By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer
Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz announced at the Catholic Education Foundation’s (CEF) 25th annual Salute to Catholic School Alumni that a “new day” has arrived for Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Louisville.
“Today we need partners. We need people to walk with parents who sacrifice for their children. This coming year we will double the tuition aid that is available for families who can’t afford a Catholic school. We will double it,” he said.
The fundraising dinner, which was held March 18 at the Galt House Hotel, once again raised a record-breaking figure.
The net proceeds of the event totaled $665,000 surpassing the goal of $650,000.
The annual event shattered last year’s record total of $600,000. All of the proceeds raised from the Salute dinner go toward tuition assistance for families who wish to send their children to Catholic schools.
Richard A. Lechleiter, president of the CEF, noted that last fall 1,500 elementary school students — about one in every 10 students — were assisted by the CEF and $1.7 million in tuition assistance was awarded. This fall, Lechleiter said, the foundation expects to aid 2,000 students with scholarships amounting to $3 million.
“The days of declining student enrollment in Catholic schools are over,” Lechleiter announced.
Lechleiter said that over the course of the next five years the CEF, together with the Archdiocese of Louisville, will work to grow student enrollment in Catholic schools by 1,000 students.
In the keynote address, Archbishop Kurtz, who also serves as the event’s co-chair, said that over the course of the last two and a half years the 111 parishes that form the Archdiocese of Louisville have worked together for a common purpose: to give young people a break.
Young people “deserve the opportunity for a Catholic school education. From this day forward we are increasing on all levels,” he said, referring to the new Catholic School Elementary Plan which was jointly announced by the archdiocese and the CEF last fall.
The school plan will provide increased aid to families who lack sufficient funds to send their children to Catholic schools regardless of religious background or economic status.
To fund this new education initiative, parishes have committed to contributing one percent of their income each year, beginning with the 2015-2016 school year. Their contributions are expected to total about $1.3 million the first year. The CEF has also committed to increasing its aid to $2 million, up 20 percent from this year’s record.
“This is a new day. If you follow sports you know about momentum. Brothers and sisters, with Catholic education we have momentum,” he said.
The archbishop, who also celebrated the 43rd anniversary of his ordination as a priest March 18, noted that 94 percent of students in the archdiocese’s 24 counties live within 35 minutes of one of the 37 Catholic elementary schools.
“We also want to make our schools financially accessible. We want families to give another look at our Catholic schools,” he said.
In addition, he said the archdiocese and the CEF have are exploring a state tax credit for businesses that contribute to tuition funds in the Kentucky legislature.
“We are not going to do that if we sit on our hands. We need every one of us to take active interest. The bottom line is our schools need to remain financially accessible because we are interested in giving students a break,” Archbishop Kurtz said.
He also noted that schools are reaching out culturally to include Latino students and families and families who reside in underserved areas because “the church needs to be there.”
“Giving a child a break — that’s good Catholic education. That’s our goal. It’s a chance for a child and a teen to have a good education for her good, for her future life in heaven, for her contributions to life on earth and let’s face it, for the good of all our families, for the good of the church and for the good of our community. We have a worthy, worthy cause,” he said.
Following the archbishop’s keynote address, the CEF presented distinguished alumni awards to seven individuals:
P. Doug Borders, retired president and CEO of Mercy Health Partners and a graduate of St. Augustine High School in Lebanon, Ky.;
Paul G. Fultz, managing partner of KPMG LLP and a graduate of Holy Cross High School;
John P. Hollenbach, managing member of Horizon Commercial Realty, a partner of Hollenbach-Oakley Development and a graduate of Trinity High School;
Father J. Ronald Knott, a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville;
Rosemary Bisig Smith, retired executive director of the Catholic Education Foundation and a graduate of Assumption High School;
Peggy Noe Stevens, founder of Peggy Noe Stevens and Associates and a graduate of Mercy Academy.
Gary C. Ulmer, president of the Louisville Bats and a graduate of St. Xavier High School.
John S. Asher, vice president for racing communications at Churchill Downs Race Track, was also presented with the Community Service Award and Theodore J. Elsesser, a longtime teacher at Sacred Heart Academy, received the Father Joseph McGee Award for Outstanding Catholic Educator.
The CEF also presented the Father John H. Morgan Charitable Trust Scholarship to nine high school students. They are: Kristen Parker, Assumption High School; Jonathan Smith, Bethlehem High School; Bryan Burke, DeSales High School; Emily Thomson, Holy Cross High School; Kelsey Barnett; Mercy Academy; Courtney Carrico, Presentation Academy; Hanna Pfeiffer, Sacred Heart Academy; Nicholas Yates, St. Xavier High School; and Andrew Deye, Trinity High School.