How one Catholic School in Indiana survives without fundraisers
By Victoria R. LaFave
Most Catholic school students have sold pizzas, wrapping paper, magazines, or chocolates, all in the name of fundraising for their school, and accept this as a necessity. But one Catholic school in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana — Saint Pius X Catholic School (SPX) — has a “no fundraising” policy. That’s right: no direct sales by students.
This National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in Granger, Indiana, is unique in that its students do not do direct fundraising. Instead the school works collaboratively with Saint Pius X Catholic Church, a stewardship parish.
Not only is the school building physically connected to Saint Pius X Catholic Church, it is also a ministry of the church, notes Saint Pius X Catholic School director of communications and marketing Kim Mauch.
According to Mauch, the staff, students, and parents actually refer to the school building as the Parish Education Center, per the direction of Monsignor William Schooler (or Fr. Bill, as he prefers to be called), so that all feel comfortable coming to the building, day or night, for educational programming — whether it be parochial school by day, adult education by night, or religious education for non-parochial students.
“Fr. Bill is the visionary behind the stewardship way of life at Saint Pius X,” Mauch explained. “He brought the philosophy to Saint Pius X when he was assigned to the church, and carried it through to the school when it was opened. Fr. Bill is also the leader who spearheaded the concept of the school building serving the greater mission of the Church — lifelong religious education and stewardship.”
This mission of stewardship has become a way of life for SPX families. “Saint Pius X students and parents embrace the stewardship mission by sharing their time, talents, and treasures with others,” Saint Pius X School principal Elaine Holmes explained. “Stewardship is a parish way of life, and we are a ministry of the parish.”
Holmes was hired a year before the school opened in 2008. While planning for the school, she talked with area community members and discovered what eventually became the underlying theme for the stewardship model at SPX. “I heard almost unanimously from parents that they preferred to be charged tuition up front, and did not want to be ‘nickeled and dimed’ with many fundraisers throughout the school year.”
The beauty of the stewardship theme is demonstrated in each classroom where students are exposed to this concept from preschool through eighth grade. Sometimes this entails doing one large project, and other times it may involve doing multiple smaller projects throughout the year.
To teach stewardship in action, each grade at SPX is given a theme that shows students how to share their time, talents, and treasures. Under the theme of helping the needy, for instance, preschoolers collect new pajamas for the Center for the Homeless in South Bend. In following this same theme, kindergarteners make pumpkin pies for the Center for the Homeless.
Other themes include visiting and helping the elderly, with second graders taking trips to pray and sing with senior citizens and deliver handmade cards to residents of area senior living centers. Students even create a prayer board with pictures for the senior citizens.
The themes continue throughout the school year. Demonstrating this continuation, third graders feed the hungry by visiting a local food pantry and learning about St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP), along with making cards to go along with SVdP food baskets at Christmastime.
Following the theme of respect for life, seventh graders learn about the Center for Hospice Care. Under the direction of parents, students make fleece blankets at the school and give them to children attending grief camp at the Center. In addition, seventh graders work together to host a meal for Hannah’s House, a maternity home for pregnant teens. Students help prepare the food, serve the meal, and clean up afterward.
Many of the programs and opportunities at SPX are the result of parent and student volunteers giving of their time and treasures to provide these programs (such as the school lunch program, Thanksgiving Feast, and the Used Uniform Sale).
To assist with third-source funding, many Catholic schools have home and school or parent associations that coordinate various fundraising activities. Though the SPX Home and School Association (HASA) does fundraising, the annual school budget allocates funds for community-building activities sponsored by HASA, such as Muffins with Mom, Donuts with Dad, and Field Day.
Director of Stewardship and Evangelization Betsy Quinn, described by Holmes as the groundbreaker for the stewardship concept at the school, works with a group of parents who are trained in the stewardship philosophy, and these “stewardship parents” consistently share their gifts and blessings with the school and parish.
“Saint Pius X’s commitment to stewardship is reflected in the manner in which fundraisers are avoided in our parish community, which includes both the church and the parochial school,” Quinn explained. “Instead of allowing fundraisers, we carefully direct our parishioners’ sacrificial gifts of treasure to operate the parish and provide support to our many thriving ministries. We rely on ordinary income for our operating and daily expenses, as well as for our 8½ percent sacrificial tithe to our sister parish, St. Adalbert (5 percent) and others in our parish and community (3½ percent). This policy is based on our belief that activities, events and causes worthy of funding are best supported through the normal budgeting process, or through application to the Financial Resources Committee.”
“People step up to help — because they know our philosophy,” Holmes explained. “We do have generous donors who donate many things to the school. For instance, several years ago, a family wanted to make a donation specific to the science program at Saint Pius X School.”
Now, thanks to this family’s generous donation, the school has a state-of-the art science lab, complete with stations, microscopes, and lab coats for the students: a setting that rivals a high school science lab.
It is not uncommon for the school community to follow the stewardship philosophy in reaching beyond the school and responding to social needs, as well. In 2016, kindergarten teacher Kelly Lohr received a Lilly Endowment Teacher Creativity Fellowship for travel to the Fiji Islands, where she stayed with a host family and taught English to economically disadvantaged children for a month. After learning of the plan, kindergarten families immediately began collecting much-needed school supplies for the children of Fiji, sending Lohr on her journey with suitcases full of supplies for the school in Fiji.
In another instance, the entire school community pulled together under the guidance of the school’s student council members and collected more than 300 cases of water to send to Flint, Michigan, in response to their contaminated water crisis.
“Saint Pius X School has always operated under the stewardship philosophy in compliance with the no-fundraising policy,” Mauch noted. “Under these precepts, the school has received various gifts from school families who respond to the stewardship philosophy and, of their own will, offer to provide what the school needs. It is their way of sharing their talents, treasures, and gifts with us.”
Victoria R. LaFave is a writer for Today’s Catholic Teacher and for Holy Name Catholic School in Escanaba, Michigan, and she has also worked on various marketing and writing projects for the nine Catholic schools in the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan. Along with writing for local publications, she has also had several of her stories published in four different Chicken Soup for the Soul books.