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CURRENT ISSUE:  February 21, 2011
VOL. 49, NO. 4   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
Museum exhibit explores Catholic mission heritage
 
Serra sainthood cause just one miracle away
 
Magdalene relic draws interest across generations
Schools’ survival depends
on Latino participation
 

Principals, administrators, teachers, school board members and pastors gathered Feb. 16 at St. Mary’s College of California to help chart the future of a major component of Catholic education — the inclusion of Latino families and children in the Diocese of Oakland.

Latino families,
Catholic schools


The Voice asked some area parents why they do or do not send their children to Catholic school, and what the schools might do to reach out to Latino families:


Maria Tello, San Ramon


I provide Catholic education to my kids. They could get math, reading and science in any school; the difference is the Catholic education. Catholic education is not only what they learn about God, Jesus and the Church.

There are several reasons why people think about taking their children to Catholic school but don’t. The Church can inform the families more about their school. Educators can approach the parents before or after a Mass. Invite them for a tour.


Christina Corpus
San Leandro


My daughter is not going to school yet but I’ll send her to a Catholic school. I went to a Catholic school my entire life. I loved it because of the values that were instilled about the Catholic religion and the group of people I grew up with. I work sometimes at public schools and see what’s lacking there. There’s not a lot of structure sometimes and the kids don’t have a lot of faith.


Patricia Gomez, Richmond
I would love to send my kids to a Catholic school but it is too expensive. I have tried to get scholarships or financial aid but it has not been possible. We even have done some tours in different schools. What I like about Catholic education are the values they teach. We’re Catholic and we teach our daughters the faith at home, we go to Mass every Sunday and they are in the youth group.

Schools should do more outreach campaigns in the parishes.

— José Luis Aguirre
What’s at stake is no less than the survival of the schools, and the vibrancy of the Church itself, Father Joseph Corpora of the University of Notre Dame told those attending the opening of a two-day conference sponsored by the diocesan schools department.

Corpora, director of University School Partnerships, was co-chair of the Notre Dame Task Force on the Participation of Latino Children and Families in Catholic Schools. The Holy Cross priest is a former pastor with two decades of experience leading urban Catholic schools in Latino communities.

He listed four goals to increase participation of Latino students: provide an education to students who would not have had the opportunity; build leaders for the next generation; keep schools open; and keep parishes alive.

Catholic school graduates, he said, are more likely to vote, are less racist, more tolerant of other world views; more involved in the community; and give more to the Church.

“We have to ensure each student has the fullness of life,” Sister Barbara Bray, superintendent of schools in the Diocese of Oakland, told the attendees at the beginning of the conference, noting the opportunities as well as the challenges that face Catholic education.

Corpora recounted some statistics: 70 percent of practicing Catholics under the age of 35 are Hispanic. “And it grows every day,” he said. Latinos are the fastest-growing school-age population in the United States. “The face of America is changing,” he said. The U.S. is the second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.

The Church is in danger of being left behind.

“We have to look at this with our hearts and souls,” he said. Drawing from his own childhood experiences, Corpora noted that Catholic education has always served immigrants. And failed none of them. “Now we need to reimagine, so for the first time we don’t fail a group of immigrants.”

Only 3 percent of Latino families send their children to Catholic schools, Corpora said. The Notre Dame initiative seeks to double the number. That would bring an additional 700,000 children to Catholic schools.

“Good thing we follow a leader who fed a crowd with two fish and five loaves of bread,” he said.
Noting that 1,500 Catholic schools have closed in the last 10 years, Corpora said, “Every one could have stayed open if they could have figured out how to get Latino students.”

Among those at the conference was a contingent from St. Elizabeth Elementary School in Oakland, where the student body is 86 percent Hispanic.

“Twenty-five years ago, when I first started, we had 520 kids,” said Margarita Guevara, school secretary. Enrollment today is 322 students in grades kindergarten through eighth, and 11 in the preschool. “It has varied in the last five years,” she said. “A lot of people are moving out of the area.”

While it is getting harder for people to afford Catholic education, she noted the availability of funds from FACE, Basic and some funds available at St. Elizabeth.

Among the opportunities available to families there is the 21st Century Community Learning Center, which offers care before school beginning at 6 a.m., as well as after school until 6 p.m. After-school programs, offered for a suggested sliding-scale donation of about $50 per trimester, include band, choir, dance, academic support, computer, and gardening. The program is funded for 112 students, and there is a waiting list.

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