PROVIDENCE — President Father Brian J. Shanley of Providence College announced last week the college will donate $100,000 to Catholic schools in the Diocese of Providence to commemorate its centennial year. The gift will include a community service component and support scholarships for students with financial need to attend Catholic elementary and secondary schools in Rhode Island.
“We’ve always felt strongly that there needed to be something more specifically that we could do in celebration of the centennial that would give back to our local community and provide a lasting legacy,” Father Shanley said during a press conference held at St. Pius V School on Tuesday, Feb. 28.
“In this, our centennial year, it is only fitting that Providence College recognize and support the efforts of Catholic education in Rhode Island,” he continued. “There is no better preparation for an education at Providence College than the academic rigor and spiritual formation provided at a Catholic elementary and secondary school.”
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin accepted the gift on behalf of the Diocese of Providence, thanking Father Shanley for the college’s generosity and continued partnership in supporting Catholic education for students of all ages in the local community.
“It makes a real difference for us not just in this financial respect, but because we take it as a sign of support and affirmation and agreement that the Catholic schools provide an invaluable service to our Church and not just our Church but our whole community,” said Bishop Tobin. “How different our Church would be without Catholic schools, here and elsewhere, and how different our community would be without Catholic schools.”
The gift will be made to the diocesan Catholic Schools Office in the form of four $25,000 donations over the next four years. A portion of the gift will be used to create the Bishop Matthew Harkins Founder Fund, named in recognition of the diocesan bishop who played an instrumental role in founding Providence College. The new scholarship fund will provide tuition assistance to students attending one of five urban Catholic elementary schools in Providence, including Bishop McVinney School, Blessed Sacrament School, St. Augustine School, St. Pius V School and St. Thomas Regional School.
In addition to the monetary donation, the gift also includes a commitment by Providence College to support these five Catholic elementary schools within the city of Providence through community service by its students, faculty and staff. The Catholic Schools Office will ascertain the need at each school and coordinate volunteer efforts in a partnership both parties hope will create a mentoring relationship and promote the goal of attending college among elementary school students.
“I’m particularly pleased by the scope of this gift,” said Daniel Ferris, superintendent of schools for the diocese. “The partnership, the service component, this will make possible an even greater aspiration, a greater dream.”
Tuesday’s press conference was attended by principals and administrators from several Catholic schools within the diocese, as well as student representatives from the five schools that will benefit from the Bishop Matthew Harkins Founder Fund. Catherine Galipeau, a fifth grade student at St. Pius V School, spoke about her family’s experience with Catholic education.
“Financial aid really helps families like mine to afford a Catholic education,” she said. “I am so happy I can attend a Catholic school.”
Principal Lou Hebert of Bishop McVinney School, a regional school located in South Providence, told Rhode Island Catholic following the ceremony that the scholarship and service components of the gift would both be welcome among his students, many of whom come from low-income families.
“The partnership for PC is a great benefit for us to have in the inner city,” said Hebert, an alumnus of Providence College.
“[Bishop McVinney] is more than a school to me, it’s a mission,” he added. “Our school is in an area that we really need education.”
Principal Sister Maria Francesca of St. Pius V School, a Dominican school located across the street from Providence College, also spoke highly of the college’s support for Catholic elementary education.
“Providence College has been a friend of our schools and time and again we have been a beneficiary of their kindness,” she said.
Ferris, speaking to Rhode Island Catholic following the ceremony, added that the Bishop Matthew Harkins Founder Fund will be incorporated into the existing Anchor of Hope Fund, which provides several options for individuals to donate to scholarship funds for low-income and middle-income families. He expressed his hope that the generous donation of Providence College will inspire others with connections to the college to contribute to the new fund.
“We’d like to see alumni of PC consider contributing in collaboration or in support for their alma mater,” he said. “Generations of children in Catholic schools for the past 100 years have looked to PC.”