Students at St. Patrick School in Wichita are among those who benefit from the St. Katharine Drexel Catholic School Fund. (Advance photo)

The foundation of the Catholic Church is strong in the Diocese of Wichita in part because of the Saint Katharine Drexel Catholic School Fund.
Thousands of children, many of whom are now adults, were, and are able to attend a Catholic school because of the stewardship way of life demonstrated by their parents – and the additional assistance provided by the stewards who donate to the Drexel fund.
Mike Wescott, director of the diocesan Office of Development and Planned Giving, said many parishes – even when they fully embrace stewardship – still struggle to meet their school budget needs.
“This goes back to 2005 when it had long been anticipated by the Catholic School Office a need to help some of our struggling schools,” he said.
The name was chosen because of St. Katharine Drexel’s devotion to the education of Native Americans and African Americans. “And so, we model that fund after her.”
Parishes benefit because the assistance helps finance the parish’s schools, helps send children without a parish school to a Catholic school, or helps send a child to a Catholic high school.
“We have around 26 parishes now who meet the Drexel fund criteria,” Wescott said. “This is not just a handout – they have to contribute to help fund Catholic education and they have to have a certain number of families qualify for a free or reduced lunch.”
There are parishes in the diocese who have 78 percent of their students on the free or reduced lunch list, he said.
“That’s really a testimony to stewardship,” Wescott said, “because I’m willing to bet in most dioceses in the country there aren’t Catholic schools that have that many students on the free or reduced list.”
Low-income students in other dioceses enrolled in Catholic schools are likely there because of a scholarship, he said, adding that most parents would not be able to afford the $6,000 to $8,000 tuition schools charge in other dioceses in the country.
“The Drexel fund supplements stewardship in parishes in the diocese where it struggles,” Wescott said.
“The greatest benefit, I think is, the impact we’re making on our society with the infusion of faith and the integration of faith and education with these kids.”
The Drexel fund has been a great gift to the diocese, he said.
“We have about 1,500 people who every year make a gift to support this,” he said. “And this is above and beyond what they give to their parish. It’s a tremendous testament to their desire to see Catholic education thrive in the Diocese of Wichita.”
Janet Eaton, superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Wichita, said the Saint Katharine Drexel Catholic School Fund is a difference maker.
“A tour of any one of our Drexel parish schools provides convincing evidence that the students in those schools are fortunate in ways beyond what the economics of landscape may provide,” she said.
“It is by the generosity of others in the diocese who so willingly give to the St. Katharine Drexel fund that these Catholic parish schools are able to stay open and to stay vibrant. We have Catholic school teachers and administrators who know that the rewards of working in parish schools supported by that Drexel funds are ten-fold. For that, all of us are grateful to the many donors.”