Diocese’s CDA puts ‘faith in action’

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With the support of the Charity & Development Appeal, Shawn and Rachel Gatson have been able to provide a Catholic education for each of their children. (Courtesy of CDA)

For the Gatson family, Bourgade Catholic High School isn’t just an academic setting — it’s a family tradition where the light of Christ has been shared. Three generations of Gatsons have been Golden Eagles.

“We want them to get into heaven and get into a good college, and we think that going through Catholic schools, they have the opportunity to do those things,” said Shawn Gatson, a Bourgade alumnus. He and his wife Rachel — both graduates of St. Gregory Catholic School — are the parents of six children. Their oldest child graduated from Bourgade last spring, but the twins are juniors, and three younger siblings are at St. Gregory.

Rachel, who serves as assistant principal, athletic director and special education director at St. Gregory, said she and Shawn have dedicated their lives to Catholic education. Shawn was a teacher, coach and athletic director at Bourgade for 15 years.

“We have made it a priority for our children’s educational experience and wouldn’t hope for anything less for our family,” Rachel said. Without assistance from the Charity & Development Appeal, the couple’s dream of Catholic education for the family could not have become reality.

The annual Charity & Development Appeal — which turns 50 this year — was launched the weekend of Feb. 8-9. The CDA supports the work of more than 70 organizations and ministries in the Diocese of Phoenix, transforming the lives of thousands of people.

“Together, we can put our faith into action,” reads the CDA’s website, dphx.org/cda. “Together, we can do more than any one parish or person can do.”

“We would not, without a doubt, be able to afford Catholic education for our children if it wasn’t for the financial assistance of organizations such as the CDA,” Rachel said.

Sue Rounds, director of finance and facilities at Bourgade, said many of the school’s families are low-income and there is a high need for financial assistance to pay tuition.

“We have families of four that make $12,000 a year — we have families of four that make $30,000 a year,” Rounds said.

Tuition at the school represents the cost to educate each student and is $15,000 annually, but registered, active parishioners receive a $3,300 scholarship.

Charity and Development Appeal (CDA)

The Charity and Development Appeal supports more than 70 educational, charitable and spiritual organizations which counsel, feed clothe, house, educate and comfort those in need throughout the four counties in the Diocese of Phoenix.

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“That right there puts us in the hole,” Rounds said. “The CDA helps us with that gap.”

Harry Plummer, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Phoenix Diocese, called the CDA’s contributions to Catholic education “crucial” and said it helps families to keep their children in Catholic schools.

Without support from the CDA grants to schools, “Catholic families struggling financially may decide they have no other choice than to take their children out of our Catholic schools,” Plummer said. He pointed to Bourgade in particular as a school that has especially benefitted from the grants.

“They have a lot of families that are really making a lot of serious sacrifices to keep their kids in Catholic schools,” Plummer said. And Catholic schools help to form students in the faith and go out in the world to spread the light of Christ.

Lisa Wentz, director of appeals in the diocesan Office of Mission Advancement, said that the CDA allocated $1,105,000 to 14 different Catholic schools in the diocese in 2019.

“The majority of this funding is used toward some type of tuition assistance,” Wentz said.