Board Member News — Fr. Tom Eckert C.S.C.
How long have you been on the CEA board?
“This is my sixth year serving on the Board of Directors of Catholic Education Arizona. I have had the privilege during this time serving as a Board Member, and have also served on the board’s Executive Committee as Secretary and Vice Chair.”
Why is CEA important to Catholic schools?
“The bishops are very clear that Catholic Education should be affordable, attainable and accessible for all of our families. The number of scholarships and the scholarship dollars that are distributed through Catholic Education Arizona to our Catholic schools for our students is astounding. CEA works to ensure that having a faith-based environment to educate both the minds and the hearts of our students isn’t just a dream, but our joyful reality. Each of our Catholic schools continues the important work that begins in the home, that is, cultivating the seed of faith, that gift from God, that our communities and world desperately need in our next generation of leaders.”
Why is CEA important to families?
“Catholic Education Arizona as a tax credit program is the most effective tool that we have in proving to all of our families that Catholic Education is for EVERYONE! It is not reserved only for the elite or only for families that are wealthy. Those who walked with Jesus and sought him out were rich and poor. He drew everyone to him because he gave them hope. He healed them. He taught them. He loved them. All of them. And he draws all of us to him still today. Working with so many of our Catholic schools we see the diversity of backgrounds of our students and families. This is a great blessing that Catholic Education Arizona helps make possible—ensuring that the vision of the bishops that Catholic Education be affordable, attainable, and accessible is not just a dream. It is our reality.”
Why is Catholic Education Arizona so important to you?
“I have been blessed to be the pastor of St. John Vianney Catholic Church and School in Goodyear, AZ, for eight years. We have been blessed with a growing school as a result of helping our families understand the availability of tax credit based scholarships like Catholic Education Arizona. In one of our first years of growth, a father brought his five children to us, trusted us to help him understand how this might be possible financially for his family. It was a real leap of faith for him, and God did not disappoint. That spring when we were meeting with families after masses to new families to enroll their children for the following year, that father said, “We made the decision to send our kids to a Catholic school to benefit them, but it has changed our whole family.” He went on to explain that his children acted differently at home than they had before. They reminded one another to pray before they went to bed. They reminded the family to pray before each meal. They went to church more. As a family, faith became a central part of their life, and this had been lacking before. I have seen so many of our families rediscover their life of faith through the Catholic Education of their children. This is a re-Evangelization of the entire family that I had not expected, and now have been a joyful witness to repeatedly. Without the support of Catholic Education Arizona and all the individuals and corporations that help make Catholic Education affordable, attainable and accessible for our families, we would miss the opportunity to bring them in and to bring them closer to God.”
In your time on the board, what impact have you seen CEA make throughout the diocese?
“One of the greatest joys that I have seen during my time on the Board of Directors of Catholic Education Arizona is the growth of so many of our Catholic schools in the Diocese of Phoenix. We can have the greatest of intentions, but if we do not have a plan for helping our families and our Catholic schools, we would be missing an amazing opportunity. Providing funding through scholarship is part of that plan. It is exciting to work with our Catholic schools and to see how Catholic Education Arizona can assist them. Sometimes it takes a little help to move things forward, sometimes it takes a lot, and what I have learned is that every one of our Catholic schools has a great potential for growth, because the mission is the Lord’s.”
What would you like to see CEA accomplish and who can help make that happen?
“We often note that fewer than 10% of Catholics in the state of Arizona redirect their individual state tax liability to help our students in Catholic schools cover the cost of tuition. And look how much good that 10% does in educating the minds and hearts of our youth! Now imagine if we doubled or tripled that. Or dream big—what if we got 50% of Catholics in Arizona to redirect their state tax dollars to Catholic Education Arizona?! If everyone who could do it, actually did do it, Catholic education could be virtually cost free for our students. That is what I would like to see Catholic Education Arizona accomplish. Who can help make that happen? Every single individual and corporation that has a state tax liability in the state of Arizona. Don’t believe me? Call the CEA office and ask how you can help!”