Springfield Parish Provides Bursaries to Move Children to Catholic Schools


Caroline Ganthier attended a Catholic school growing up, and although she always wanted her daughter to attend a Catholic school as well, she couldn’t afford it. Then, when the pandemic struck, virtual learning at the local public primary school became impossible. “I am a single parent, I had to work and at my job I have to be in person (therefore) I could not do virtual learning and work at the same time,” said Ganthier, a parishioner from Saint-Raymond de Peñafort. Springfield Church.

Without support in the region, she returned to Kenya to be closer to her family. But then her parish gave a helping hand: a scholarship for her daughter to go to Catholic school. Ganthier and her daughter returned to Virginia, she returned to work, and her daughter debuted in person at Angelus Academy in Springfield in October 2020.

“The school is wonderful and I like that it is surrounded by children who have the same values ​​as it does. I was afraid she would change, but she came to like school, ”said Ganthier. “She’s where she needs to be.”

For many years, the parishioners of Saint-Raymond, which does not have a parish school, have been able to obtain scholarships to cover the difference between tuition fees “in parish” and “outside parish” in neighboring Catholic schools. . But Father John C. De Celles, parish priest, wanted to do more. It offers parishioners $ 2,000 to move their child from public school to a Catholic school of their choice. The following year and beyond, parents can receive $ 1,000 per child to stay in a Catholic school. Home-schooled parents are offered money for education costs. Any family can ask for more help if needed.

Much of the tuition money comes from the Our Lady of Ransom Fund. The name recalls the time when the Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Raymond in 1218 and asked him and others to found a religious order – the Mercédaires – which would organize the ransom of Christians who had been kidnapped by Moorish plunderers. Father De Celles sees the fund as a way to redeem his school-aged parishioners from the secular culture that prevails in public schools.

“I think right now our children’s schooling is the problem. We will lose them in the culture of death if we do not provide them with an environment where they can learn to love Christ in an educational setting, ”he said. He noted that Northern Virginia is very expensive and it is difficult for people to pay their mortgages and school fees, especially if they have been fortunate enough to have many children. “We are the church and we have to do something here. They are our children, ”he said.

So far in 2021, the parish has raised $ 140,464 for the Our Lady of Ransom Fund. During the 2021-22 school year, the parish donated $ 147,260 to subsidize the tuition fees of 113 students. Many children attend the nearby independent Catholic school, Angelus, where Father De Celles is chaplain. Others attend St. Bernadette School in Springfield, Nativity School in Burke, Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, and Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Potomac Shores, among other schools. The Diocese of Arlington also has Catholic school tuition assistance programs.

Although Father De Celles knows that home schooling or sending children to Catholic school does not guarantee that they will practice the faith as adults, he believes it is the best option for pass on faith. “A lot of parents who send their kids to public schools are very careful and talk to their kids a lot and they send them to CCD. Some of the children become warriors, real witnesses of Christ in the schools, ”he said. “But it’s really hard to do. It takes real dedication, real concerted effort and not all parents are able to do it and not all children are able to do it too, because the peer pressure is so great. “

A poster in the narthex of St. Raymond of Peñafort Church in Springfield tracks the progress of the Our Lady of Ransom Scholarship Fund. COURTESY

Parishioners Nick and Karen Popp planned to enroll their children in public school until they learned about the Tuition Assistance Program. “We always wanted to send our four kids to Catholic school, but it was never something we could comfortably afford because I was a stay-at-home mom,” Karen said. Last year they enrolled their children in Angelus and Karen started working there as well. “We went from never thinking we could afford to put our kids in Catholic school to do whatever it takes to make it work.”

Since then, they have seen their children fall more in love with the faith. “Our kids have gone from complaining about having to go to CCD to being excited to learn their faith every day. I see my 6 year old’s labia minora move as he sits in bed at night and I know he prays, ”says Karen. “Our children have always been good children and we are grateful to see them develop a stronger prayer life since arriving at Angelus Academy.”

Nick said that he and Karen tried to teach them the faith while they were in public schools and attending CCD. “We were not doing as effective a job as the Catholic school is doing now. That is why we are so happy about it,” he said.

The couple are grateful to St. Raymond for making a Catholic education possible for their children. “God has done wonderful things through Father De Celles,” said Nick. “When Catholic parishes are able to show generosity to families to enable their children to receive a Catholic education, it is truly invaluable to many parents.”

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