2010 Initiative committee assembles fundraising team

BOSTON -- The commitment to revitalize Boston’s Catholic schools comes with a hefty price tag. For this reason, the committee for the 2010 Initiative has assembled a team to raise the more than $70 million needed so far for completed and ongoing projects.

The organization, the Campaign for Catholic Schools, is seeking to turn the dream of strengthening Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Boston into reality by the end of the decade.

Jack Connors -- chair of the 2010 Initiative and founding partner of Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos, Inc. -- explained that the Church takes seriously its role in the faith formation of children, which is an important aspect of Catholic education.

“You’re like a sponge when you’re young, and that is the ideal time to teach people about our faith,” he said. “In a very real sense young people are the future of our Church, and if we don’t have faith formation with young people, we don’t have a future.”

He noted, however, that Catholic schools throughout the United States are troubled.

“In 1965 there were 18,000 Catholic schools and 5.5 million boys and girls attending them,” he said. “By 1995, 30 years later, there were 13,000 Catholic schools and 2.2 million students attending. This is not a local problem.”

In the archdiocese, the number of schools has decreased by five percent each year for the past five years. In 1960, there were 250 primary schools, today there are 100. No new parish school has been built since 1953, he said.

Meanwhile, declining enrollment has caused tuition rates to rise much faster than inflation. What is needed is “first class” fundraising, he added.

This fundraising will complement the extraordinary work of the Inner-City Scholarship Fund, which provides millions of dollars in scholarships for Catholic school students, Connors said.

The 2010 Initiative, a strategic planning effort, was formed in August 2005. Generally projects include refurbishing buildings as well as updating classrooms, science labs, computers, gymnasiums and cafeterias.

However, the renovations are not merely physical. The curriculum, with the help of area Catholic colleges, is modified, and new activities are added. Additionally, a regional board and director are appointed.

The first 2010 project, completed in September 2007, was Trinity Catholic Academy in Brockton where three schools with a total of 100 students became one school on two campuses with 500 students and a waiting list. The project cost $12 million, much of which was raised before the Campaign for Catholic Schools was formed.

A second project in Dorchester and Mattapan was announced October 2007. There, seven schools will be formed into a new school system, called Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy, with five campuses. One school in the area opted out of the plan that is estimated to cost $64 million and be completed by September 2010.

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said of the project on his Nov. 30, 2007 blog post that, “Dorchester and Mattapan are neighborhoods where there are many school children, and the presence of Catholic education is very, very important there.”

John Fish, president and CEO of Suffolk Construction which provides the renovations, said the revitalization of schools in Boston comes directly from the cardinal.

“The cardinal identified with the importance of Catholic education in our community,” he said.

The 2010 Initiative is also assisting the 123-year-old St. Ann School in Gloucester, the only remaining Catholic elementary school on Cape Ann. This most recent project, announced in February, will require $4.5 million and is expected to be completed by the beginning of the 2009 school year.

Last December, the Campaign for Catholic Schools began their work garnering major gifts to finance these projects. The office employs six staff members -- three fundraisers and three employees who oversee daily operations and gift processing.

Although it is an office of the archdiocese, the full cost of the campaign -- including salaries, office space and support services -- has been funded by private donors. This means that all money raised by the campaign can go directly toward improving Catholic schools. In addition, the construction work on the schools is provided at cost by Suffolk Construction.

“Every dollar given goes to the projects,” said Mary Flynn Myers, the Campaign for Catholic Schools’ vice president for development.

Myers added that raising millions for Catholic education in greater Boston requires professional staff. The whole team is talented and “deeply mission-driven,” she said.

Catholic school teachers too are drawn to parish schools by a sense of mission, but in order to attract and retain the best teachers, area schools need to increase salaries, she said.

The revitalization of Catholic schools is important to the future of the Church in Boston and begets healing, Myers said.

“We are bringing people together around the education of our Catholic youth,” she added.