Catholic high school education funding aids Year of Mercy’s new evangelization

December 22, 2015

HOUSTON — “Catholic education is one of the most important challenges for the Church, currently committed to new evangelization in an historical and cultural context that is undergoing constant transformation,” Pope Francis stated in an address to participants in the plenary session of the Congregation for Catholic Education (Feb. 2014).

The Holy Year of Mercy, as declared by the Holy Father to be celebrated Dec. 8, 2015 through Nov. 20, 2016, provides Christians an opportunity to participate in new evangelization efforts by helping Catholic high school educators in their call to help young people to holiness and prepare them to live and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in today’s changing world. 

By contributing to the Diocesan Services Fund (DSF), financial aid is made available to all interested, eligible high school students that would like to receive a high-quality, well-rounded Catholic educational experience. The DSF is an annual appeal that provides funding for such essential ministries and programs that serve the religious, spiritual and human needs of thousands of people from every parish in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston. 

Two of the 10 Archdiocesan Catholic schools that provide financial assistance with help of the DSF are St. Thomas High School (STH) and St. Pius X High School (SPX).

STH provides approximately 200 students annually with tuition financial aid in excess of $1.4 million. This amounts to nearly one-third of its student base that receives some kind of aid.

“The Basilian Fathers have remained steadfastly committed to keeping an educational experience rooted in the teaching of goodness, discipline and knowledge within the financial reach of families and students,” said Father Kevin Storey, CSB, president of STH. “For generations, deserving STH students receiving tuition assistance represent diverse intellectual, social, ethnic and economic backgrounds with a history of becoming transformational leaders both on and off campus while demonstrating a desire to enhance both their local and broader civic communities.”

Zackary Krus, who graduated from STH in 2014, is an example of the kind of student who participates in the school’s tuition assistance program. Krus is currently studying at Sam Houston State University and carries a 3.2 cumulative GPA while maintaining full-time employment. 
“I can’t really express the depth of my gratitude for the Basilian Fathers who made my St. Thomas experience possible,” Krus said. “I was already receiving tuition assistance when my father was diagnosed with stage four cancer. My mother is a very strong person, but obviously the financial burden was a significant concern, so the Basilians never wavered in their commitment to maintain and increase that financial aid.”
Krus said he was able to stay at STH through his graduation and was challenged to excel, both in the classroom and on the rugby fields. 

“I took away a great sense of belonging and brotherhood that has strengthened my faith not only in God, but in the human spirit,” Krus said. “I’m determined to pay that Basilian generosity forward in my adult life. My brother, Jacob, is now being provided that same path at St. Thomas, none of which would have been possible without the scholarships made available to my family.”

SPX has a tuition-assistance program for eligible high school students that want a Dominican education, which was founded on the Pillars of prayer, study, community and preaching.

“As the oldest Catholic coed high school in Houston, St. Pius X focuses on providing academic excellence and integrity, celebrating the community’s diverse gifts and heritage, and embodying social justice and service,” said Sister Donna M. Pollard, O.P., Head of School. “Over 25 percent of our students receive some form of tuition assistance, and SPX is committed to offering tuition assistance to families whose financial position meets the qualifications of the Financial Aid for School Tuition (FAST) program. The DSF benefits SPX families in need and allows them to continue to provide a Dominican education for their son or daughter.” 

As Pope Francis opened the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica on Dec. 8, inaugurating the Holy Year of Mercy on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, he said, “To pass through the Holy Door means to rediscover the infinite mercy of the Father who welcomes everyone and goes out personally to encounter each of them.” Sister Pollard believes at SPX, all students are welcome and celebrate their educational, socio-economic and cultural diversity. 

“Our school mirrors the face of 21st-century Houston; we open our doors to students from more than 135 zip codes throughout the city, and to international students from more than a dozen countries around the world,” said Sister Pollard. “We believe each person is unique and valuable, and gifted with God-given talents. At SPX, we challenge each student to acknowledge the responsibility to use his or her talents and knowledge in the service of God and others, and to embody gospel values in daily life.”

Siblings who are SPX alumni and currently freshman studying at Baylor University received financial aid during their high school years. Ashley Solorio, who is studying special education, believes the rigorous academics at SPX provided her with the preparation necessary for college and were above and beyond what she would have received in a public school.

“Attending SPX enabled me to grow in my faith,” said Ashley Solorio. “Sometimes finances were a little tricky, so receiving tuition assistance was vital to me and my brother attending SPX together. I am so glad to have received tuition assistance because I can’t imagine going to SPX without my brother.”

Her brother, Anthony, who is studying computer science with a concentration in game design, said he liked that SPX has a small community.
“You are able to get to know everyone around you, and there is always someone you can reach out to when you need help,” said Anthony Solorio. “Receiving tuition assistance meant that my sister and I could go to school together. Because I was in the Learning Center, the tuition assistance helped my family cover that extra added expense.” 

Sister Pollard sums up the importance of supporting the DSF to provide aid to such exemplary students in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, such as Krus and the Solorio siblings.

“Catholic education today is funded by tuition and by philanthropy,” said Sister Pollard. “It is imperative that Catholic families who believe a Catholic education is fundamental to personal and spiritual growth support the DSF.”