Catholic school tuition assistance supported by Legacy Campaign

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Ensuring that a Catholic education is available to any family who wishes it for their children is what comes with support of A Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love Campaign, said Dr. Rebecca Hammel, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Nashville.

“We want to serve as many families as possible because it is so important for us to help the family, one, in their baptismal promises to God, to raise this child in the faith. We want to partner with parents on that journey,” Hammel said. “Two, we know that the foundation of excellence that students receive in our Catholic schools serves the greater good, so it’s important for us to cast wide our net, and welcome into our schools all families who seek an education rooted in gospel values.  

“We also realize though, there are many families for whom Catholic school tuition is just not an option, and that’s where the community aspect comes into play,” she continued. “Bishop (J. Mark) Spalding often quotes Luke 12:49, ‘To whom much is given, much will be expected,’ and that verse calls to my mind this opportunity to come together in our Catholic family to serve others. The gift of a Catholic education can bear an eternal reward. That is what this campaign is helping us to do in our diocese.”  

The $50 million A Legacy of Faith, Hope and Love Campaign is a diocesan-wide fundraising initiative to build up endowments to support in perpetuity parishes, schools, ministries and agencies of the diocese.   

The historic campaign, with the assistance of Steier Group, is raising money to create new endowments or enhance existing endowments to provide future revenue for five key priorities: individual parish needs; Catholic education; vocations; parish growth and expansion; and outreach to those in need; and the money will be split among each of the key priorities. 

Hammel said it a blessing and an honor for Catholic education to be included in the campaign.

“Given my heart is in Catholic education, I find it humbling that this diocese values our Catholic schools so greatly that they made us a priority. Bishop Spalding has been a tremendous, outward supporter of our Catholic schools, and that speaks to his belief in what we do,” Hammel said. “In that way, it’s just a true honor that our Catholic schools are one of the three main pillars of this campaign.”  

Catholic education is set to receive 40 percent of campaign funds, which will be allocated to support the Advancement of Catholic Education endowment, which provides tuition assistance to families that need it, Hammel said. It will supplement the annual ACE Awards Event fundraiser, which will continue to happen each fall. This year, the event will be held 6-9 p.m. ?Thursday, Sept. 15.

The ACE Gala, while a fundraiser, “is also a community builder,” Hammel said. “There are so many people who firmly believe in supporting our Catholic schools, so we host this evening to draw them together to celebrate the schools and to provide them an opportunity to share in our mission.

Even though the schools all charge tuition to attend, which serves as the main source of revenue, it is never the full cost it takes to educate each student, Hammel explained. It is necessary for each school to continually host fundraising events to fill the gap between tuition charged and the cost to educate.

“Historically, we have relied on the goodness of others through donations and of course the fundraising efforts that occur at our various schools,” Hammel said. “The model (of charging tuition) really changed after Vatican II when we saw a number of the teaching sisters, brothers and priests leaving Catholic education because their orders were branching into other ways to serve the community. Lay persons’ salaries out-paced their predecessors, many of whom took vows of poverty; this, combined with higher operational costs and facility expenses, have, for decades, made it increasingly difficult for some families to afford Catholic school tuition.

“Ironically, for many of today’s Catholic parents, it was their grandparents and great-grandparents who built and financed our parish churches and schools in the 60s and 70s,” she said. “So, ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’ again, comes to mind. It’s our time now, our turn to ensure our schools are available to as many families as possible and for generations to come.”

As of late July, the campaign has reached $38,226,714 million raised between gifts, planned gifts and pledges.

“It’s a beautiful testament of God at work in this diocese. I think that people have been so receptive (to the campaign) because the Holy Spirit is truly alive in this diocese at this time, and the faithful are responding to something bigger than any one of us,” Hammel said. “I am encouraged and blessed to see people coming together in this way to support all the good work happening in this diocese. We’re doing it together, in communion with one another.”

The campaign is being rolled out at churches across the diocese in three waves, with a different group of churches in each wave. Wave One is complete, and Wave Two kicked off in late March. Wave Three of the campaign will begin kicking off in late summer.   

Steier Group, a capital campaign fundraising firm out of Omaha, Nebraska, has assisted dioceses in similar campaigns all around the country. Corporate donations have covered the fees for Steier Group to assist the diocese in managing the campaign. 

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