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January 26, 2006 Edition

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Catholic schools: Needed more than ever before

Federal Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has proposed a plan to help the parents of school-aged children in storm-ravaged New Orleans to send their children to private or parochial schools.

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Under the Bush administration proposal, $488 million of $2 billion in federal aid would be earmarked for parents who choose to send their children to private/parochial schools. Before the hurricane disaster, about 25 percent of New Orleans students had been enrolled in private schools, mostly Catholic schools. The total per-child allotment under the proposal would not exceed $7,500 and would be available to all displaced families.

Matter of civil rights. William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has written to all members of the House and Senate urging quick approval of this proposal. "This is more than an education issue," he said. "It is a matter of fundamental civil rights. Having been ravaged by Hurricane Katrina, the residents of New Orleans want to put their lives back together as soon as possible."

Catholic schools have been fighting for their civil rights for so many years. Inroads have been made in school choice programs, such as the program in Milwaukee. Catholic schools have been able to take advantage of school busing and some federal grants. But there is a long way to go before all Catholic students and parents enjoy the rights and benefits of choosing to attend Catholic schools.

This New Orleans proposal comes at a particularly appropriate time. Catholic schools throughout the country are preparing to celebrate Catholic Schools Week, January 29 to February 4. Many of the Catholic schools in New Orleans will not yet be able to observe this special week. Hopefully with the help of our government and many other private donations, these schools will be able to open in the near future.

Children helping children. Catholic students have been helping their counterparts in New Orleans. Students in over 1,254 schools and religious education programs across the country raised more than $1 million to assist students affected by the Gulf hurricanes. Through the "Child to Child: A Catholic Campaign to Aid Education," young people raised $1,040,000 as of December of 2005 through the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA).

Dr. Karen Ristau, NCEA president, praised the students' work. "Through their personal gifts and fund-raising efforts they reached out to their counterparts in areas devastated by the hurricane," said Ristau. "Their contributions went beyond money; they gave solidarity and support when it was most needed."

Educating the whole person. "Catholic Schools: Character. Compassion. Values" is the theme of this year's Catholic Schools Week celebration. The hurricane relief project is just one way Catholic school students are showing compassion for others while building character and practicing values.

With a world ravaged by natural disasters, war, violence, and lack of respect for life on so many levels, we need Catholic schools more than ever. Catholic schools educate the whole person: mind, body, and soul. Catholic schools reach out to all children, regardless of race or economic status.

Support Catholic schools. Yet our schools need the support of all Catholics in order to continue to provide this excellent, values-based, Catholic education. We can show support for schools in our own parishes and communities by enrolling our children in Catholic schools; providing financial support; or serving as volunteers.

We can also donate money to our alma maters and to Catholic schools in other communities. Many schools have endowment funds. How about giving a donation in honor of your parents who helped provide your own education? Memorials for deceased persons are also always welcome.

Catholic schools are needed more than ever before - in New Orleans and throughout the country. Let's help assure they will be here for many years to come through our support and our prayers.

Mary C. Uhler

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Mailbag policy
We reserve the right to edit or reject letters. Limit letters to 200 words or less. All letters must be signed. Please include your city or town of residence.

Send letters to:
The Catholic Herald
P.O. Box 44985
Madison, WI 53744-4985

Fax: 608-821-3071
E-mail: info@madisoncatholicherald.org

Concealed weapons wrong

To the editor:

In regard to the letters in the Mailbag on the concealed weapon bill [December 29 issue; January 19 issue], it is too bad that people cannot see the truth about what carrying concealed weapons mean.

It means more weapons in the hands of children. It means more crime because when one carries a gun, one is more empowered to commit a crime. It means fear because one doesn't know if one is in church with someone who is concealing a weapon.

The truth is that the Bible and Jesus teach us to be forgiving, peaceful, and nonviolent. Come Spirit of wisdom and love, source of all good, teach us your truth and guide our actions in your way of peace.

Joyce Hessefort, Madison

Many changes in 150 years

To the editor:

One hundred and fifty years ago, St. Raphael was the only Catholic parish in Madison. However, a lot of things can and have changed during the last century and a half.

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St. Raphael Cathedral

The three downtown parishes of St. Raphael, Holy Redeemer, and St. Patrick are by far the three smallest of Madison's 13 parishes. I am not counting St. Paul because that is mostly college students and a completely different situation.

The way I understand it, the three downtown parishes each take in approximately $2,000 a week for a total of about $6,000. The fourth smallest parish takes in about $7,000 per week. Another parish takes in about $36,000.

One hundred years ago, all three downtown parishes had schools. Today none of them do.

Is there any reason to rebuild a very small parish in an area with few people, an area with traffic congestion, with poor parking, and with two other small parishes nearby?

People must accept the changes of the last 150 years. Today in 2006 we cannot go back to living in the 1850s.

Joe McDonald, Madison

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Diocese of Madison, The Catholic Herald
Offices: Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center, 702 S. High Point Road, Madison
Mailing address: P.O. Box 44985, Madison, WI 53744-4985
Phone: 608-821-3070     Fax: 608-821-3071     E-Mail: info@madisoncatholicherald.org