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Catholic School Advantage - A Letter from New York

on Friday, 09 December 2011.

by Field Consultant Rudy Vargas

Rudy Vargas is ACE’s Field Consultant for the Catholic School Advantage campaign in the Archdiocese of New York. He sends this update on a success story he has seen while working with the people of various elementary and secondary schools in the Bronx and elsewhere in the New York City area.

“One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.”
– Scottish Clergyman Peter Marshall (1902-1949)

I have been visiting with madrinas in these past few months in my work with the Catholic School Advantage campaign in New York. The madrinas groups have been initiated since June 2011 as one of our major strategies to increase Latino enrollment and retention. These visits with madrinas have been a blessing.
As I have traveled the Archdiocese, attending some of the activities that madrinas had initiated in their Catholic schools, I have been impressed at how strongly they believe in this Latino Initiative. Schools following the principles of the Catholic School Advantage campaign have reached out to madrinas—Spanish for "godmothers," acting in supportive and advisory roles—to assist the schools and communities alike. In return, these opinion-leaders of their communities are introducing more and more families into the Catholic schools.

One team of madrinas organized an open house around All Souls Day in October 2011. For many Latinos, the Day of the Dead – “el Día de los Muertos” – is a significant day when they remember and bring symbolic meaningful articles, gifts, and foods to their loved ones who have passed away.

The force of their belief has encouraged madrinas to share their story of the value of a Catholic education for their children and to remind parents of prospective students to consider a Catholic education for their children.

One madrina shared how she saw a mother with her children, in front of the entrance of her building, crying. The madrina approached the mother and asked her if she was okay, if she needed any help. The distressed mother shared with the madrina what had occurred to her child at her public school.

After listening and attending to the mother’s concern, the madrina asked the mother if she would consider enrolling her child in a Catholic school. The madrina offered to accompany her if she wanted to explore the Catholic option. The mother accepted the invitation and went to the school with the madrina. The madrina helped in the dialogue with the principal. Today, that mother has both her children enrolled in the Catholic school.

This is one of many stories from this archdiocese that madrinas are sharing and principals are witnessing. There is no doubt that the madrinas will draw new families to the Catholic schools. The schools must find creative ways to welcome these new families. It is challenging today because the slow economy often drives decisions more than values do. Madrinas speak the voice of values and beliefs that go beyond economics, so it is my belief that a madrina can make a difference in parents’ decisions. That is why our partnership with the Archdiocese of New York incorporates a madrinas program and celebrates the gifts that madrinas bring to their schools, their Church, and their communities.

Accompanying photo: At a meeting of madrinas this fall at Mount Carmel-Holy Rosary School in New York, field consultant Rudy Vargas is joined by madrinas Ines Soriano (left) and Esperanza Orozco (right).

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