Dear Fellow Parishioners,
I am happy to lead with very positive news.
The result of our October Mass Count is that our Mass attendance shows an 18% increase over 2018. This is particularly welcome news after the long COVID lockdown. Still, there are long-time parishioners who still feel unable to return. We continue to offer on-line parish Masses, every day but Saturday morning, at our parish website.
A number of families who used to attend the Spanish Masses now attend the English-language Masses. This pattern grew when we had to limit attendance at Masses, and there was not enough room at the Sunday Spanish Mass at noon, and has continued. Since both Fr. Stuart and I share the Spanish Masses, we are already well known to all parishioners. Finally, since we now have a single CCD program but with classes in both languages, families are completely free to choose English or Spanish instruction based on the needs of the students.
More good news, national and local: despite the challenges of COVID, Catholic schools have increased their educational test scores over the past few years. This Monday, the National Assessment of Educational Progress released its 2022 report. The average score for Catholic school 4th graders is more than 1 — 1/2 grade levels ahead of the average of public schools. In 8th grade reading, the average score is 2 grade levels ahead. (Historically, SVES has scored well above even other Catholic schools.) When separated statistically, Black and Hispanic students achieved analogous results as well. The strength of this achievement is underlined by the fact that Catholic schools are the only private elementary schools in the U.S. that serve the urban poor at scale. If all Catholic schools and their 1.6 million students were a state, we would rank first in the U.S. by NAEP reading and math tests for 4th and 8th graders.
Our SV schools, under Principals Patrick Daly and Shannon Jordan, together with faculty and staff, have worked hard through COVID and other challenges, and have focused on Gospel values and student-centered education. Our current enrollment at SVES is again over 200 pupils, double what it was a little over five years ago. Some classes are now very close to having a waiting list.
Enrollment at our high school has begun to climb steadily. Next year may be one for the record books, as 133 students have already expressed interest in next year’s freshman class. That’s right – 133! One hundred of those have already “shadowed,” that is, spent a school day on campus. Roughly 90% of “shadows” eventually enroll, and it’s only October. I am most grateful for this good news, yet aware that no lasting good can be accomplished without God’s help.
Fr. Bill Donahue