that often make the difference in whether a family can afford a Catholic education for their children.
This year 310 children from 216 households will receive Vision for the Future tuition assistance totaling $650,000. Grants pay for up to 50 percent of the total tuition.
The Vision for the Future Education Trust was started in the early 1990s, using gifts from businesses, private foundations, and individuals. The first grants were awarded 1993. The Share in the Spirit collection began in 2005.
Deborah Fols, development director who oversees the fund, views the number of families helped this year, and the amount of assistance provided, with mixed reactions. She is glad the fund can assist as many people as it does, but realizes it has “limited resources” when compared to the need.
A total of 720 households, with nearly 1,000 students, applied for tuition grants this year, she said, meaning that only a third of the applications were funded. “According to FACTS, an independent company whose responsibility is to evaluate each applicant’s financial need, $4.6 million would be required to fund the total need of all qualified applicant families.”
That led Tafelski, who attends St. Joseph Parish in Middletown and St. Margaret of Scotland Parish in Glasgow, to wonder how the fund’s work might be expanded. “I mentioned to Deborah [Fols that] if there was a campaign where we could sponsor an individual student rather than give to a campaign, people would have the option.”
In his mind, it would not replace the Vision for the Future Education Fund but augment it, especially for those who could afford more sizeable donations.
“I always indicated that I would like [his Share in the Spirit donation] to go toward helping some child that otherwise would not be able to attend a Catholic school.”
He views the need for Catholic education as vital today, when “teaching respect and discipline is a major thing.”
At Holy Angels, Snively said the atmosphere of a Catholic school appeals not only to parents but also to teachers. One of her teachers had thought about changing to public school but decided “it is important for her to work in a religious school, a Christ-centered school. She said it’s not just about the money; it’s about sharing her faith.”
Parents want the same for their children, a broader faith experience than attending weekend Mass, she said.
Her staff works closely with parents who may qualify for the Vision for the Future grants, ensuring they receive the application packet and assisting them in preparing the application. That includes meeting with families “after hours” and sending reminders to ensure families will meet the application deadline.
Holy Angels has a school development campaign every January, an active Home and School Association, and fundraisers such as semiannual scrap metal collection days that help provide resources for their school without increasing tuition, Snively said.
Still, she knows that most parents sacrifice to send their children to Holy Angels and other Catholic schools. She appreciates those who donate to Share in the Spirit. “We are very grateful to all the parishioners and families who donate to this very important cause.”