Can you believe it is already the middle of May already? Many of the families of our parish are making academic decisions about the future of their children. Naples is blessed to have many excellent public schools, as well as great private options and home and cyber schooling. With all these choices, Catholic Education can sometimes be a secondary thought, or maybe not even on the radar. There are three Diocesan Catholic Schools in the local area: Saint Ann School (Pre-K to 8th grades), Saint Elizabeth Seaton (K to 8th grades), and Saint John Neumann High School. Additionally, Royal Palm Academy is a Diocesan-approved private school in the Catholic Tradition, which covers Pre-K through 8th Grade. Unlike many other locations in the country, where the Catholic Schools are not only the best academically, they are usually conveniently located, North Naples families have a difficult decision. For a vast number of our families, the Catholic Schools are not easy to reach, both physically and financially. However, this is an essential option for our Parish Family. St. John has been able to support the elementary, middle, and high schools in the area providing quality Catholic education steeped in the humanities and continuing the ethical responsibility that comes from a Catholic educational environment.
This past week, our Tuition Assistance Committee, made up of members of the Finance Council and Pastoral Stewardship Council, evaluated requests from families for assistance in their priority of Catholic Education. This evaluation is accomplished with a balanced set of criteria:
- Financial Need: Did you know it can cost over $11,000 a year for a Catholic education in Naples? While this may be less than some of the other private schools, it can cause a significant financial concern for a family. There are families that are struggling to make ends meet without this burden and we take those needs into consideration.
- Active Participation in our Parish Family: I have made comments in the past about utilizing our offertory envelopes to illustrate your time at church. It does not have to have a single penny inside of it, but it helps us understand and appreciate the fact that you are coming to church. Other efforts, like participation in parish events and programs, like Faith Formation, youth activities like Lectors, Altar Servers, Youth Group, the Cub and Boy Scouts are tremendous illustrations of that participation as well. We have some youth that volunteer at Guadalupe Social Services in the Soup Kitchen. Still others that teach Faith Formation. Adult participation is also key. We have opportunities like Vacation Bible School, the Knights of Columbus, and the Ladies of Charity as just a few volunteer opportunities. These services to our parish and the community are clear illustrations of the connection to our faith and we support those students and their families.
- Circumstances: Not all cases are clear cut, and as our Holy Father has asked of all churches, we need to respond to individual circumstances with pastoral care. A family may look like they have all the money in the world on paper, but there could be a recent illness or job loss. There may be other difficulties that call for our support, and we respond in every way possible. Father John will take meetings with those families privately and make the final decision on their needs and our support.
So, I just want to ensure all the parents and guardians of our Parish Family know this opportunity for support if you make the decision to pursue Catholic education for your children. And for those of you whose children have grown, please know that your generosity for St. John are going to help form the future of our Catholic faith. In fact, a graduating Senior of Saint John Neumann High School recently sent a note of thanks for our Parish Family’s support:
Dear Father John, Jean-Paul Boucher, and St. John the Evangelist Parish,
As I try to organize clusters of tangled words to form sentences that mirrors the appreciation within my heart, I find every phrase an understatement that does not seem worthy enough to permanently fill this paper. Although my “thank you”s may be shortcomings due to your generosity, I will do my best to explain just how much your support has enhanced my daily life and enriched my soul with God’s grace.
I love God will all of my heart, and it has always been my passion to share this life changing love with the world. Although my faith was strong at a young age, I did not know the depths of Catholicism, which is why I craved the Catholic education that St. John Neumann High School provided. Without having any knowledge of who I am, you generously provided me with the means to attend, and in that moment, I knew God had intervened and had a unique plan for my life. Having studied at St. John Neumann for fours years, I have acquired significant knowledge in the Catholic faith, which I will carry with me through life. My relationship with God grows each day, and it is because the many blessings you have bestowed upon me. I thank God for bringing me to St. John the Evangelist Church, which has become part of my family; it overflows with self-giving love and kind-hearted individuals. Thank you for believing in me and guiding me into Jesus’ everlasting light, I am forever grateful.
While it was my intention to study at a Catholic university and earn a degree in Theology and Psychology, I have decided to attend the University of South Florida to avoid carrying student loans. This was initially difficult for me to accept, as I could not comprehend why God would not want me to study his word further; however, I have come to the understanding that God has chosen me to spread his light in an environment that is not familiar with Him. I have an overwhelming pull in my heart that I cannot describe with any known vocabulary, which is how I know it is God’s voice. He is telling me to trust Him, for he has immense plans for my life. I will face darkness, I will see evil in the many forms, and I will be mocked for the morals that my faith creates; but, I know that I have what it takes to inspire others and bring others to Jesus. It is easy to be with people who share the same beliefs, but the real test is what we do amongst a crowd of people who do not. The Church’s guidance as well as my Catholic education has prepared me for this mission, and though I may be just one person in a school of thousands, with God, I will touch the hearts of many, even if it is only one person at a time. I am thankful for this mighty task that God has handed me, and I cannot wait to make him proud.
God has allowed me to be in your lives and learn what it means to be a true disciple of Christ, and just as you have given me so much, I hope to give back to you one day. I would love nothing more than to donate my time and money to a cause that I know saves lives and transforms hearts, and I promise to do so. I am going to miss this wonderful community, but I will definitely visit and devote as much time as I possibly can. I am only one person, but I am a person whose life you touched and is going to grow in faith and charity because of it. I will make a difference and commit myself to helping others the way you have helped me. May God bless you and your families eternally.