Breakfast benefit speakers address relevance of Catholic education, values it provides students

By Jacquelyn Guillen | Contributor
Saturday, January 28, 2017

Loyola University Chicago President Jo Ann Rooney said Catholic education is more relevant than ever. (Chicago Catholic file photo)

Over 400 people attended the Celebrating Catholic Education Breakfast at the Palmer House on Jan. 24 to show support for Catholic schools and raise money for the Office of Catholic Schools and its Caritas scholarship program.

Speakers focused on the values a Catholic education provides to students and the success students achieve. In Cook and Lake counties, Catholic schools serve more than 76,000 students.

“Our goal for the fundraising breakfast is to help ensure that vibrant, high quality Catholic schools are available, accessible and affordable for all children in Cook and Lake counties,” Cardinal Cupich said in a press release prior to the breakfast.

In her keynote address, Loyola University Chicago President Jo Ann Rooney said she was recently asked whether a Catholic education was outdated.

“Those were my shortest remarks ever. No,” she said. Rooney told the crowd that Catholic education is more relevant than ever before. She said students who receive a Catholic education are preparing for lives of engagement and service to one another.

“Catholic education is a promise,” Rooney said. “It is an extraordinary gift worth celebrating.”

Catholic school students are driven to be agents of positive change, she said, and her institution, Loyola University, encourages students to risk discomfort and to explore the “divisive issues” affecting today’s world.

Forty percent of Loyola’s first-year students identify themselves as Catholic and 25 percent of them are graduates of Catholic schools, she said.

However, work still needs to be done, Rooney said, emphasizing the need to provide access and affordability to diverse communities.

“This event is a great opportunity to celebrate the many wonderful things happening in our Catholic schools,” said Jim Rigg, superintendent of Catholic schools.

“Our schools have graduated thousands of students through the generations, and these individuals can be found in positions of leadership and influence throughout the world,” Rigg said. “We have many reasons to be proud.”

The Caritas Scholars Program, which benefitted from the breakfast, provides scholarships for students averaging $1,500, said Father Wayne Watts, pastor of St. John Berchmans Parish. Caritas scholarships are awarded to students from low- and middle-income families.

For many of those families, the scholarship makes a difference in whether they can afford Catholic education or not, Watts said.

“You’re helping our kids,” he said.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle attended the event and spoke about her own experience in the Catholic school system.

After breakfast, attendees texted donations through an online system and raised over $29,000 on the spot.

In prior years, the breakfast has raised more than $225,000 annually for scholarships and awareness of Catholic education.


  • catholic schools
  • caritas scholars program
  • jo ann rooney

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