Miranda Maciel was a senior at Bourgade Catholic High School when the opportunity to be interviewed on The Bishop’s Hour popped up. The Diocese of Phoenix’s weekly podcast producers were looking for students who could attest to the many benefits of Catholic education.

“And I actually wanted to say no at first because I thought, well, I’m not super Catholic,” Maciel says.

Then she found out she’d miss math class if she agreed.

“I was really bad at math, so I said yes,” Maciel laughs. Now, after eight years of working for the Church, she’s still growing in her faith and has become a passionate supporter of Catholic education.

“It always comes back to Catholic education for me,” Maciel says. “If it weren’t for that interview my senior year, saying yes to that, I don’t think I would be a practicing Catholic now and I definitely would not be in the position I’m in.”

That position is assistant director of development at Catholic Education Arizona’s Changing Lives Division. CEA, the tuition tax credit organization for the Diocese of Phoenix, has granted more than 153,000 scholarships since it began in 1998. Maciel and her younger sister were among thousands of recipients.

After graduating from Bourgade in 2013, Maciel attended Grand Canyon University but kept in touch with the communications team at the Diocese of Phoenix. Dreaming of a career in journalism, she turned to them, hoping for an internship in the diocesan communications department.

“I thought to myself, I don’t have to be a super-practicing Catholic. I just want some experience in journalism. I can fake it. I know all the prayers.’

“That’s honestly what I thought which is so ridiculous.”

Maciel was brought on as an intern, and right away, she made a startling discovery: “You can be Catholic and pray and have things not go your way and that doesn’t mean that you’ve failed in your faith. You can be Catholic and be a successful career woman. You can be all those things and still absolutely belong in the Church.”

She’d always been attracted to strong women and that’s exactly what she found in Katie Burke, former media specialist for the Phoenix Diocese.

“I just think strong women are the coolest thing ever, whether it’s about being strong in your faith, strong in your vocation, strong in whatever. It doesn’t have to look a certain way and I found that out in that office.”

When she first started the internship, she wasn’t attending Mass and had pretty much stopped practicing the Catholic faith. Burke invited her to go to confession.

“I told her I’d think about it, but she said, ‘no, you should pray about it.’ And I knew if I prayed about it, I would go, and I didn’t want to do that,” Maciel admits. Fear and shame were holding her back.

“And then finally one day I was like, you know what, fine. I’ll go to confession and it’s going to be no big deal and I’ll tell her I did it and we can just be done with the conversation.

They can stop caring about my soul and stop inviting me to come back in the Church.”

She sobbed through the entire confession. And then it hit her. “This is where I belong,” she realized.

The impact of Catholic education

At this point, Maciel was still pursuing her undergraduate degree. The three-month internship turned into a part-time position at the diocese. During that time, she met Danielle Burr, a licensed marriage family therapist and youth minister. The two became close friends and launched a podcast dubbed “I Got Issues.”

“We talked about different struggles of life and living your faith,” Maciel says. “Just starting to be vulnerable with my faith happened with that show and those groups of friends.”

The show lasted four years and the recordings are still available on Sound Cloud and Apple podcasts.

Maciel graduated from Arizona State University — the first from her family to obtain a college degree — and went to work for The Catholic Community Foundation. After a stint there in development, she returned to her alma mater Bourgade to work as the admissions coordinator and eventually as the director of admissions and marketing. She didn’t consider herself a “kid person” at first, but that quickly changed.

“I fell in love with the kids and they made me a better person,” Maciel says.

She spoke from the heart when she interacted with parents, encouraging them to choose the gift of Catholic education and testifying to the impact it had made in her own life.

Bourgade, she says, gave her a place where she was loved and always knew she could turn back to for support.

“There were adults there that saw me and challenged me and I didn’t lose that after I left. Some of them are almost members of our family.” Her former theater teacher, journalism teacher and counselors have become lifelong mentors.

Carrie Shanahan, assistant principal at Bourgade, worked with Maciel.

“Her passion for what she does and her passion for Catholic education and for creativity — they’re so evident in everything she does,” Shanahan says. “I’m just so super proud of her for working with Catholic Education Arizona and spreading that love and making those possibilities for Catholic education open to more people.”

Now, as Maciel pursues a doctoral degree in education with the University of Dayton, she ponders the gift of Catholic schools.

“Catholic education doesn’t just educate your student at school and end it there. It extends so much more into caring about their heart, their mind and their soul.

“It’s actually something that’s pretty universal when I talk to people who have a Catholic school experience. They can talk to you about that one teacher that had an impact whether it was academically or whether it was a teacher that spiritually invited them to participate.”

There’s something about Catholic education that really does care about the whole person.”

The first group of Bourgade students Maciel worked with graduated in 2022. “We kind of grew up together,” she says. Many of them call her Mom or Drama Mama, a salute to her time as theater director at the school. A couple of those Bourgade grads who are now college students recently contacted her recently to let her know they’d secured part-time jobs. Would she like to meet up?

“So, I went and had lunch with them and their moms,” Maciel says.

“As much as I love marketing and admissions, I really wanted to get back into development. I feel like there are so many people out there that have a capacity to impact far beyond what they know. And sometimes they just don’t know that it’s a possibility,” Maciel says.

“Everything that I have as far as my faith life and professional life is because of Catholic education in one way or another to this day.”