The first “Rev. John J. O'Neill Awards Ceremony” was held on May 22 at the St. James School in Danielson. All 207 students in kindergarten through eighth grade received one of 46 different awards.
|Fr. John J. O’Neill, M.S.,
Pastor of St. James Parish
“When I studied economics at Boston College, I realized church management was crucial,” he said. “Schools wouldn’t make it with the programs set up. You can’t make it. Even though our second collections and fundraisers are second to none, we’re still $100,000 short every year.”
The problems facing the Danielson school are the same ones facing Catholic schools across the nation. According to the National Catholic Education Association, nationwide enrollment declined 12 percent for 2012-2013.
O'Neill's solution was to build an endowment fund, solidify the Friends of La Salette, a group dedicated to the school, and to call on friends around the world for help. “We brought in the base,” O'Neill said. “We’re ecumenical. We’re international. We have all kinds of awards.”
|Principal Monique Almquist
speaks about the
The awards come a week before announcements of the specific assistance granted each student. “I can reduce tuition by almost two-thirds for some of them,” said Principal Monique Almquist. They must meet certain criteria including church attendance, community participation and being current with bills.
Almquist said the awards go beyond what it means to be Catholic. “We're all God's children,” she said. “We are all created in his image. And there is more about us that is alike than not alike.”
Fr. O'Neill presented the school with a check for $120,000 from the Friends of La Salette.
St. James School, Danielson, CT
Article originally entitled, “Tuition-free School Closer to Reality” by Denize Coffey, Staff Writer for Reminder News, May 28, 2013)