Sr. Fran Grzeslo, SSJ-TOSF, goes over an important lesson with students at St. Peter Mission School in Bapchule Aug. 22. (J.D. Long-Garcia/CATHOLIC SUN)

At least 254 students — enough to fill an entire school — would be learning elsewhere if local Catholics hadn’t stepped up to the plate. Faith saved them.

Community donors, parents and educators believed in the Catholic school system and supported it through last year’s Night of Hope benefit. That evening raised enough funds to spare those children in 161 already financially-strapped families additional heartache. Those students remained in the school they wanted to attend.

Night of Hope netted some $100,000 in scholarships for diocesan students each of the last two years. Organizers want to do far better than that this year. “Night of Hope: Igniting the Faith” is scheduled for Oct. 26 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Anyone wishing to support Catholic education is invited.

“Catholic education really is vital to the future of the Church and also to the community,” said Diana Zellers, chair of this year’s Night of Hope committee. She encouraged parishioners without school-aged children and corporations to consider supporting the effort.

Zellers, a mother of three Catholic school educated children, knows it gives alumni the tools they need to be productive and engaged adults. She noted the environment, community and fellowship that set Catholic schools apart.

This year, supporters should get an insider look at that environment with the premiere of a student video contest. Students of all ages can create a video individually or as a group under one of several guiding themes such as “Catholic Schools: Making a world of difference” or “Catholic schools: My moral compass.”

The public will be able to vote on their favorite with the top three and a committee choice to be shown during Night of Hope. Deadline to vote is Sept. 30.

“The kids usually just completely exceed our expectations because they’re so creative,” Zellers said.

The Catholic Schools Office and Night of Hope Committee will also bestow two Guardian of Hope awards for making a difference in Catholic education. Dr. Vincent Sheridan, longtime principal at Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Tempe, will be honored as an educator.

National Bank of Arizona will be honored as a corporate partner. The bank has raised $2 million through the corporate tax credit for need-based scholarships to families making $37,000 on average. It leveraged additional funds by offering matching gifts the last three years.

Night of Hope

Night of Hope, the formal benefit for diocesan Catholic schools’ tuition endowment fund, will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, 340 N. Third St.

Tickets: $125 each. Sponsorships available.

Info: (602) 354-2344, Email: