Community Catholic Center adds partner schools

By Jessica Able, Record Staff Writer

Community-Catholic-logo-BWFor ten years the Community Catholic Center (CCC) has served families in Portland and the West End by helping parents who want their children to receive a Catholic education.

Through partnerships with Catholic elementary and high schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville and in Southern Indiana, the CCC is able to ensure a Catholic education for children who live in a part of the city where there are no Catholic schools.

Now the organization is able to further their mission with the addition of two new partner schools — St. Leonard and St. James schools in Louisville.

The two new partnerships were a welcome addition when the center learned of the closure of St. Mary School in New Albany early this year. A dozen CCC students attended the New Albany school.

When St. Mary School closed, some families were thinking of leaving the CCC program, Heidi Hamilton, the executive director of the center, said in an interview. That conversation took place at the center’s offices in the old St. Cecilia rectory, 338 N. 25th Street.

When Jeff Purichia, the former principal at St. Mary, became the new principal of St. James School earlier this summer, he reached out to the CCC to see if those displaced families had found a new school. And when some of the St. Mary’s families learned that Purichia would be involved with CCC, they decided to stay in the program.

“When Jeff called there was a lot of excitement,” Hamilton said. “Even though the kids were going to a new school, they knew Mr. Purichia. He has a large personality and the kids trust that warmth.”

Purichia said the children weren’t the only ones glad to see a familiar face at St. James.

“It’s nice for me too. To know these students, to already know a few names is great,” Purichia said in a phone interview last week.

Purichia said the ministry the center provides to the children and families in West Louisville is “a true Catholic ministry.”

“To me that is the definition of the Catholic Church. You can look right at that organization and see the definition of Catholic stewardship,” he said. So linking his new school, St. James, with CCC seemed a natural thing, he said.

In a similar way, the principal of St. Leonard School, Linda Kinderman, called the CCC to inquire about a partnership.

The Community Catholic Center was created when the Community Catholic School (a regional school formed in 1971 from the closure of St. Cecilia, St. Anthony and Our Lady schools) closed in 2003. Community Catholic School was the last Catholic school in West Louisville.

The center doesn’t just provide tuition assistance but it also offers meaningful, enrichment activities including a new after-school tutoring program, Hamilton explained.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. students are able to get help with their homework and eat an after-school snack at Resurrection Hall on the campus of St. Cecilia.

Hamilton said CCC is still in need of volunteers to help with the new tutoring program. Currently there are only a couple of high school students who have volunteered but she hopes to see a larger partnership with local Catholic high schools.

Hamilton noted that the exteriors of the homes and streets in the CCC neighborhood may not look the same as the volunteers may be used to. But the children there are the same as children anywhere else, she noted.

“Some of these kids need some remediation. Others just need someone to sit down with them — to be present,” she said.

Not only do the children receive a quality Catholic education, Hamilton noted, but the center also provides care and support for parents and families.

“These parents want to be involved. … This gives them a leadership opportunity. It gives them the confidence to be able to volunteer at their kid’s school. It’s nice to watch that evolve. It makes parents stronger parents for their kids,” she said.

The families sign an annual contract where they commit to attending five of the nine meetings each year. They also pledge to participate in a service project. They have even formed a parent organization, Hamilton said, which has planned two fund-raising events including a Bunko night — scheduled for Nov. 9 — and a Valentine’s dance.

The center assists 36 elementary students who attend four schools: Notre Dame Academy, St. Leonard and St. James schools and St. Anthony of Padua School in Clarksville, Ind. It also aids 12 high schools students who attend Holy Cross High School, Presentation Academy, Trinity High School and Providence High School in Clarksville, Ind.

Next spring, four high schools seniors are scheduled to graduate: two from Holy Cross, one from Trinity and one from Providence. The number is significant, Hamilton noted, because it represents the largest group of CCC students to graduate from high school at one time.

“The CCC was created out of a crisis — to get the kids in schools. Not only are they still in (a Catholic) school but they are successful,” she said.

To inquire about the tutoring program, call Heidi Hamilton at 424-9398.

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