To the Editor:
Amid the mixed messages about Warwick’s Catholic schools read recently in the local press, there are hopeful signs that should not be overlooked. Last June, prospects were very bleak for St. Francis School on Jefferson Blvd., Warwick. School population had sunk to 137 students. The school closed the year $90,000 in debt to the diocese for faculty health insurance and pensions. Like other schools and businesses, the parish was facing a substantial financial outlay for fire prevention and safety. After productive consultation with the diocesan fiscal office, St. Francis Parish embarked on a three-step program to brighten the prospects for the coming year.
First, an aggressive recruitment campaign was launched and September found fifteen more students enrolled at the school for a encouraging enrollment of 152. Most impressive was the number of children from the Norwood section of Warwick who have enrolled at the school. Second, parishioners were invited to participate in an increased giving campaign by contributing $5 more in their Sunday budget envelopes. The response was not only impressive but consistent. The weekly collection has been up over $1,000.00 per week since mid-July. Third, again after consulting with the diocesan fiscal office, the parish has embarked on a capital campaign with the modest goal of $300,000.00 and a triple objective: pay off past debts, pay for fire safety improvements, and, as a reward for the people in the pews without whom the school could never survive, to install air conditioning in the church. At this time, $252,000 has been pledged and $115,000 has actually been received in cash. The entire parish is in awe of this gratifying response.
Although the old village of Hillsgrove as been largely subsumed by the airport and the industrial/commercial complex along Jefferson Blvd., St. Francis School has become a religious and educational magnet for the entire state. At a very moderate tuition rate, the school offers Grades Pre-K-8 and serves 21 parishes and 18 zip codes. Working parents can drop their children off at 7:30 a.m. and pick them up at 5:30 p.m. knowing that they are in an environment that is safe, authentically Catholic and convenient.
The parishioners, parents, faculty and alumni who have contributed to this success story are to be warmly congratulated and are anxiously looking forward to continued success in the 2008-2009 school year.
Father John A. Kiley
St. Francis Church, Warwick