||Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Monona has increased its enrollment by 49 percent, primarily due to recruiting Hispanic and Asian students through its Catholic School Advantage Program. (Contributed photo)
MONONA -- Five years ago, a trend toward decreasing enrollment at Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) School in Monona had become an increasing concern.
To respond to this concern, a five-point strategy was implemented to retain and increase school enrollment.
The five-point plan included:
- Prayer -- putting faith in God to provide opportunities for increasing enrollment
- Public school partnership -- becoming a 4K site for the Monona Grove School District
- Retention -- commitment to improving student retention between elementary and middle school
- Outreach -- implementing the Catholic School Advantage (CSA) Program for Hispanic immigrant families
- Enrollment management -- hiring a development director to focus on building and retaining enrollment
Exciting new program
Since implementation of the plan, with God’s help, this five-point strategy is working.
One of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of this strategy is the Catholic School Advantage (CSA) program. This program is a ground-breaking student recruitment effort that reaches out to Hispanic-immigrant students from families who want to send their children to a Catholic school, but are unable to afford tuition.
IHM’s mission is to provide Catholic education to the Hispanic population in the Madison area by offering access to high quality educational opportunities in a Catholic community surrounded by faith, values, and the culture of the Hispanic home.
The philosophy behind the CSA Program is based on population growth and trends in the Catholic community in Monona, Dane County, and the United States.
On a national level, Catholic school enrollment is declining and many schools have been closing. Closings and consolidations are affect- ing rural, suburban, and urban Catholic schools.
At Notre Dame University, a national program has been established to provide schools with a framework to attract and support Hispanic families in Catholic schools, in an effort to avoid closing parish schools and to evangelize and catechize more Catholic children and families.
The Vatican has recently announced that immigration is one of the most pressing challenges for the “new evangelization” in North and South America, according to a November 4, 2011, communiqué from the Secretariat of the Synod of American Bishops.
Despite the fact that Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the overall Catholic population, the number of Hispanics in Catholic schools has remained stagnant for the past 15 years. Currently only three percent of Hispanic school-aged children attend Catholic schools in the United States.
IHM school families appreciate program
The CSA program is in its second year at Immaculate Heart of Mary. There are currently 28 CSA students enjoying the benefits of a Catholic school.
One of these families never thought a Catholic education would be affordable for their family. They were satisfied attending their west Madison neighborhood public school with its big modern playground, which was within walking distance of their home.
This family was apprehensive about transferring their son and daughter to a school they would have to drive to each day. But because their Catholic faith is so important to them and the opportunity was available, they decided to make the switch.
They have never regretted making the decision to join the IHM School community and are thrilled that their children can grow in their faith every day at school.
Another family’s daughter had been attending a public school where she was experiencing a bullying situation. Her parents didn’t think they could afford a Catholic school.
However, since enrolling at IHM, this student’s reading, math, and science skills have improved and her understanding of the Catholic faith has grown stronger. She now enjoys coming to school and she considers it a privilege to attend the weekly school Mass.
Not only do the CSA students and their families experience many benefits, so does the entire IHM School community. The increased cultural diversity of the school’s students has allowed the entire IHM School family to experience the universality of the Catholic faith.
An increase in the number of families in the school has increased volunteer participation, and has provided a new source of revenue into the school’s budget and hot lunch program.
Funding the CSA Program
The CSA Program is funded by three main sources:
- Tuition (participating families pay a portion of their tuition)
IHM School recently was awarded a $5,000 grant from the Diocese of Madison’s Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD). The CCHD grant was awarded because the school is providing an opportunity for an affordable Catholic education for immigrant families, which is a step towards changing conditions that cause or hold people in poverty.
Not only does the CSA Program offer an opportunity for immigrant families to give their children an education and values that allow them the best chance for success in life, it is also a way to build up the Church through catechizing young people and their families.
Research shows that the achievement gap that exists between white students and minority students in the public school system is smaller in faith-based schools (Jeynes, 2007; Marks & Lee, 1989).
Also, students in Catholic schools and other private schools demonstrate higher academic achievement than students from similar backgrounds in public schools (Coleman & Hoffer, 1987; Coleman, Hoffer, & Kilgore, 1982; Greeley, 1982; Sander, 1996).
Furthermore, Hispanic and African American students who attend Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and are more likely to graduate from college than their public school peers (Benson, Yeager, Guerra, & Manno, 1986; Evans & Schwab, 1995).
Importance of Catholic schools
A recent document from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), “Renewing our Commitment to Catholic Schools,” states: Catholic schools are often the Church’s most effective contribution to those families who are poor and disadvantaged . . . in cities and rural areas, Catholic schools are often the only opportunity for economically disadvantaged young people to receive an education of quality that speaks to the development of the whole person.
“The Church and its schools are often among the few institutions providing immigrants and newcomers with a sense of welcome, dignity, community, and connection with their spiritual roots.”
With God’s help and the generous support of IHM School benefactors, IHM Catholic School will be able to continue to maintain its current level of enrollment, while ensuring an affordable Catholic education, accessible to all social and economic strata.
When every child is provided the opportunity of a Catholic school education, the soul of our nation will be nurtured and the Catholic faith will be passed on to the next generation.
If you would like more information about Immaculate Heart of Mary School, or if you would like to help sponsor one or more students in the Catholic Schools Advantage program, contact Development Director Joe Blewett at 221-1521 or
Fr. Bart Timmerman is pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Monona.