This is the week of Back to School Nights. We have two here, and on the evening in between, Blair High School across the street has theirs. Our parking lot will show it! It’s a chance for parents, teachers, and school leaders to get to know one another, go over the programs, and set the goals for a year for those important people in our lives, the kids.
Every year about this time, I have written here about our school, its families, and its cost. I would point out the cost of tuition, the strain it places on many of our families, and the efforts to which our parish goes to reduce the strain and help the families. I would suggest that even at this late date, a contribution toward our tuition fund could help some parents give their children a Catholic education.
One of the reasons I did this was that one parishioner would remind me. Every August, John Huffman would linger after the five o’clock Mass, come to me with a bulletin, and hint that he was wondering whether there would be any request for tuition assistance. No request, he implied, indicated that there was no need. If there was a need, he had something he was ready to offer.
This past winter, John succumbed to a cancer he fought for some months. His brother Michael, who ushered that Saturday Mass and had lived with John since their parents died, moved off to Pennsylvania where he has other family. Then last month, at about the time John would come to me with his not-so-subtle hint, we received a letter.
I learned that John had left a bequest to the parish in his will – two, in fact. One, the smaller of the two, was just a bit more than he gave each year in tuition assistance. He also left a significantly larger sum, designated for capital projects of the parish.
John, soft-spoken and inconspicuous, was a lifelong parishioner of Saint Bernadette. Though he did not designate it as such, I will apply the smaller sum this year to continue what he did each year for the families whom we help with tuition assistance. This is the last year he will “remind” me to make known to all of you this particular need we have right here in our midst.
Tuition for one child, at the Subsidized Rate we offer to parishioners, this year was $6850. It may be hard for you to believe that this substantial sum is actually a significant reduction of the rate from the previous year. It was my hope, along with our principal, Mrs. Cheri Wood, and our Finance Council, that this reduced “sticker price” would reduce the sticker shock and make it easier for more families to participate in our school, especially new families who have no direct experience of what a great experience and education our school provides.
Alas, our enrollment is lower this year, after the departure of an enormous eighth-grade class, and the entry of a small kindergarten class. A smaller student body makes it hard not to raise per-child costs. Higher costs deter new families.
Please consider taking up the mantle that John Huffman and several other parishioners have been quietly bearing for these recent years. Offer something to help us help families bring their kids to the riches of a solid Catholic education.
One of the things the kids learn in our school is how we help one another. In this lesson, there is never a bad time for a Back to School Night.