Archdiocese, Big Shoulders invest more than $90 million in schools

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, January 30, 2020

Archdiocese, Big Shoulders announce historic 10-year agreement

Cardinal Cupich and Big Shoulders Fund CEO Josh Hale greeted students, parents and grandparents at St. Genevieve Catholic School on Jan. 30, 2020 during a ‘VIP luncheon’ in honor of Catholic Schools Week. Following lunch, Cupich, Hale, Jim Rigg, superintendent of Chicago Catholic Schools, and Big Shoulders Fund Co-Chairman Msgr. Ken Velo announced the historic agreement between the Archdiocese of Chicago and Big Shoulders Fund where Big Shoulders will donate $47.5 million and the Archdiocese of Chicago will provide $44.9 million to help ensure the continuing mission of 30 schools over 10 years. The schools, mainly on Chicago’s south and west sides, serve 5,600 children, their families and their communities.
Father Sergio Rivas, pastor at St. Genevieve Parish, kicks off the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Big Shoulders Fund Co-Chairman Msgr. Ken Velo and Cardinal Cupich applaud during the luncheon. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A student works on her sandwich while listening to Cardinal Cupich speak about schools. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich addresses students, parents and grandparents at St. Genevieve. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich laughs as he visits with students and their families. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich asks a student how Catholic Schools Week is going. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich talks with students about their school. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Big Shoulders Fund CEO Josh Hale speaks to media. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Cardinal Cupich speaks to media about the agreement. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

To read this article in Spanish, click here.

The Archdiocese of Chicago and the Big Shoulders Fund announced a commitment of more than $90 million to 30 mostly South and West side Catholic schools serving 5,600 children Jan. 28. The funds, to be supplied over the next 10 years, are intended to ensure that the schools will remain in their communities.

“Our Catholic schools are true beacons of hope changing lives, developing engaged citizens and contributing to the common good of our great city,” Cardinal Cupich said. “Through this historic agreement, the Archdiocese of Chicago and Big Shoulders Fund will strengthen our efforts to provide the lifelong benefits of a Catholic education to Chicago-area children and society at large. I am very grateful to the Big Shoulders Fund and donors for their decades-long support of archdiocesan schools and school families.”

Under the agreement, the Big Shoulders Fund will provide $47.5 million to the schools, with the Archdiocese of Chicago committing $44.9 million to the same schools.

The agreement also calls for the Big Shoulders Fund to take a leadership role in helping principals manage everything from academic programming to marketing.

It marks a new moment in the 35-year partnership between the archdiocese and the fund, which was created to support Catholic schools in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

“Schools are prosperous where we have partnerships,” Cardinal Cupich said Jan. 29 at St. Genevieve School, 4854 W. Montana St. The cardinal visited the school, which is among the 30 that will receive the funding, with leaders from the Big Shoulders Fund on Jan. 29. “The Big Shoulders Fund has provided nearly $400 million to our schools over the 35 years they have been in existence.”

The new partnership will expand Big Shoulders’ financial commitment and its involvement in the way schools operate.

It also calls for Big Shoulders to assume the risk if schools need more aid than is already planned.

“I benefited from Catholic schools,” Cardinal Cupich said. “So did my brothers and sisters. It was life-changing. I want to make sure it’s made available to kids and their families.”

Monsignor Kenneth Velo, co-chairman of the Big Shoulders Fund, said the money is an investment in the communities the schools serve.

“We don’t have donors,” Velo said. “We have investors, and they are investing in the parents and the teachers and especially the children in these communities. They don’t have to worry about next year, because we will be here.”

Amanda Parker, the principal of St. Genevieve School, said knowing that the school will remain open for the next 10 years gives parish and school leaders breathing room.

“This allows us to think more broadly about what we want to do to move forward and how to provide the best education we can,” she said.

Cardinal Cupich noted that the amount the archdiocese is providing to the 30 schools will remain relatively constant. The archdiocese also will likely provide another $90 million to its other schools over the same period, he said.

However, the archdiocese’s commitment to keep that funding level for 30 schools over the next 10 years is something new, said Josh Hale, Big Shoulders’ president and chief executive officer.

“There is no diocese in the country that I know of that has made a commitment like this,” Hale said.

Big Shoulders still must raise the necessary funds, Hale said.

The agreement takes effect immediately and will support the 2019-2020 school-year budget.

Leaders touted the role Catholic schools play in the lives of not only their students, but also their neighborhoods.

“For generations these schools have prepared students for college, career and life. Alumni go on to study, work, volunteer and donate at rates higher than their peers,” Hale said. “But, even more, this investment by our supporters is about strengthening neighborhoods that are enriched by these community-based organizations remaining places of hope and reasons to stay in the city.”

“This is a good day for Catholic schools, and a good day for the city,” said Jim Rigg, Catholic schools superintendent.



  • cardinal cupich
  • catholic schools
  • big shoulders fund

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