Archdiocese launches annual appeal to support, increase tuition assistance

December 9, 2014

HOUSTON — Matt Garcia-Prats, the principal of our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School in east Houston, couldn’t have put it more bluntly.
“In reality if we didn’t have The Cardinal’s Circle we wouldn’t exist,” Garcia-Prats said.

Garcia-Prats was talking about the Archdiocese’s fund that bolsters 13 Inner City Catholic Schools that have a high percentage of families who need help with tuition and other needs.

The school, located at 2405 Navigation Blvd., counts 235 students from three years to eighth grade, about 40 percent of whom receive tuition assistance from the Archdiocese. 

With funds from The Cardinal’s Circle, Garcia-Prats said they are able to help more families, especially those faced with unexpected crises such as the loss of a job or medical issues, meet tuition, which averages about $3,500 a year. The additional funds also allow Garcia-Prats to boost teacher pay. 

“We want to provide our families not only with a Catholic education but a Catholic education of quality, and you need funding to pay teachers a good salary and help students get into the door with tuition assistance,” Garcia-Prats said.

The Archdiocese recently launched its annual appeal to individuals, parishes and organizations to make a $5,000 investment in the Cardinal’s Circle. And this year, the fifth anniversary since the fund was established, Cardinal DiNardo hopes to increase membership to 250 donors from last year’s 200. 

“I’m hoping we can touch some other donors — from The Woodlands, Spring and other parishes — who don’t know about this,” said Diane Riley, who with her husband John have been donors from the start. “It’s our job to educate people across the Archdiocese about The Cardinal’s Circle and the good it does.”

Active at her home parish of St. Michael Catholic Church, Riley has always been interested in education and wants to ensure as many Catholic families who want to, have the opportunity to send their children to Inner City Catholic School.

“To get a faith-based education is so important,” she said. “To have God in your life is a great education in itself.”

The funds will be divided evenly between the schools, which between them total around 2,400 students from age three years to eighth grade. Like Our Lady of Guadalupe, the schools mostly put the funds towards tuition assistance, the idea being to keep tuition affordable, so that schools are able to increase enrollment and meet operational costs. Tuition at these schools ranges from $2,000 to $4,500 a year.

“It’s a shot in the arm that helps with operational budgets and allows us to keep tuition low,” said Dr. Julie Vogel, superintendent of the Archdiocese’s schools.

Vogel said the benefits of supporting these schools, which tend to be in neighborhoods with great economic diversity, are immeasurable. She said by increasing enrollment in the schools, students are more likely to go on to Catholic high school, pursue a career and give back to the Church.

“To me it’s the future of our Church,” she said. “It’s an opportunity to evangelize constantly, to bring people in and keep them in as long as possible and create more disciples. We need all of those kids.”