By MICHAEL WOJCIK
STIRLING - To ensure a vibrant, faith-filled future for local Catholic education, the diocese has established Alternate School Funding to start partnerships with faith-filled individuals to help supplement the funding the diocese contributes to parochial schools. It also seeks to promote these schools' rich legacy of providing students with an excellent, value-base education.
Alternate School Funding has been launched to raise additional funds for the operating budgets of local parochial schools, especially the 17 inner-city schools in the diocese, noted Msgr. Patrick Brown, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish here, who was appointed as its director by Bishop Serratelli.
"We in the diocese believe in Catholic education. Parents want a value-based education for their children but they are hesitant because of the cost," said Msgr. Brown. "We want to make Catholic education affordable for all. Alternate School Funding's initiative comes from Bishop Serratelli's commitment to keep our schools open and keep them vibrant," he said.
With Alternate School Funding, the diocese has begun partnering with the future of the Church - primarily young, committed and affluent Catholics who work in the financial community, from 34 to 45 years old. Msgr. Brown said he said made several trips into New York City to meet with these enthusiastic individuals, many of whom are corporate vice presidents, partners in business or hedge-fund administrators.
Many of these potential contributors are scheduled to meet in the diocese in July to discuss further plans for the diocese's groundbreaking initiative, he said.
"These are young people who have benefited from Catholic schools and universities. Some of them have children in the lower elementary grades," Msgr. Brown said. "For these young professionals, a Catholic education enhances their quality of life in the business market. They are competitive in business and they understand that Catholic school also must be competitive. Our schools have the edge," he said.
So Alternate School Funding also seeks to "advance reputation of our schools and let people know the credentials of our schools," Msgr. Brown said.
"Each of our schools has a history and reputation of merging Catholic doctrine and spirituality with academic excellence," Msgr. Brown said. "We believe that our schools provide an extraordinary opportunity for the Church, as its mission, to spread the Gospel."
The idea for Alternate School Funding got started in December during a meeting with Bishop Serratelli; Msgr. Brown; Msgr. Mahoney, diocesan vicar general, who oversees the initiative; diocesan School Superintendent Frank Petruccelli; and Father Paul Manning, diocesan Vicar for Education.
"We felt the need to try to fund Catholic schools beyond tuition and fund-raising," said Father Manning, former president / chaplain of Morris Catholic High School, Denville, who became the new pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Clifton, while maintaining his duties as Vicar for Education. "We need to raise both money and consciousness. We need to convince people of the purpose of Catholic education and to support financially. We need to tell the story of Catholic education in the Diocese of Paterson."
"Msgr. Brown is a good man for the job," Father Manning. "He's enthusiastic and energetic and committed at his own parish to Catholic education. He is a people person, who is not afraid to reach out to people who can help us," he said.
"The funding of Catholic schools, especially in our urban areas, is a special challenge today," Msgr. Mahoney said. "Tuition alone is no longer able to handle the costs of a Catholic school education. The financial methods used for decades are no longer sufficient. Since Msgr. Brown believes passionately in the importance of Catholic schools, he will be unceasing in identifying new ways to supplement the present funding of our schools."
St. Vincent's pastor since 1992, Msgr. Brown oversaw the renovation and expansion of the parish school. On diocesan level, he is a member of the School Subsidy Committee, is priest moderator of the Diocesan Federation of Home and School Associations and is a trustee of the Academy of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station; Assumption College for Sisters, Mendham; Seton Hall University Law School, Newark; and the Tri-County Scholarship Fund, Parsippany.
Alternate School Funding, he said, works in concert with Tri-County, which "serves diocese so efficiently" by partnering with corporate sponsors. This year the scholarship fund offered more than $1 million in tuition assistance, Msgr. Brown said.
"This is an excellent idea to help secure the future Catholic education in the diocese," Petruccelli said. "Msgr. Brown is a staunch supporter of urban Catholic schools and understands the financial needs of schools. He also is committed to make it (Alternate School Funding) succeed in getting affluent people to partner with us so we can provide students with an affordable, accessible and available Catholic education."