By Christina Leslie | Correspondent
“There’s just something about a Catholic school environment, I can’t pin it down,” said Msgr. Gregory D. Vaughan, pastor of St. Catharine Parish, Holmdel.
Though the Monmouth County parish does not have a school of its own, the faith community has plenty of opportunity to show its love of, and support for, Catholic education by participating in the diocesan co-sponsorship program. The program assigns each parish without a school an amount to be raised in support of tuition assistance for Catholic school students in their area.
As the former vicar general, moderator of the curia and director of vocations for the Diocese, and also now as a pastor, Msgr. Vaughan understands well the need for the co-sponsorship program in the life and health of the Diocese’s Catholic schools. He has made it a priority to convey that same understanding to his parish community.
“Most people believe in Catholic education, and we do not have a heavy burden here.” Msgr. Vaughan added, “It’s a wonderful thing to be able to lighten the burden for parents.”
He feels that understanding and support among his parishioners for co-sponsorship has grown. “Last October, I gave a talk to explain the terms … and the responsibility we have. A number of people had no idea how it worked.”
He felt that the talk “was an eye-opener . . . but well-received,” adding that the parish was able to meet their assessment without a separate envelope or collection.
Members of St. Catharine Parish have experience with the value of Catholic schools, Msgr. Vaughan observed, noting that while some families enroll their children in Catholic schools from the beginning of their educational careers, many families in his parish begin their children’s education in one of the area’s local public schools and later turn to Catholic education to fulfill their needs on the high school and college levels.
“Parents feel they know what is going on with their education, and that they make good friends,” Msgr. Vaughan said. “Some of our children attend Catholic schools such as St. Benedict School (Holmdel) and St. James School (Red Bank), while later they go to Christian Brothers Academy (Lincroft), St. John Vianney High School (Holmdel), and Red Bank Catholic High School.”
“When I was more involved with schools, I loved the excitement and joy of a school in a parish,” Msgr. Vaughan said. As a youth, he attended Catholic schools in New York and New Jersey before entering a seminary high school at age 13.
“I’m a ‘lifer’,” he laughed.
The priest credits the contributions of the religious nuns and faith-filled teachers he encountered along the way in guiding him toward his vocation.
“I enjoy Catholic schooling,” he said. “We need to hold onto the wonderful legacy the sisters gave us. I’d hate to see it disappear in the Diocese, and I hope they continue well into the future. It’s a wonderful environment for learning.”