Washington, D.C. Catholic Schools Celebrate Revitalization

September 06, 2002

WASHINGTON, Sept. 4 — Church, city and business leaders praised the work of the Center City Consortium of schools of the Archdiocese of Washington as it marked its 5th anniversary and its halfway point in a $30 million fundraising effort in a program Sept. 4 at St. Francis Xavier School in Southeast.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, principals and students, along with Mayor Anthony Williams, Police Chief Charles Ramsey, U.S. Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton and area business leaders gathered to mark the success of the Consortium, which includes 11 Catholic elementary schools in the District of Columbia.

“We want every youngster who grows up in the District of Columbia, in this Archdiocese, to have the very best education possible,’’ Cardinal McCarrick told participants, emphasizing the church’s commitment to keeping Catholic schools in the city.

“The hero is James Cardinal Hickey,’’ he said of his predecessor, who formed the Consortium in 1997 with eight struggling Catholic elementary schools. “We couldn’t turn our backs on the city, we couldn’t turn our backs on these youngsters….The church is honored and pleased and grateful to God for the opportunity of being an instrument” in the children’s education, he said.

Even when the city was collapsing financially, noted Rep. Norton, Catholic schools remained in the District. “We have to support Catholic schools. I’ve seen what Catholic schools mean to the stabilization of the population of the District. Poor schools are the major reason why people leave. … These schools didn’t flee,’’ she said. She added that she has special respect for Catholic schools for their role in of desegregation of schools. “It is in the best interest of the District of Columbia to help the Consortium get all the way to $30 million,” she added.

A children’s choir of students from Consortium schools sang at the event in the school’s gym, which was decorated with balloons and banners with names of each of the 16 schools that will eventually be included in the Consortium.

Five years ago, Catholic schools in center city Washington, such as St. Francis Xavier, were struggling, with deteriorating buildings, declining enrollment and severely limited resources to serve students — most of whom are financially disadvantaged and non-Catholic. Several schools were on the verge of closing. An innovative pilot program, the Consortium has brought extra resources, unique educational programs geared to students’ particular needs, expanded professional development and much-needed building renovations to eight struggling schools.

Sixty-five percent of the 2,000 Consortium students are non-Catholic; 50 percent are from families living at or below poverty level; 70 percent are from single parent households; 89 percent are African-American and 9 percent are Latino. The Consortium also serves families from suburbs who are able to pay full tuition and want the diversity of Catholic schools in the city.

Mayor Williams noted that he is a product of Catholic schools and recalled how he was taught to dedicate his schoolwork to the greater honor and glory of God. “You’re dedicating some tremendous work to the greater honor and glory of God,” he said. “That is powerful work and it has a tremendous impact.”

The opportunity DC Catholic schools provide for a good education is critical to helping children in difficult situations strive for something better, said Chief Ramsey. If children are going to have that chance, he said, they “have to have a quality education.”

“I admire you for what you are doing,” he added, “giving these children in Washington, DC an opportunity.”

The 11 Consortium schools are Assumption, Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, St. Francis Xavier and St. Thomas More Schools in Southeast; Immaculate Conception, Nativity Catholic Academy, Sacred Heart and St. Augustine Schools in Northwest; and Holy Name and St. Francis de Sales Schools in Northeast.

— For more information about the Consortium or to inquire about becoming a donor, contact Lisa Paro, Director of Development, Center City Consortium, 1317 Eighth St., NW, Washington, DC 20001, 202-234-7762.

Jennifer Reed
Office of Communications
[email protected]