Cardinal’s Circle making success stories for Inner City Catholic School students, families

April 25, 2016

HOUSTON — Ariella Ortega realizes her Catholic school education shaped her into the person she is today. Just as notably, the senior at Cristo Rey Jesuit College Preparatory acknowledges the sacrifices her parents made to make that experience a reality.

“I owe it to my parents who became models for me because of their faith and dedication,” Ortega said. “They were unable to finish school because they did not have the resources and opportunities in Mexico. Through all the obstacles, they held onto their faith and looked past their struggles. Financially, it was very difficult, but they knew it was worth it (for me).”

Ortega was recently accepted at the University of St. Thomas and the University of Texas.

Ortega shared her personal success story during The Cardinal’s Circle Mass and Dinner on April 14. Before attending Cristo Rey, Ortega was a student at Queen of Peace School in Houston, an Inner City Catholic School of the Archdiocese. More than 2,300 students from diverse ethnic and economic backgrounds are currently enrolled in the 13 Inner City Catholic Schools.

The Cardinal’s Circle allowed Assumption Catholic School, another Inner City Catholic School, assist a great number of families pay tuition, according to Father Julian Gerosa, Assumption Church pastor.

“The Cardinal’s Circle helps close the gaps between tuition and real financial possibilities of Assumption’s students,” Father Gerosa said. “Without this crucial contribution, many children will not be at Assumption to receive a Catholic education and formation that many parents desperately desire for their children.”

The Cardinal’s Circle members invest in the lives of these students through an annual commitment of $5,000. The generous donors form a “giving circle” committed to Inner City Catholic Schools in recognition of a shared responsibility to educate future generations — each gift is an investment in the future of students in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. The Cardinal’s Circle also welcomes parishes and organizations who would like to be part of this worthy cause, which supports unique needs of the schools from tuition assistance, professional development, teacher salaries, textbooks, technology and curriculum upgrades and classroom materials.

“Members of The Cardinal’s Circle have answered the call to assist us educate the whole child — mind, heart and spirit,” Dr. Julie Vogel, superintendent of Catholic Schools, said. “With this financial support, we have been able to provide access, programs, infrastructure, experiences, materials and much more for our students. We will continue to work diligently with the sole purpose of forming disciples who will transform the world.”

The Cardinal’s Circle recently surpassed 200 members; 90 of those supporters are founding members of the Circle six years ago. 

“I would encourage anyone interested in joining The Cardinal’s Circle to visit these schools and see the great things the students are doing and learning from their experiences,” Tom Macrini, founding member of The Cardinal’s Circle, said. “There are many families and parents like Ariella’s making great sacrifices to give their children a Catholic school education. The students and the parents, they value their education in the Inner City Catholic Schools.”

Inner City Catholic Schools provide students with high academic expectations, daily encouragement to develop their God-given talents and a moral foundation through projects that benefit the community around them. The schools also offer students the perseverance to succeed in tough times in an atmosphere of safety and trust, as well as a commitment to allow each student to develop a relationship with God and an understanding of their faith that will serve them well for a lifetime.

“One of the things our Catholic schools do is to help to interiorize in our young people a beautiful sense of faith — and that is a gift that keeps on giving,” Daniel Cardinal DiNardo said.

Father Gerosa said Cardinal DiNardo’s commitment is a sign of strong pastoral leadership and displays an understanding that education is a “sure harvest in the future.”

“The support of the Church’s leaders is evident, but also the Church as ‘people of God’ are heavily involved in making this possible,” Father Gerosa said. “Assumption and other Catholic schools are an expression of the vision of faith and charity and love of the Catholic Church in Galveston-Houston.”

During her dinner presentation, Ortega thanked The Cardinal’s Circle members for their generous contributions and support.

“The most important and beneficial aspect of Catholic education was experiencing everything I learn, do and said through faith and service,” she said. “I learned this through the values that my parents instilled in me and what I was exposed to at Queen of Peace and Cristo Rey Jesuit. I learned not to take things for granted based on my parents’ experience, which also taught me to become responsible and independent.”

Ortega said that Catholic schools became a second home to her.

“It created a spiritual atmosphere where I could be myself, but still practice my faith,” she said. “Catholic schools did not just intend for us to be well-educated and prepared for the real world, but educated and prepared while equally holding on to Catholic values that influence our decisions and the way we treat others and ourselves.”

Inner City Catholic Schools of Galveston-Houston
♦ Assumption Catholic School
♦ Holy Ghost School
♦ Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School – Galena Park
♦ Our Lady of Guadalupe School
♦ Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic School
♦ Queen of Peace Catholic School
♦ Resurrection Catholic School
♦ St. Augustine Catholic School
♦ St. Christopher Catholic School
♦ St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School
♦ St. Mary of the Purification Catholic School
♦ St. Peter the Apostle Catholic School
♦ St. Pius V Catholic School – Pasadena 

To learn more about The Cardinal’s Circle, call 713-652-4417 or visit