New fund will support religious education

Ursuline Sister Mary Jo Gramig prepared children in late March for their first Communion at St. Frances of Rome Church. The Clifton parish is one of about 90 parishes that received grants from the Catholic Education Foundation for religious education during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. A new fund will support the continuing religious formation of teachers, coaches and parish catechists throughout the Archdiocese of Louisville. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

The Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) announced May 16 the creation of a new fund that will be used to support the religious formation of Catholic school educators and parish catechists.

The Saint Thomas Aquinas Fund, named for the patron saint of Catholic education, was created by a donation from Paul and Jean Passafiume, parishioners of St. Louis Bertrand Church.

The amount of the donation was not disclosed, but Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the CEF, said in a press release the donation is one of the “largest family gifts” in the foundation’s history. The CEF already provides funding for religious education formation, the new fund will only add to that, said Julie Baum, senior director of the CEF.

The Saint Thomas Aquinas Fund, which will be launched this summer, will support religious formation in three ways, said Paul Passafiume during an interview earlier this week.

  • It will offer grants for Catholic school teachers, coaches, staff and members of parishes to have continuing religious formation through summer institutes. Educators will also be able to do formation through online courses.
  • The fund will provide faith-based classroom materials.
  • And it will provide formation gifts to families, such as books for children preparing for first Communion.

Paul Passafiume is the founder and president of SportsLeader, Inc., a non-profit Catholic organization that provides “virtue-based programs” for coaches and sports ministries nationwide.

Through this work, Passafiume said he’s seen the need and the desire to have more faith formation opportunities available.

He sees the fund as a response to the new evangelization, he said. And he hopes the fund will lead to more students becoming disciples of Jesus Christ.

“This is the action of the Holy Spirit. My family just happens to be the messenger,” Passafiume said.

During its initial year, the CEF expects that a select number of teachers, coaches and staff from across the Archdiocese of Louisville will receive grants from the fund, according to a press release from the CEF. Educators will be able to apply for grants during the summer and spring, said Passafiume.

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz called the new fund a “gift” and a “blessing” and said it’s a “huge lift” in spreading the Gospel message.

“Along with the great strides we’ve all made over the past few years in tuition assistance funding for our Catholic school families, we now have this great gift from the Passafiume family to accelerate our religious formation efforts across the archdiocese,” said the archbishop in the statement. “This is a huge lift for all of us who want to spread the Gospel message throughout our schools and parishes, and I am so grateful for this blessing.”

Lechleiter said the foundation is “truly thankful” for the Passafiumes’ “enormous generosity.” “How lucky are we to have the Passafiume family offer such an innovative and inspired opportunity to our school leaders and students,” said Lechleiter in the statement. “This represents a giant step forward in the funding of religious education through the CEF and we are so God-blessed to be a part of this new venture.”

For more information on the Saint Thomas Aquinas Fund, contact the CEF at 585-2747.

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