Archbishop Chaput discusses Catholic schools' future with students
By Hillary Senour
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput

.- After some closings and mergers, Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia met with students in an online and in-person forum to discuss the future of Catholic schools in the archdiocese.

The archbishop told participants in the March 8 meeting that the two most important commodities for struggling Catholic schools are the students themselves and increasing enrollment.

Students from 17 Archdiocese of Philadelphia schools were present to offer commentary, ask questions and show support for their institutions.

Archbishop Chaput said that the three most important parts of keeping Catholic schools in the Philadelphia archdiocese alive and well are the students, vouchers and benefactors.

School choice in the form of vouchers, or opportunity scholarships, is essential for making a Catholic education available to students who otherwise would not be able to afford it, Archbishop Chaput told students.

Part of the new enrollment initiative involves the archdiocese's partnering with the Faith in the Future Foundation, which “was created to support and guide the system of archdiocesan high schools.” The recently launched foundation will provide over one million dollars in grants available to students.

Most of the grant money will be distributed in the form of 1,000 grants of $1,000 to incoming freshman students.

The Faith in the Future Foundation will also award a $5,000 scholarship at each high school to the student who refers the most new students for the 2012-13 school year, and one $25,000 grant to the student who refers the most new pupils to high schools across the Philadelphia archdiocese.

Archbishop Chaput announced that the foundation will sponsor a photo contest that will allow students to upload pictures expressing their school pride. Five students whose photos best express their support will receive a $1,000 tuition grant.

The March 8 meeting, streamed live on the archdiocese's website, allowed thousands of students to access the information Archbishop Chaput presented on how to be an ambassador for their schools.

“The danger,” he said, “is when we think someone else will help … it's all our responsibility.”

Today’s meeting between students and Archbishop Chaput followed a Feb. 23 announcement that four schools slated for closure due to lack of funding and low enrollment will remain open, a fact that Archbishop Chaput called “one of the best moments in the recent life of our Church.”

Aside from driving up enrollment as current students, Archbishop Chaput said that he hoped to see students helping their schools after graduation by coming back as teachers, women religious or priests, which would be a way to “generously serve the community.”

Tags: Catholic Schools

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