Pastor’s Desk – August 21, 2022

Dear Fellow Parishioners,
It is very nice to see so many of you after returning from vacation earlier this month. The only Mass I have not celebrated since my return – the 7:30 am Sunday Mass – I will offer this weekend. The Mass schedule is set with two things in mind: rotating all priests equally to all Masses; and keeping any priest from having to prepare two homilies, one in English and one in Spanish.
Many of our parish families are experiencing another annual event: return to school, in all its many forms, whether to our parish elementary and high school, or local public schools, which means the first day of pre-school or Kindergarten, the first day of junior high or high school, first day of college, or return to college for students who have been home for the summer.
We get this experience in double strength here at St. Vincent’s, as our parish is one of a very few parishes with both an elementary and high school.
Yes, the summers seem shorter every year. For years in California, whether public or Catholic, the first day of school was always Tuesday after Labor Day, followed quickly by California Admission Day (Sept. 9th). Now, school seems to begin in the middle of August, yet ends no earlier the following June. One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is that returning to school usually brings two or three late summer heat waves. And as always, there is also the reunion of friends with news about their summers, their new teachers and new subjects, making new friends – not to mention quite a few relieved parents!
We had our First Day of School mass this past Wednesday, and there was a tremendously positive spirit. Our First School Mass of the Year for SVHS will be next weekend, on campus.
COVID has been an even greater challenge to our parish schools than it has been for our parish. However, I am happy to report that our elementary school enrollment has nearly doubled since the early summer of 2017, to 202 students and counting, a trend which began well before COVID. The enrollment at our high school is up this year as well, with a larger incoming class, as well as the greatest number of transfers to upper grades in many years. The numbers of mid-year transfers to both schools have been up as well.
There has been a quiet revolution in high-school education over the past several years, which began several years before COVID, and is gaining momentum: the numbers of otherwise qualified high school graduates who continue to a 4-year college or university are declining. There are 4 million fewer students in college now than there were 10 years ago. At the same time, workforce participation for 16- to 24-year-olds is also lower now than it was before COVID hit, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The spiritual dimension is perhaps most important of all. Does this trend go far beyond economics and speak to a general lack of interest or faith in the future?
One alternative is to invest early in a first-rate high-school education, including faith and spiritual formation, followed by targeted professional training or trade school, then employment in a strong labor market. That alternative is already available at St. Vincent’s High School.
Fr. Bill Donahue

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