Law student credits The Cardinal’s Circle for Catholic education
February 21, 2016
HOUSTON — Dreams come true beginning with a seed of hope. Mathew Mendoza had access to this seed of hope through the support of The Cardinal’s Circle, a program funded by donors with a vested interest in Catholic education.
Mendoza began his education at St. Pius V Catholic School in Pasadena. It is a very small school and he had only about 12 to 14 students in his eighth grade class.
“St. Pius V was the school where my cousins attended, and the church where both my aunts/uncles and parents were married,” Mendoza said. “I also was Baptized, received my First Communion, and was Confirmed there. I considered this parish/school as my home for my family and me.”
Mendoza said his parents could have sent him to a local public school, but sacrificed and received aid from The Cardinal’s Circle, which is comprised of individuals and organizations who have made a $5,000-annual commitment to the 13 Inner City Catholic Schools of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston in recognition of sharing the responsibility to educate future generations. In his parents’ sacrifice, they were happy to be involved with the school to give of their time. His mother served on the school board for several years and his father volunteered by coaching the baseball team.
“No matter what socio-economic status or background a person comes from, having a Catholic education provides the opportunity of becoming part of a family,” he said.
Mendoza later graduated from St. Thomas High School and attended the University of Houston where he earned a bachelor’s degree with a double major in political science and liberal studies in only three years. He is currently attending South Texas College of Law in Houston, which is known for producing some of the most successful trial lawyers in the country.
Tom Macrini, one of the founders of The Cardinal’s Circle, along with Archbishop Emeritus Joseph A. Fiorenza and Sister Kevina Keating in 2010, said the right to obtain a good education, a key to success in the future, should not depend on income or culture.
“The inspiration for The Cardinal’s Circle was the kids and it’s still the kids,” Macrini said. “These schools can make an incredible impact and a difference in the lives of so many of Houston’s economically challenged youth and their families.”
Macrini has visited all of the 13 Inner City Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese.
“The one thing that always is impressive is the courtesy of the students,” Macrini said. “They are well disciplined, eager to learn and seem to be very happy at school. Their parents are extremely appreciative that other people outside the parish/local community would help them.”
JoAnn Prater, principal at St. Christopher Catholic School, said The Cardinal’s Circle not only helps the families, but it is also vital to their budget for teacher’s salaries and technology upgrades.
“We have a computer lab for all classes to use during the week,” she said. “Our first and second grades have a set of iPads that they are sharing between classes. Also, we have just updated our school library with a new automated license for Concourse Book System, four wireless computers, 1,000 books, 100 new religious books and 70 new DVDs.”
Each gift is an investment in the future of these students and their schools to ensure they receive a quality education in a safe atmosphere that is conducive to learning and academic development.
Dr. Julie Vogel, superintendent of the Catholic Schools, said she is impressed with the different ways each school uses its donation.
“I have been here for a year-and-a-half and have seen the generosity of The Cardinal’s Circle in every one of our schools,” Vogel said. “Some schools provide much-needed tuition assistance for families who cannot afford the cost. For other schools the donation supports extracurricular programs to help every child develop their God-given gifts and talents. Our students see that they can do anything because they know in our schools others believe in them. We are havens of unconditional love.”
This unconditional love is part of the reason why Mendoza was able to get through the rigor of Catholic education.
“Yes, at times, classes are a bit more difficult,” he said. “However, going through the difficulty with your fellow students fosters brotherhood and sisterhood of ‘we are in this together.’ I firmly believe that when a person achieves success and grows into the person he has dreamed of becoming, that person has an absolute duty to help others whom are in trouble or have been wronged. That is why I want to be a civil attorney, so I can help people and give them quality legal representation that they would not have been able to receive otherwise.”
Mendoza said he looks forward to becoming a member of The Cardinal’s Circle once he completes his education. The future looks bright for Inner City Catholic Schools and the organization needs more donors to join to support these children and schools.
“For those who have much, much is expected,” Vogel said. “This year, more than ever, Pope Francis is asking us to pay special attention to those who are vulnerable. Our families hunger for better opportunities for their children, and The Cardinal’s Circle helps make that happen. This program is essential for keeping our schools vibrant and full of possibilities for our students.”
For more information about The Cardinal’s Circle, visit www.choosecatholicschools.org/donate.
If you have a question or are interested in becoming a member of The Cardinal’s Circle, contact the Development Department at 713-652-4417 or visit www.archgh.org.