Sacred Heart School in Sedalia is giving thanks for an anonymous, $1 million gift, designed to provide tuition assistance for many years to come.
Bishop W. Shawn McKnight announced the gift Jan. 18, during an all-school Mass for Homecoming Week in Sacred Heart Church.
“What can one say but, ‘Wonderful!’ Thanks be to God!” said Precious Blood Father Mark Miller, pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Patrick parishes in Sedalia and St. John the Evangelist parish in Bahner.
The money has been placed in an endowment, meaning only the proceeds can be used to help families with the cost of tuition.
The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, hope their example will highlight the value of Catholic education and motivate others to support it with gifts large and small.
“When words fail us, we turn to God with hearts filled with gratitude, and the Holy Spirit helps us discern how best to use the gifts we have received,” said Bishop McKnight. “For me, this is one of those times.”
The $1 million gift to the diocese will help families at Sacred Heart, the diocese’s only parochial school that offers pre-kindergarten through high school, cover the cost of receiving a Catholic education.
Jake Seifert, director of development for the diocese, emphasized that the $1 million gift will remain in an endowment, generating revenue that can be used as distributions to the school.
This will ensure a continual stream of annual revenue distributions from the principal investment.
“We can’t touch the gift itself,” Mr. Seifert noted. “Only the proceeds.”
Bishop McKnight said the Jefferson City diocese is blessed to have benefactors who acknowledge the far-reaching impact of faith-based education and are willing to invest in it in such a significant way.
“I pray that with Catholic Schools Week just around the corner, we will all stop and thank God and commit to helping support our schools ever more sacrificially with our time, talent, treasure and fervent prayers,” he said.
He noted that the benefits of Catholic education — with its universal focus on self-discipline, rigorous academics, and service for the greater good — are significant not only to the Church but to society as a whole.
He said the new endowment will help families in Sedalia “provide for their children an education that nurtures their mind, body and soul.”
“The parish and school families here have found that working as one body has strengthened not just their institutions, but their faith,” he said. “Truly, we are better together.”
“A red-letter day”
Sacred Heart School has an enrollment of about 340 students in pre-kindergarten through high school.
The staff and faculty of the school, founded by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in 1882 with a high school being added in 1941, are now primarily lay professionals.
Sister Elizabeth Youngs of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, said the exemplary leadership at the school is focused on success for each and every student.
“This generous gift will enable families in Sedalia to be able to give their children a quality education from highly dedicated professionals,” she said.
Fr. Miller called the bishop’s announcement “a red-letter day” for the school and for all Catholics in Pettis County.
“We are grateful to God and to those who respond to God’s generosity in this manner,” he said. “On behalf of the community, I am deeply appreciative of this gift.”
Fr. Miller believes this gift will help ensure a strong future for Sacred Heart School.
He emphasized that the money can only be used for tuition assistance.
“It is solely to help people who need financial assistance in order to offer their children a Catholic education,” he said.
Sacred Heart School is the only parochial school in the diocese that includes a high school. For that reason, unlike other Catholic grade schools in the diocese, which are supported by their parishes and benefactors, Sacred Heart also charges tuition in order to pay for its mission.
“We’re all part of one family,” Fr. Miller explained. “Since it is a parish school, we all share in the cost and the benefits of having the high school. That’s why we have tuition for our elementary school.”
Sacred Heart School Foundation President Beverly Rollings called the gift “inspirational.”
She told the Sedalia Democrat newspaper that more than 80 percent of the families in the school cannot afford to cover the full cost of educating their children.
“This gift will help us to help more children experience the light of Christ in their daily lives at Sacred Heart School,” she said.
“Raising good Catholics”
Bishop McKnight told the Sedalia Democrat that the Sacred Heart donors have no real personal connection to the school aside from being members of the diocese.
“They are very committed to Catholic education they believe in it,” he said. “They also believe in stewardship, and that was their motive for wanting to help and have an impact on what they had to offer and to invest in the Catholic school here in a way that is long-term and will be able to provide assistance for years to come.”
He talked to the Democrat reporter about the importance of Catholic education.
“Catholic schools are essential to prepare the next generation of leaders not only for the Church but also for the community because we believe firmly that in raising good Catholics, we are raising good citizens,” he said.
“People are concerned not only about their own needs but the needs of others, so there is an enormous social impact upon the sacrifices that the churches and individual families and the parish communities are making in providing a Catholic education that benefits them individually but it also benefits the larger community,” he added.
He said offering an opportunity to witness those who practice the Catholic faith both in the schools and community at large is a pillar of the Catholic Church.
“There is no replacing an individual coming in contact with the beauty of the Catholic faith in another person,” he stated. “That is what motivates people to want to become Catholic, because they see the beauty of the Catholic faith in flesh in the people they know — so that is our first and most important thing to do.”
Contributing to this article was Hope Lecchi, a reporter for the Sedalia Democrat.