We believe that there is far more good news than negative news about Catholic education, and we must celebrate all that is good right now in Catholic education and, in particular, in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston.
To say that the last few months have been challenging is probably the understatement of the century. The United States went from having one of the lowest unemployment rates in history in February to a high of 14.7 percent unemployment in April. COVID-19 continues to rage in some areas while civil unrest inflames an already stressed populous, and political discourse has devolved to finger-pointing. Did I mention it is also an election year?
When this period of history is reviewed, I am sure what was right and what was wrong will be crystal clear. Hindsight has a great way of making experts out of those who critique the actions of others, but as Teddy Roosevelt so eloquently stated, "It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better." It is easy to critique; it is much harder to do. Even in the case of Teddy Roosevelt, with the benefit of time, aspects of his legacy are less than celebrated.
At the Catholic Schools Foundation, we aim to be "doer(s) of deeds." We have guidelines and excellent board oversight guiding decision-making, but the fundamental question is, what is the right thing to do? We will not always get it right in hindsight, we will be open to critique, but we will always make decisions that put students and families first.
Over these last few weeks and months, we have seen Catholic schools close, an extraordinary demand for emergency financial aid to allow students to continue in Catholic schools, and school leaders wondering if and how they will be able to open in the fall. These are extraordinary times, and we have a choice. We can choose to see these times as dark days or as our finest hour.
We believe that this is going to be the finest hour for Catholic schools. We believe that there is far more good news than negative news about Catholic education, and we must celebrate all that is good right now in Catholic education and, in particular, in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston. It is for this reason that we launched an awareness campaign, called "CSF's 8 Weeks of Summer: Good News Blitz."
There is so much good going on right now that is being drowned out by the noise and angst of the current state of the world. It is so much easier to jump on the bandwagon of negativity, see the world as only black or white and miss the amazing color and goodness that is all around.
CSF recently announced that it made $500,000 immediately available between now and September to meet the demand of families who desire a Catholic education for their children but need a little help due to the economic challenges presented to them by the COVID-19 situation. Since making these funds available the first week in July, we have had hundreds of families apply for assistance. This is not good news; this is great news. People see the importance of Catholic education for their children and CSF is in a position to help them.
More widely, the government is finally seeing that Catholic and other religious schools play a vital role in the educational landscape. In Massachusetts alone, if Catholic and other religious schools went away, the cost to tax-payers would be hundreds of millions of dollars annually and put a tremendous strain on cities and towns. Thankfully, this understanding prevailed in the Payroll Protection Program debate, and Catholic and other religious schools were able to take advantage of these critical funds.
Congress will soon be debating the next COVID-19 relief bill, and the needs of Catholic and other religious schools must be part of that conversation. There are positive forces at work in this regard, but it will require the support of Congress to make it happen. The positive impact on Catholic schools and reduced pressure on public schools would be profound and would provide a better opportunity for all children if Catholic and other religious schools are included in this bill.
CSF firmly believes this will be the finest hour for Catholic education. Never before has the need been so great for high-quality education formed in Gospel value. Now is the time to act.
To keep this good news going, these students and families need your help. If you are in a position to support our efforts to provide an additional $500,000 between now and Sept. 1, your gift would be most appreciated and make a lasting impact. You can visit our website at csfboston.org to make such a gift.
We would also encourage you to learn more about the COVID-19 relief bill and consider writing to your member of Congress to share your support of Catholic education. You can do this automatically by copying this link into your browser (actnow.io/z4DLBe9) or by Googling "Tell Congress: Save Catholic Schools" and clicking the first link.
These are difficult times, but together, we will make it our finest hour.
- Michael B. Reardon is executive director of the Catholic Schools Foundation, www.CSFBoston.org.