Catholic education leads to ‘remarkable transformations’

November 14, 2023

Through The Cardinal’s Circle, Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School was able to supply students with flexible seating so students have the freedom to choose desks to suit their needs. (Photo courtesy of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School)

HOUSTON — The mission of The Cardinal’s Circle is to help the CROSS Academies maintain a standard of academic excellence in curriculum and staff and provide tuition assistance required by a large portion of their student population.

Through an annual contribution of $5,000, members invest in the lives of students at the CROSS Academies, which provide opportunities for urban children and their families faced with incredible financial challenges to attain a Catholic education, which includes intellectual, moral and spiritual values.

The Cardinal’s Circle has provided generous tuition assistance to families who cannot pay the actual cost of educating a child at their school, said Deena Wolf, principal St. Mary of the Purification Catholic School, one of eight CROSS Academies.

“Many of our families would not have the opportunity to access a quality Catholic education without their support,” she said. “We have witnessed remarkable transformations in the lives of our students who are not only growing academically but spiritually as well. The Cardinal’s Circle has been a beacon of hope and progress. We are immensely grateful for their continued support.”

The Cardinal Circle funds have been instrumental in enhancing the growth and effectiveness of the CROSS Academies.

“With these funds, each school is able to intentionally maximize the true essence of Catholic identity, along with integrating a robust learning environment,” Dr. Christopher Pichon, assistant superintendent of Operational Vitality, said. “St. Mary of the Purification Catholic School is filling its classrooms with eager students and transforming their educational experiences with technological upgrades, interactive learning panels and decorative glass bulletin boards to elevate student engagement.”

Catie Watso, advancement director at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School, spoke about the school’s gratitude for the continued support of The Cardinal’s Circle. Most recently, the school used its funds from the organization to supply students with flexible seating so students have the freedom to choose to suit their needs.

“Some students may prefer the traditional desk and chair combination. Others want to sit but choose to place a ‘wobble cushion’ on their chair to allow for some movement,” she said. “A few classrooms have wobble stools, which allow a full range of motion while in a seated position. The last option is a standing desk, where students can literally stand up or choose to sit on a taller stool to reach the table height to complete their work.”

Watso said these options allow students to have movement of the body while still focusing on the lesson.

“All students have different needs, including their learning environment,” she said. “Flexible seating is one way we are trying to meet a need to help students work more efficiently and effectively inside the classroom.”

Watso said The Cardinal’s Circle funds have also provided Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School the opportunity for their middle school students to attend a retreat at the Christian Renewal Center in Dickinson to dive deeper into their spirituality and relationships with God.

“Our principal, Irazema Ortiz, also attended the NCEA Conference for the first time because of The Cardinal’s Circle. She networked with other Catholic leaders and learned about valuable resources to bring to our campus,” she said. “Because of her visit, we have begun the Friendzy Social and Emotional Learning program on our campus in 2023-2024, as well as Theology of the Body.”

Watso said that, in the future, they hope to continue to provide field trip experiences for our students — including transportation, which is the largest cost — technology upgrades inside the classroom, expand their religion resources, “and aim to continue to support students in their social, emotional and spiritual growth.”

Andrea B. Maher and her husband, Jim, have been loyal members of The Cardinal’s Circle since 2015, and in 2016, she was invited to be part of The Cardinal’s Circle committee.

A strong believer in Catholic education, Maher said, “Catholic education should be available to anybody independent of their financial situation.”

“I think a Catholic education provides the strongest foundation to the education of a child,” she said. “It teaches a set of values, ethics and morals so that a child can become a righteous person without diluting or distorting the academic aspect of education.”

Maher attended a Catholic school from kindergarten to 12th grade, and both of her children attended Catholic schools from kindergarten to 12th grade in Houston. They both currently attend the University of Notre Dame, which Maher said was entirely their choice.

She said her strong belief in Catholic education is what drew her to join The Cardinal’s Circle.

“The Catholic Church has always been a strong supporter of intellectual values, but a Catholic education also considers the spiritual side of the human being, which has a very important role in a person’s life,” she said. “As you know, one of the most important aspects of our Catholic faith is to serve one another, and the mission of The Cardinal’s Circle promotes this aspect by allowing us to give back to our community.”

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CROSS Academy Campuses

  • Assumption Catholic School
  • Holy Ghost Catholic School
  • Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School - Galena Park
  • Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic School
  • Resurrection Catholic School
  • St. Augustine Catholic School
  • St. Christopher Catholic School
  • St. Mary of the Purification Catholic School