Bishop thanks donors, affirms support for Catholic schools

Categories: Around the Diocese

May 23, 2014, edition
By Sue Schulzetenberg-Gully

Catholic schools will be a priority for Bishop Donald Kettler.

“Catholic schools are our best catechetical and evangelization tools for our younger people,” he told a gathering of about 365 people May 8 at the Breakfast with the Bishop benefit in St. Joseph for the Catholic Schools Scholarship Endowment.

Bishop Kettler said that he would like Catholic schools to be viable and effective instruments for as many students as possible. However, he explained, Catholic schools are facing many challenges, cost being one of them. He encouraged more collaboration among Catholic schools in rural and urban areas.

“Without bigger, better and more cooperation, our schools will see very difficult times ahead,” he said.

He thanked the benefit’s attendees for helping Catholic schools and said their support for the schools inspires him.

The Catholic Schools Scholarship Endowment is a fund of The Catholic Foundation, based in St. Cloud. It distributes need-based scholarships for students in Catholic schools in the St. Cloud Diocese.

Million-dollar goal

The scholarship endowment began after brainstorming sessions in 2010. After simple luncheons, the Breakfast with the Bishop benefit and numerous donations, the endowment has grown to more than $400,000. Its goal is to grow to $1 million.

In 2013, it distributed its first grants: 45 scholarships of $300 each to students in 17 Catholic grade schools. This year the endowment will provide funding for 63 scholarships of $300.

The number of scholarships distributed will increase as the endowment grows, said Alice Coudron, consultant of planned giving for The Catholic Foundation.

In addition to Bishop Kettler’s speech, the Breakfast with the Bishop event included music by students at All Saints Academy in St. Joseph, an overview of the history of Catholic schools in the diocese, messages from the Benedictine, Franciscan and School Sisters of Notre Dame sisters, a video presentation and a request for financial support from Donna Dohmen, chair of The Catholic Foundation board of directors.

Linda Kaiser, diocesan director of Catholic Education Ministries, described the contributions religious sisters have made to Catholic schools in the St. Cloud Diocese. Schools in the diocese have been served by sisters beginning in the mid-1800s. Between the years of 1940-1960, the St. Cloud Diocese saw significant growth in Catholics and Catholic school pupils. At that time Catholic school enrollment grew from 8,900 students to 14,000. The schools were served by 522 sisters during that period.

Today there are 27 Catholic elementary schools and two Catholic high schools in the diocese. Only a few sisters serve in the schools.

‘Precious years’

Benedictine Sister Michaela Hedican, prioress of the Benedictine community in St. Joseph, said the years that the sisters were deeply involved in the schools were precious years to them.

“We are grateful they have been able to continue with great leadership,” she said.

A letter written by the Benedictine, Franciscan and School Sisters of Notre Dame sisters was read by Franciscan Sister Beatrice Eichten, community minister of the sisters in Little Falls. It mentioned the importance of an education that provides an understanding of Catholicism and opportunities for faith-based activities to prepare young people in meeting the demands of a new culture.

“We are deeply grateful to those who have built upon our years of service and furthered Catholic education in the Diocese of St. Cloud,” Sister Beatrice read. “Likewise, we are concerned about making it possible for students in the diocese to benefit from the excellent education offered by our Catholic schools.”

Dohmen described the importance of contributing to Catholic education and her hope that money will not be an obstacle in parents’ decisions to send their children to Catholic schools.

“We are starting to make an impact,” she said. “Let’s continue to grow the Catholic Schools Scholarship Fund and support all our schools in our diocese.”

For more information or to donate to the Catholic Schools Scholarship Endowment, contact The Catholic Foundation at 320-258-0390 or by mail at 305 7th Ave. N., Suite 104, St. Cloud, MN 56303 or go on-line at