The Diocese of Rochester recently raised more than $500,000 to help needy Monroe County children attend Catholic schools, according to Doug Mandelaro, diocesan spokesman. This money was raised in order to meet a challenge offered last March by the Wegman Family Charitable Foundation, which told diocesan officials that it would provide up to $2 million in scholarship money if the diocese could raise $500,000 by June 30, he said.
The diocese has raised $520,468.72 so far, and donations are still coming in, added Sister of St. Joseph Janice Morgan. In fact, several upcoming fundraising events hopefully will help the diocese further exceed its goal and help even more needy children, said Sister Morgan, who served as interim superintendent of diocesan schools for several months in 2008 and currently is working on this project with the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Communications.
The money raised through this challenge will be used to fund tuition for students from low-income families. Eligibility will be based on family income, and any family in Monroe County may apply, Mandelaro said.
Diocesan officials first answered this challenge by holding a series of receptions for potential donors. During these receptions, held at private homes, Sister Morgan gave presentations outlining the need for such scholarship funds for needy children, especially those from the inner city. Private donors contributed more than $300,000 as a result of these receptions.
These gatherings also gave diocesan officials a chance to meet with parishioners, listen to their stories and hear their thoughts about Catholic education in the Diocese of Rochester. Sister Morgan said she thinks this helped promote healing in the wake of last year’s closing of 13 Catholic schools in Monroe County.
In March Bishop Matthew H. Clark urged all Monroe County parishes to hold special collections March 7-8 and March 14-15 to help the diocese meet its $500,000 goal. He penned a letter to be read at parishes to encourage parishioners to contribute to the special collections.
“Parents of inner-city children tell us that they truly believe the faith-based education they are receiving in our safe and nurturing Catholic schools is a strong deterrent to the enticement of youth gangs, violence and drugs,” he wrote. “Let us give hope to these children; let us stretch out our hands and offer them a way up and out of poverty through education.”
Those special collections have netted more than $151,490.55 so far, and several parishes have not sent in their collections yet, Mandelaro said.
Mandelaro and Sister Morgan said they were impressed by parishioners’ generous reactions to the collections, and it was especially poignant to see large contributions come from parishes whose schools were closed last year. Even though this campaign started around the same time the economy collapsed, people evidently still place a high priority on Catholic education and believe it’s worth a financial sacrifice, Mandelaro said.
“We are just so grateful for their generosity because what it says is that they believe in Catholic education, especially for the poor among us,” Sister Morgan said.
Two additional opportunities to help raise scholarship funds for children to attend Catholic schools in Monroe County will take place in May and June.
On May 2, 3 and 4 three Barnes and Noble Booksellers will donate a portion of sales on those days to the Wegman challenge if shoppers mention the challenge when making a purchase. The participating stores are located at 3349 Monroe Ave., Pittsford; 1070 Ridge Road, Webster; and 330 Greece Ridge Center Drive, Greece. There also will be a free concert from 1 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 3, at the Pittsford Barnes and Noble Booksellers with John Dady of the Dady Brothers and his daughter, Mara.
Proceeds from the 13th-annual Catholic Schools Scholarship Golf Classic, to be held June 29 at Greystone Golf Club, also will be used to fund tuition assistance for needy children in Monroe County’s Catholic schools.
EDITOR’S NOTE: To donate to the challenge, make a check payable to the Diocese of Rochester Challenge and send it to: Sister Janice Morgan, Pastoral Center, 1150 Buffalo Road, Rochester, NY 14624. For more information, call 585-328-3228, ext. 1297.