50 Years Assisting Catholic Education
By Margarita Mendoza, Editor El Observador
October 5, 2023
AURORA—Marking the 50-year milestone of supporting Catholic schools in Aurora started with a Mass celebrated by Bishop David Malloy, concelebrated by 11 priests and assisted by a deacon. 
“We gather to pray about, thank God for, and ask for graces for the Aurora Catholic Education Foundation,” said Bishop Malloy at St. Peter Parish the evening of Sept. 18.
 
It has been five decades since Bishop Arthur J. O’Neill started seven foundations for Catholic schools, one for each deanery around the diocese. The only survivor is the Aurora Catholic Education Foundation (ACEF), which “supports Catholic education through financial grants to parishes, schools, and other programs in the greater Aurora community,” according to its website.
 
The history of Catholic schools in the U.S. began “in the mid to late 1800’s, when there was a particular anticatholic attitude in the country, even filtering into education. Something we see and feel again in our time,” Bishop Malloy said. 
 
To foster and protect the faith of young people, bishops at that time “urged that every parish should have a school and teach, so that the faith could be handed on, and out of that developed the whole Catholic school system,” he added. 
 
Catholic schools are places where the faith is “combined” with “the human knowledge, with ultimate purpose, which is to get to heaven and to continue that chain of faith that Christ entrusted to us just before the Ascension,” he said.
 
After Mass, Bishop Malloy greeted attendees, many of whom took photos with him.
 
A reception and dinner at the Aurora Country Club was the next part of the celebration. 
 
John Bonk, president of ACEF, estimated an attendance of 135 people, including priests, teachers, principals, and members of the community. During the dinner, Dave Verdeyen, former ACEF president, and treasurer Al Schuler received from President Bonk a plaque as a token of recognition for their work and dedication with ACEF. 
 
“It is something we’ve done for all these years, something I enjoy doing … we help schools and high schools in Aurora,” said Alan Schuler. “I’m the longest serving in the board,” he said, “(and) this is the newest member of the board,” pointing to Father Godwin Asuquo, pastor of St. Joseph Parish.
 
Lisa Roscoe was a featured speaker at the dinner who shared her experiences of being a student in Catholic schools and how they had a great and positive impact on her life. 
 
“I’ve been in the Foundation probably 15 years now,” she said. “It is a commitment that I’m proud of; I enjoy working with these people and believe in the cause.”
 
Camila Ruiz, a student from Pope St. John Paul II Catholic Academy, and her mother went to the Mass and reception. “It is an honor; I feel happy to be here with the bishop and all these people,” Ruiz said.
It was a night of inspiration for supporters of Catholic education. “I love Catholic schools, and I would love that all children would have the opportunity to study in Catholic schools. I have 11 years working for (the Diocese of) Rockford; (it) is my passion,” said Lorena Morales, a St. Joseph, Aurora, parishioner, and school aide at Pope St. John Paul II Catholic Academy.
 
ACEF “will be distributing $105,000 … about a 20% income from our foundation this year, which is what Dave and Al do so well,” Bonk said. “We hope to get the checks to all the schools and church religious education departments early October … As for anything else, we will do our Christmas mailing to the ‘regulars’ who donate to us at that time. Then in February during Catholic Schools Week, we do a second collection at all the church Masses. Then we start all over again.”
 
ACEF supports the words of Christ before the Ascension, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel” (Mark 16:15). 
 
“It sure is gratifying to give away money to such a fantastic cause!” Bonk said.
 
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