Vicki Shepherd is a marketing professional at Guidant Group and serves as a member of CEF's Board of Directors.
When my boys were young, I always loved holding their little hands. Pudgy and soft or grimy from play, we'd hold hands watching a movie, simply out of love. We'd hold hands crossing the street, for safety. Or while we were out for a walk, I'd hold his hand, just because I could. Holding their hands always made me feel blessed.
When I was a young mom, like many others, I read a lot of articles about raising kids. One article in particular spoke to me and always stayed with me. It was about "lasts," such as the last time you give them a bath. The last time they cuddle on your lap while you read them a book. The last time they hold your hand.
"You do something every day for what seems like forever, but one day it ends. Sometimes you realize it and try to commemorate it in some way. Sometimes you forget to. But usually, you don't even know when the last time will be," the author said.
My boys are older now, and I can't say when they stopped holding my hand; I didn't realize how it happened gradually, and when the last time simply slipped away.
Last spring, I attended an event honoring Monsignor Tom Tank from Ascension Catholic Church in Overland Park, KS. For those of you who don't know him, he is one of the wisest and most respectable men there is. At the ceremony, Father Tom said that at any time, the Catholic Church is only one generation away from extinction. He emphasized the importance of children learning their Catholic faith and adults doing the hard work of keeping it alive. If we don't, any generation could be the last.
His comment made me think about the article I had read as a young mom. In raising kids, all stages will come to an end. But could it ever be the last time for Catholic education? Could it slip away? Would we know while it’s happening?
Father Tom's comment also made me think about the 1,498 kids in our archdiocese who were able to be in Catholic schools last year thanks to scholarships from the Catholic Education Foundation. I thought about their parents, who wouldn't have to tell their kids it was the end of their time at their Catholic school, or risk a strong faith slipping away just because they can't afford tuition due to health problems, job loss or other poverty-driven trauma.
I recently met one such family: Ruben, an eighth grader at John Paul II, his two younger sisters and his mom Renee. Because of personal trials in their family, it was necessary for Renee to take sole custody of the children. The change challenged their family and caused unexpected financial hardship, but it has not broken their faith nor their commitment to Catholic education. In fact, John Paul II became even more important to Renee and her kids.
Because she too had attended John Paul II, graduating in 1998, Renee knew John Paul II would provide stability, faith and a sense of community they desperately needed during a difficult time. The Catholic Education Foundation was there to help Renee and her kids, so it would not be the end of Catholic schools for them.
Ruben's English teacher at John Paul II is Lauren Franklin. She, too, graduated from John Paul II. She went on to high school, then college, always knowing she wanted to come back to teach the next generation there, to carry the faith forward.
John Paul II is one of 24 elementary and high schools in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, KS where kids receive scholarships from the Catholic Education Foundation. 97% of these kids go on to college. Their parents choose a Catholic school for the faith, community, academics and safety, which a neighborhood school may not always be able to provide. By doing so, the Catholic Education Foundation is not only helping the individual child and family, it is helping the schools and the parishes and the communities. It is helping the Catholic faith for all of us, for generations to come.
Now when I see parents out for a walk with their child, I think how blessed they are to have the opportunity to hold that child's hand.
When I support the Catholic Education Foundation, I feel the same way. In a sense, I am holding the hand of a family who needs help. I am holding the hand of generations into the future. By doing so, I feel blessed.
Meet Ruben, his family and Lauren Franklin at Gaudeamus, the annual event of the Catholic Education Foundation, on October 26, 2019. Tickets are still available.
Meet a Catholic Education Foundation scholarship graduate carrying his faith forward to the next generation.
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