‘Night of Hope’ seeks to close tuition gap

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Kiley Emerling, a first-grader at Blessed Pope John XXIII, smiles for a photo during the first week of school. Students went back to school last month. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)

As the economy continues to struggle, so do many parents who are trying to pay tuition for their children’s Catholic school education.

This fall marks the fifth year that the diocesan Catholic Schools Office will host Night of Hope. It’s scheduled for Nov. 3 at the Sheraton Downtown Phoenix. It’s a time when the public comes together — businesses, school staff, alumni, parents and private donors — to celebrate the gift of Catholic education and raise tuition dollars for whomever might need it.

Some funds are earmarked for immediate use. The rest is invested in an endowment fund.

“Our night is basically a night of celebration,” said Bill Borders, who is chairing the event for the second straight year. “We use the event as a bridge to close the gap for tuition.”

Donors at last year’s Night of Hope raised more than $100,000 which helped 275 students facing tuition shortfalls stay in the Catholic school of their choice. That’s more students than the size of some of the diocese’s smaller elementary schools.

Borders, whose two children graduated from St. Francis Xavier in recent years, said supporting Catholic education is important because it validates a family’s choice to integrate religious beliefs and values into a child’s education. Students at the diocese’s seven preschools and 29 elementary schools gather for prayer or Mass every morning. Some stop mid-step for the Angelus at noon and many pray before dismissal too. Classrooms are also equipped with prayer areas.

High schoolers study theology and attend regular reconciliation services. Many Catholic school students develop a natural love for helping those in need. Some tutor fellow Catholic school students and many regularly hold drives and fundraisers for worthy causes including local Catholic schools in lower income areas.

“Our ultimate goal, always, is to close the tuition gap at our Catholic schools over the next 10 years,” Borders said about Night of Hope. “We don’t want to lose great students regardless of what school they attend.”

That’s why having the community as a partner is imperative, he said. Part of the evening’s program will recognize longtime community partners. Sr. Mary Norbert Long, S.C., who finished 28 years at St. Mary Basha Catholic School in May, will be one of two presented with the Guardian of Hope award.

The Catholic Schools Office will recognize Gary Brown, executive director of Catholic Cemeteries and Mortuaries, as a corporate partner. The Katzin Classical Music program will also share the spotlight. David Katzin launched the program 10 years ago to bring an appreciation of classical music to eight inner city Catholic schools.

Student ambassadors will greet Night of Hope guests, serve as mini masters of ceremony and leave handcrafted mementos at the tables. The schools are again responsible for centerpieces.

MaryBeth Mueller, superintendent of Catholic schools for the diocese, said Night of Hope is a great way “to bring administrators, students, parents, donors, clergy, teachers and friends of Catholic education together to celebrate the wonderful gift of Catholic education to the Church, community and nation. It is a true celebration as well as a ‘Night of Hope’ for those who follow in our footsteps.”

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Night of Hope

Night of Hope, the formal benefit for diocesan Catholic Schools’ tuition endowment fund, will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 3 at Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, 340 N. Third St.

Tickets are $125 each and sponsorships available.

For more information, call Margaret Hardy at (602) 354-2344, email mhardy@diocesephoenix.org or visit the web: catholicschoolsphx.com/noh.php

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