Diocese renews commitment to Catholic school students in need

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CRANSTON — Students, clergy, Catholic school administrators and benefactors gathered at St. Paul School on Thursday, November 17, for the re-launch of the Anchor of Hope Fund, the diocesan financial assistance program that has offered close to $2 million in aid to students of Catholic schools over the past 15 years.

As the sound of the school’s early childhood program students at play reached listeners from outside, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin thanked those present for their support of the Anchor of Hope Fund and for gathering to celebrate a program that has made significant contributions to the state of Catholic education in Rhode Island.

“It really is a team effort to come together to provide the resources we need to provide for Catholic education,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons the Anchor of Hope Fund is so important. It does make a difference for a lot of our students, providing some tuition assistance.”

Addressing the challenging climate in which Catholic and other private schools operate today, Bishop Tobin discussed the key elements of successful schools, highlighting the need for a clear Catholic identity, creative outreach to students and financial assistance programs for struggling families.

“We have something to give that no other school has to give, but we have to be crystal clear and very strong about our Catholic identity in our teaching, in our prayer, in our liturgy, in our social service projects, in our building of community and in our publications and announcements,” the Bishop said. “We should be aware of that and proud of everything that our Catholic schools do for the Church. We should never be embarrassed in saying that.”

Acknowledging that the diocese is not able to meet the financial need of every student in Rhode Island, Catholic and non-Catholic, who desires a Catholic education, Bishop Tobin emphasized the need for continued growth of the program as the demand for Catholic education remains strong among families who are unable to meet the cost.

“We hope this re-launch will be very, very successful,” he said. “It’s an important ministry of the Church to carry on the teaching mission of Jesus our Lord. Catholic schools are one of the very best ways of doing that.”

Diocesan Schools Superintendent Daniel J. Ferris emphasized the growing need for financial assistance among working families, sharing the story of a family unable to pay the tuition costs of their four children in Catholic schools.

“Were it not for the Anchor of Hope, these four siblings would not be in Catholic school right now,” he said.

Jarrell Gomes, a senior at St. Raphael Academy, Pawtucket, and recipient of an Anchor of Hope scholarship, shared his own story. An active student at St. Ray’s, Gomes participates in soccer and drama and is on the honors list. Explaining that he comes from a single-parent family, Gomes said that without the assistance of the Anchor of Hope Fund, he may not have been able to receive a Catholic education.

“All of this wouldn’t be possible without the Anchor of Hope Association,” he said.

Gomes is currently in the process of applying to colleges, including Emmanuel and Emerson Colleges in Boston. He hopes to play collegiate soccer and study pre-med, one day becoming a pediatrician.

“If I become a pediatrician to help all these kids, I won’t be able to help nearly the amount that this association does,” he said.

Two recent donors to the Anchor of Hope Fund, James Forte and Virginia Neves Gonsalves, spoke about their reasons for contributing to the financial assistance program. Both highlighted the value of a Catholic education, particularly for students from families whose educational experience would be significantly different without the opportunity to attend a Catholic school.

“I look at it as not being an expense. It really is an investment. If we make an investment now in our children, we will be able to see the fruits of that labor and our investment,” said Forte.

“I value education. I came from a family that valued education,” added Gonsalves, drawing on her own experience as an immigrant from Cape Verde who attended Salve Regina University on a four-year scholarship.

“The reason I’m contributing to the inner city [fund] is because I feel that every child should have the opportunity for a good education and we know that what the parents earn cannot pay fully for Catholic education,” she said.

Ferris explained that as part of the re-launch of the Anchor of Hope Fund, contributors now have the option to choose how their funds are used to assist students in Catholic schools. These options include supporting inner-city students, middle income families, emergency assistance for families in financial crisis and Catholic students as well as contributing to the Anchor of Hope 21st Century Endowment Fund. According to Ferris, the endowment fund, which has a goal of $2 million, recently reached the million-dollar halfway mark.

To learn more about Anchor of Hope and how to give, please contact Rich Popovic, Associate Director of Major Gifts at 401-277-2115, rpopovic@dioceseofprovidence.org.