Paying for a Catholic school education can be a sacrifice for many families, and the requests for tuition assistance far outpaces the ability of schools in the diocese to meet them.
To help ease that burden, the diocese is launching a new fundraising event for its Endowment for the Advancement of Catholic Schools Inc.
A reception to support EACS will be held at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6, at Holy Family Church in Brentwood. Tickets are $100 each.
“The goal is to relieve some of the burden of the cost of tuition so that Catholic schools can continue to be an option for families,” said Betty Lou Burnett, who is a co-chair of the reception with Lucy and Marty Blair.
The idea for the reception grew out of the work of a task force formed in 2014 by Bishop David Choby to explore ways to make Catholic schools more affordable, Burnett explained. One recommendation of the task force was to develop a diocesan wide marketing campaign, and another was to increase the funds invested through EACS, she said.
EACS has more than 20 designated funds that benefit schools and educational programs in the diocese, including every diocesan school. The foundation also has several undesignated funds donated to the bishop to support Catholic education. The EACS board advises the bishop on how to distribute the returns on those funds.
“We have around $3.5 million of market value” in the EACS funds, Burnett said. The majority of the funds are in restricted accounts and the earnings from those funds are earmarked for specific schools. About $170,000 of the funds are unrestricted, she added.
“We received requests of more than $450,000 of tuition assistance need,” Burnett said. “Normally we have around $20,000 to award for financial assistance.”
To meet the $450,000 in requests for assistance, “we would need a $20 million endowment,” Burnett said.
She is hopeful the May 6 reception will be the first step toward building the endowment to meet future needs while also boosting the amount available for assistance right away. Toward that goal, 50 percent of the money raised will be deposited into the endowment and 50 percent will be available for current needs, Burnett said.
“This will put some of the money to work right away and still build the endowment,” she said.
The reception will be a diocesan-wide effort meant to complement the efforts of individual schools to raise funds for tuition assistance, Burnett said. “I don’t want the schools to view this event as a competitor for their individual tuition assistance programs.”
The reception will start at 6:30 p.m. with music from the Holy Family Deacon John Calzavarra’s jazz group. The program will begin at 7 p.m., which will include recognizing all past winners of the Christ the Teacher Award, given to an outstanding teacher in a Catholic school in the diocese each year. The program will also feature two talks, one by a current Catholic school student receiving tuition assistance and another by an alumni of Catholic schools whose life has been impacted by the education they received.
Catholic education “provided me with the faith that has carried me through a successful career and being a wife and mother,” said Burnett, a graduate of Christ the King School and St. Bernard Academy. “I’m a firm believer that Catholic schools form a person to live in Christ’s light.”
Invitations to the reception will be mailed out this month, but everyone in the diocese is invited, Burnett said. Tickets will be available for purchase online or by calling Burnett, the facilities director at Holy Family Church, at 615-373-4696.
Organizers also are seeking corporate sponsors for the reception, Burnett said.
People can make a donation directly to EACS, she said. For more information about EACS or making a donation, contact Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools Therese Williams at 615-383-6393 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Burnett is shooting for a crowd of 300 for this inaugural event, but is hopeful it will grow similar to the annual Seminarian Education Benefit Dinner and Auction fundraiser. In its first year in 2010, that event raised $6,000. Last year, it raised $190,000 and the goal for the 2017 dinner and auction, to be held May 23 at Holy Family, is $225,000.