PROVIDENCE — All of Melinda Cavanagh’s 13 children have attended Rhode Island Catholic schools. As a parent devoted to Catholic education, Cavanagh believes that the lessons her children are receiving from a diocesan school is worth the financial strain.
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“Certainly financial has been the biggest sacrifice,” she said. “It is real, but worth-while. I felt that a Catholic education reinforced the values that my husband and I shared. I loved St. Peter’s because it felt comfortable and safe. It was just what I was looking for. It is something we believe in.”
Legislators, parents, students, and educators from Catholic schools across the state came together at the State House last week to celebrate the importance of faith-filled education.
Superintendent of Catholic Schools, Daniel Ferris welcomed the 25 Catholic schools representing the talent and spirit of 14,800 students in the 44 Catholic schools of the diocese. Ferris expressed his gratitude toward the dedicated, teachers, the leadership of the principals, and the commitment of the parents, acknowledging the great sacrifices they make to send their children to Catholic schools.
“They believe in their children’s futures and they believe in the quality of the academics,” he said. “They believe in the attention to the whole child—intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional and social.”
In his first visit to the State House as Auxiliary Bishop Robert C. Evans offered a prayerful reflection recognizing the sacrifices that parents and teachers are making for the next generation.
“I recognize and appreciate how much you contribute to our economy,” said Bishop Evans. “By providing your children with a catholic education, you provide significant relief.”
Cari Packhem’s daughter Hannah attends St. Kevin School, Warwick. A product of Catholic education herself, Packhem expressed her attraction to the faithful atmosphere.
“I felt it was a more nurturing environment than public schools,” she said.
Packhem shared that her daughter is considering continuing her Catholic education at one of the local diocesan schools and even though there are less vacations, less toys, and more hours to work to make her daughter’s Catholic education a possibility, she says, sending her daughter to Catholic school is worth it.
Like many parents of Catholic school students, House Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello understands the commitment first hand. A graduate of La Salle Academy, Mattiello is a great believer in the mission of Catholic schools and explained that he will continue to do all that he can to support them.
“As state leaders, we certainly recognize the tremendous benefit of our Catholic schools,” he said. “Every dollar that is spent by parents on Catholic schools is less funding that communities need to expend in tax dollars for public schools.”
This year, the General Assembly is again expected to include the tuition tax credit in the state budget, a credit that provides much-needed scholarships for Catholic schools. However, Governor Lincoln Chafee did not include $240,000 in reimbursement to cities and towns for about 6,000 textbooks to private and Catholic schools.
“I will make certain that the General Assembly takes a closer look at this proposal as we move forward in the budget process,” Mattiello assured those present.
On behalf of the Senate, State House Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, said she is also committed to the restoration of that funding.
“It is our responsibility in the General Assembly to balance the different needs of the varied communities we serve,” she said. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to working with Catholic school officials to help meet the needs of students.”
Like many others present at the State House Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed is a proud product of a Catholic education.
“Catholic schools’ emphasis on moral development, service to others and leadership skills help establish a strong foundation to enable students to reach their full potential,” the Senate president explained. “We are familiar with the sacrifices made by parents, particularly low-income parents, in order to provide their children with a Catholic education.”
Eighth grader Matthew Benevides, of Our Lady of Mount Carmel School, Bristol said it’s the combination of faith and education that is most attractive about Catholic schools.
“Having God in the middle is perfect for a successful education,” said Benevides who will be attending Portsmouth Abbey for High school. “Having the schools represented here at the State House shows that it’s not about an individual school, but coming together we are all one family of faith.”
Paiva Weed thanked the Catholic school community for being present and reminded them that State House is a place that they should feel welcome.
“Know that you are welcome here anytime of the year,” she said. “It’s your house.”
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