Donor gives millions for NY Catholic school scholarships

Donor gives millions for NY Catholic school scholarships

A prominent and wealthy atheist has donated $22.5 million to the New York archdiocese for Catholic school scholarships for inner-city children. It’s the largest donation the archdiocese has ever received and maybe the largest any US diocese has received.

What’s interesting is that the donor, Robert W. Wilson, an 80-year-old retired hedge-fund manager, is that rare breed: an atheist who does not hate the Catholic Church.

“Let’s face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization,” Wilson said. “Shunning religious organizations would be abhorrent. Keep in mind, I’m helping to pay tuition. The money isn’t going directly to the schools.”

Unfortunately, what nags me is the thought that our Catholic schools are now at the point where they are more valued for the education they give to mainly non-Catholic poor kids than they are for the faith formation they give to Catholic kids or for the evangelization they perform for non-Catholics.

In fact, reading the article, you could substitute the world Catholic for “private” or “Episcopalian” or even “Jewish” and it wouldn’t read any different. In other words, it doesn’t seem to matter if there is anything distinctly Catholic in the Catholic schools, so long as they provide a better education than the public schools.

I think Catholic schools are great, but we should ensure that they operate with the same fundamental mission that all Catholic apostolates do: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, unto the end of the world.” (Matt 28:19,20)

The primary job is getting souls into heaven. Everything else is secondary.

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  • Well, a good start toward achieving the goal of faith formation being a priority of Catholic schools would be requiring that the teachers are Catholic.  I know that a lot of people will argue that you can’t teach algebra from a Catholic viewpoint, but subject matter is not all a student picks up from a teacher.

  • I agree, Lori.  The turnover in many catholic schools is very high because people looking for their first public school teaching job are often hired.  These people aren’t usually catholic, they have bills to pay and are really looking to go on to the public schools, which pay a lot more salary.  They virtually never make the best teachers because they don’t fit the “catholic mold” and they are beginners at teaching-a tough skill set-but they do “fill in,” often to the students’ loss.

    The best catholic school teachers are often women who can afford the lousy pay because they’re married and who enjoy the religious freedom of teaching in the Catholic schools.  Many of them are catholic, some of them are good thinkers, and many of them are tough teachers.  They are usually the best teachers the school has to offer.

    Occasionally, there will be a decent married man teacher in the bunch, who is looking for heaven, pure and simple, and has a tolerant hard-working wife. 

    I’ve seen this over and over again.  I used to work with a bunch of ladies and a few men like this at the local catholic school, to my immense amusement. 

    Catholic schools need to look for these people and avoid hiring people with improper motivation.  It’s not about getting a warm body.  It’s about getting a good catholic teacher. 

    Incidentally, the pay is truly attrociously low.  Raising it a bit would be good, but it ought to be lower than the public schools to keep out the ones without commitment.  Commitment to the catholic schools is necessary.  Commitment to catholicism is double necessary.