Supporters of Catholic education rally on Beacon Hill

BEACON HILL — Supporters of Catholic education gathered in the Great Hall of the Statehouse March 15 to urge legislators to support issues of importance to Catholic schools. Over 500 parents along with Catholic school students, teachers and administrators from across the state attended an annual rally for Catholic Schools Advocacy Day, petitioning their legislators to do more for private education.

The event allowed legislators to address concerns of Catholic school supporters both in speaking to them as a group and afterward in private audiences. The important part of the day was to allow parents from all four dioceses and legislators to dialogue, said Lisa Barstow, a representative for the Parents Alliance for Catholic Education.

PACE, a non-profit organization dedicated to serving Massachusetts’ 80,000 Catholic elementary and secondary school students, used Catholic Schools Advocacy Day to ask legislators to increase budget support and help make it easier for parents to send their children to Catholic schools.

PACE asked the legislature to restore $4 million to school nursing programs; make early education a more seamless, mixed system; and allow private school students to have the option to take the MCAS without an additional fee so that they could compete for the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship.

Legislators responded to the requests, assuring attendees of their commitment to Catholic education.

Majority Leader John Rogers, D-Norfolk, said the Catholic Church and the state need to work together when it comes to education.

“We always talk about the separation of church and state,” he said, proposing that there should be unification for a common purpose “where we constitutionally can.”

It is not about establishing a religion, which is prohibited in the Bill of Rights but providing religious and educational freedom to all students.

Rep. Patricia Haddad, D-Bristol, a former Catholic school student, said the state needs the good programs Catholic schools provide along with access to public education.

“Kids deserve to have as many options as possible so that they can succeed,” said Haddad, the chairperson of the House committee on education.

“There are many issues, but few as important as Catholic education,” added Senate President Robert Travaglini, D-Boston.

Rep. Marie St. Fleur, D-Boston, said she understands the challenges parents face in trying to get their children a good education, especially with rising costs, but urged them to talk with their legislators and continue to voice their concerns.

Dayshel Turner, a junior at Cathedral High School in Boston, was invited to speak about her experience. She said Catholic education has made her a better person who is both more outgoing and more responsible.

“These teachers won’t get off our backs until we do our very best,” she said.

Near the end of activities, PACE presented the Collaboration Award to the Black Ministerial Alliance of Greater Boston and accepted by Harold Sparrow, the program’s executive director.

The alliance, established in the early 1960s, provides spiritual nurture for clergy, and advocacy and program services for the larger black community.

Sparrow urged listeners to speak with their legislators and stand up for their Church, especially when it comes to the good done through education and after school programs.

“It pains me that no one is saying positive things about our Church,” he said. “Lately our Church has taken an fall, and I don’t know anybody who’s standing up for our Church.”

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