Beloved Cathedral curator retires, reflects on years of service

Laura Keener, Editor.

For 28 years Berry Mang has been unlocking and locking the doors at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. Last month he officially hung up his keys. Bishop Roger Foys, Father Ryan Maher, rector, and the Cathedral community joyfully celebrated, Sunday, Feb. 23, the retirement of the beloved curator.

“For over 28 years Berry Mang has served St. Mary’s Cathedral Parish with selfless dedication,” said Father Maher. “Berry has given these years of his life to faithful and outstanding service not only to the clergy and parishioners of the Cathedral, but also to an untold number of guests and visitors over his years of ministry at the Cathedral Basilica. Berry faithfully carried out his ministry everyday and on weekends, doing so much behind the scenes to help ensure that the Cathedral is a welcoming place and that everything was prepared and in order for liturgical services. On behalf of the Cathedral clergy, staff and parishioners, and many guests and visitors, I wish Berry a very blessed, grace filled and healthy retirement.”

Mr. Mang’s daily presence and gentle care of the cathedral and the people who worship and visit there has earned him the moniker “Mr. Cathedral.” His official title was Facilities Manager and Director of Volunteers.

He began his ministry in 1992, not long after he and his wife, Carol, converted to Catholicism. The couple was married in 1965. They met at St. Elizabeth Hospital — she was in nursing school and he was working his way through college as an x-ray technician. The year after his graduation the couple married. This year they will celebrate their 55th anniversary together — a long time.

“It’s been longer for her,” he laughs. “I got the better end of that deal.”

Mrs. Mang volunteers at the Cathedral as an usher and greeter.

“We work well together,” Mr. Mang said, noting that his wife is the oldest of 7 children and “a great organizer. I’m an only child so I come up with crazy ideas. That’s a good team — one has ideas and the other has organization.”

During his time at the Cathedral he was also head of the Cathedral Foundation for three years and Parish Council president for five years. When talking with Mr. Mang you quickly realize that he prefers to talk about other people than himself. He has worked for three bishops — Bishop William Hughes, Bishop Robert Muench and Bishop Roger Foys — and five rectors, Father Raymond Hartman, Father John Cahill, Msgr. William Cleves, Msgr. William Neuhaus and Father Ryan Maher, respectively.

“It’s been a great experience, they are all good people,” he said.

Msgr. Stanley Fleming began Mr. Mang’s Christian initiation instructions when he was entering the Church; Father Hartman was the rector who, in 1992, administered the sacraments of initiation. Not long after that Father Hartman was assigned to Mother of God Parish, Covington.

“I would tease him that as soon as I joined he decided to go elsewhere,” he said.

Father Cahill, Mr. Mang said, was instrumental in positioning the Cathedral as a welcoming place for visitors to worship and visit.

“He started the greeter program and the docent program; he built off of suggestions from parish council,” he said.

Recently, the docent program has been reenergized and the number of docents has increased “thanks to Steve Enzweiler,” he said. Mr. Enzweiler was recently named Cathedral historian.

Mr. Mang said that the Cathedral receives “a tremendous amount visitors from around the country and the world.”
A conservative estimate, he said, is about 15,000 a year. He said that visitors increased exponentially after the building of “The Ark” exhibit in Williamstown. “You might say we’re spillover from The Ark,” he quipped.
And while the Cathedral may not have been first on the visitor’s list, Mr. Mang said that the Cathedral awes visitors.

“Usually, they come through the door and look up. Some even say ‘wow!’ Then, after they settle down a little bit, the next question is, ‘Can we take pictures?’” he said.

About the current rector, Mr. Mang said, “Father Maher is an outrageous human being, so gentle and so wonderful to people. He has been very good for this parish.”

In addition to booking tours, Mr. Mang’s duties at the Cathedral includes assigning ushers for each Mass. A typical weekend Mass will require six ushers, larger liturgical events require more. There are about 30 ushers on the roster at the Cathedral.

“We make sure the Communion line goes well so there is no confusion, help people get seated, especially if there is reserved seating,” he said.

One of the most important tasks is “Making sure the door is open so the Bishop can get in. I always try to meet him out at the gate.”

Mr. Mang said that the installation Mass of Bishop Muench and the ordination and installation Mass of Bishop Foys were among the highlights of his career.

At Bishop Muench’s installation heavy rain exposed a leaky roof and a section of the cathedral had to be closed. That unfortunate incident may have been a driving factor in Bishop Muench’s restoration of the Cathedral — another highlight.

The recent entombment of Bishop Camillus Maes at the Cathedral was another historic event for Mr. Mang. “That was a wonderful thing that took place and Bishop Foys was totally responsible for making that happen,” he said. “It’s hard to say anything except good things about Bishop Foys, he has just been wonderful. He has reestablished the Church and got programs going again that we had years ago.”

Bishop Hughes, Mr. Mang said, “was exceptionally warm and gracious.”

Mr. Mang and Bishop Hughes shared a love for college football. Mr. Mang was a high school referee for 35 years and Bishop Hughes was a big University of Notre Dame fan.

“I would see Bishop Hughes and ask how are the boys going to do and he would say, ‘I don’t know.’ Notre Dame had some tough years but he never gave up hope,” he said.

About the three bishops, Mr. Mang said, “I have experienced the kindest people I know in these three gentlemen.” Adding, “All the rectors have been outstanding individuals and the Bishops have been unbelievable — we have been so blessed.”

Above all, Mr. Mang has enjoyed serving the people of the Diocese of Covington. “It’s amazing the spiritual wealth that our diocese has (in its people),” he said.

Mr. Mang’s favorite place inside the Cathedral is the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. “It’s quiet and the Eucharist is in the tabernacle. You can slide in and pray and just be; stay for a little breather then go back to work,” he said.

Another favorite place is the Cathedral garden — another place of tranquility. Mr. Mang marvels at the development of the Cathedral square which includes not only the Cathedral and its garden but also renovations at Covington Latin School, the building of the Curia and establishing the Cathedral Parish Offices on the corner of 11th and Madison.

“This whole block has been developed beautifully,” he said. “One of the nicest things that happened when we moved the offices out of the rectory is the cooperation between the Curia and the Cathedral staffs is more intimate now.”

While Mr. Mang does not have any immediate plans for his retirement, he said that he and Carol will continue to volunteer at the Cathedral. “We have been so blessed,” he said.

“Berry Mang has given almost three decades of uninterrupted service to our beloved Cathedral Basilica in Covington,” said Bishop Foys. “His ministry was far reaching and all inclusive. To call him Mr. Cathedral would not be a stretch! He has an intimate working knowledge of every facet of life at our Cathedral Basilica and has given himself selflessly in every way imaginable.

“I offer him, on my own behalf and on behalf of every Cathedral parishioner and anyone and everyone who has ever visited our Cathedral, my profound gratitude for giving himself so fully over so many years. I know that his love of the Cathedral is sincere and that he will not be a stranger to us now that he is retiring from the day-to-day management of every detail of overseeing our Cathedral. I wish him well as he begins a well-deserved retirement!”

Parishes prepare for evangelization weekend

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

The Office of Catechesis and Evangelization hosted its annual DRE/CRE and RCIA coordinator meeting, Feb. 19, in the Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium.

The meeting included an introduction to Evangelization Weekend, tips for the coordinators to get clearance for speakers and an open forum for attendees to ask questions of the office.

David Cooley, co-director of the Office, spoke to the importance of Evangelization Weekend: “What is evangelization? Going out and bringing others to Christ by being Christ for others,” he said. “Our job isn’t to fix others or to get them to convert to our way of thinking. … Our job is to love others.”

It shouldn’t be forced, said Mr. Cooley. “It is a concentrated weekend to highlight something we should be doing 24/7 – 365 days a year.”

Evangelization Weekend was further explained by Vicki Klocke, RCIA coordinator, St. Joseph Parish, Cold Spring. She explained it as a “come and see” event, sharing the Gospel message and introducing the RCIA program to non-Catholics. It will take place April 25-26 and will encourage parishioners to invite non-Catholics to accompany them to Mass.

Ms. Klocke said the goal is not explicitly getting people into RCIA, however. “Evangelization about sharing the good news of Christ, it’s not about adding members to the Church,” she said. “It’s about inviting others into a relationship with Jesus Christ. We want to show them that that relationship can be built in the Church through the sacraments.”

This year’s theme is “Lead Someone to Faith and Hope in God,” based on the readings for the third Sunday of Easter.

During the open forum, coordinators had a chance to ask questions and clarify concerns. One topic discussed was the upcoming new textbooks for grade schools, a project Mr. Cooley said is nearly finished. Currently a committee is discerning the options. The committee, through the Office of Catechesis and Evangelization, will submit a recommendation to Bishop Roger Foys.

Organizers hope that all parishes in the Diocese of Covington will participate in Evangelization Weekend April 25–26 this year and look for creative ways to share the faith with their communities.

Bishop Foys dedicates SHDHS’s addition, continues faith tradition for current and future students

Laura Keener, Editor.

The St. Henry District High School community celebrated, Feb. 16, the blessing and dedication of its new $7.8 million addition — the school’s first major building project in over 20 years.

At the blessing and dedication Bishop Roger Foys, together with David Otte, principal, and Dan “Boone” and Karen Riegler, campaign chairpersons, thanked all those who supported the project and the over 300 people who attended the dedication.

“Isn’t this terrific? Look at this,” Bishop Foys exclaimed as he began his final remarks after walking the entire addition, sprinkling each room with holy water.

“Our diocese has had a 167-year tradition of Catholic school education. What we are doing here today shows that we continue that tradition. Each generation has its own challenges and it meets those challenges not just for their own generation but also for future generations,” he said.

“My special thanks to Mr. Dave Otte who has given three decades to Catholic school education here at St Henry. And thank you to all of you,” Bishop Foys said. “There are alternatives to a Catholic school education but there is no substitute — you’ve proven that here today. God bless you.”

The February 28 edition of the Messenger will include a special section devoted to the St. Henry District High School.

Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl snack saves lives

Laura Keener, Editor.

A snack. Thomas Awiapo said that he owes everything that he has today — including his very life — to a snack.

Mr. Awiapo works with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Ghana, Africa, and was the keynote speaker, Feb. 13, at the annual diocesan CRS Rice Bowl kick-off event at Bishop Howard Memorial Auditorium. The local CRS Rice Bowl event is co-sponsored by Catholic Charities – Diocese of Covington and the diocesan Office of Stewardship and Mission Services.

At the event student representatives from six high schools and 10 elementary schools come to learn more about the popular CRS Rice Bowl Lenten project and about local poverty and how 11 local social service agencies assist local families in meeting their everyday needs of food, clothing, shelter and security. The students can contribute spare change during Lent to provide for these needs.

Mr. Awiapo said he “brings a message of hope, for the gift of CRS Rice Bowl.”

Students were captivated as Mr. Awiapo recounted how he grew up in a village that did not have access to running water or electricity. His parents died when he was very young, leaving him and his three brothers orphaned. Hunger was a part of their everyday life. He said he watched his younger brothers die from hunger and the third, the oldest, left the village in search of food — he has not heard from him since.

Then, one day, CRS established a school five miles from the village, and while he did not have any interest in attending school, the school provided a snack.

“They tricked me into going … I loved that snack. Unfortunately, they tied that snack to the school and I was taken hostage (by the snack),” he said.

Thanks to CRS, Mr. Awiapo received an education, obtaining a master’s degree in public administration from the University of California, and working with CRS — “tricking children to go to school,” he said.

He shared his amazement at the abundance of clean water that is readily available in the United States, while in the village he grew up in people struggle to find clean water — even sharing water sources with animals, which leads to life threatening illnesses like cholera.

“What is life if not for clean water? Pray for those who struggle every day for clean water,” he said.

Mr. Awiapo encouraged the students — especially if they are tempted to waste food — to “remember my face,” and to think about his deceased brothers and others in America and around the world who experience hunger every day.

He ended his talk encouraging students to find small ways they might be able to help others.

“God blessed us all so that we can bless one another. I think Rice Bowl is one of those little ways we can bless one another,” he said.

Referring to the cardboard “rice bowl” box students use to collect spare change during Lent through the CRS Rice Bowl program Mr. Awiapo said, “When you assemble the little rice bowl what you are actually doing is assembling many, many broken lives around the world.”

Deacon candidates instructed to be ‘salt and light’ as lectors

Laura Keener, Editor.

Eighteen men — 13 from the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and five from the Diocese of Covington — were instituted into the ministry of lector, Feb. 9, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, Covington. These men are candidates for the permanent diaconate and are studying at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Cincinnati. Bishop Roger Foys was the celebrant and homilist. Msgr. William Neuhaus, director, diaconate formation, Diocese of Covington; and Father David Sunberg, director, diaconate formation, Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, were among the concelebrants.

While the ministry of lector is available to all the lay faithful, for these men, the ministry of lector is a step in their formation towards ordination to the permanent diaconate. A lector reads the Word of God — except the Gospel — at Mass and liturgical celebrations. When a deacon or cantor is not present, the lector presents the intentions and may lead the congregation in song.

About the candidates, Bishop Foys said, “They will be salt and light to God’s people through their daily lives and, in this instance, through their ministry of lector of proclaiming God’s word and teaching others to proclaim God’s Word.”

Bishop Foys invited everyone to join him in praying for the candidates as they continue their formation.
“As they are instituted in this ministry, I ask you to pray, along with me, … that God will give them the wisdom and the grace and the courage that they will need to always proclaim God’s Word, certainly from the pulpit but more effectively by the lives they lead.”

Join the Diocese at [email protected] Feb. 27

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Bishop Roger Foys invites Catholics from the Diocese of Covington to Frankfort, Thursday, Feb. 27, to learn about proposed Senate and House bills and to share their Catholic perspective with Kentucky lawmakers.

Presented by the Catholic Conference of Kentucky (CCK), the event will address the Abortion Neutrality Amendment, sanctuary cities, the elimination of the death penalty for persons with mental illness and support of Scholarship Tax Credits, among other current issues.

The day will include a morning with CCK staff, including Jason Hall, director, talking about the issues and answering any questions, followed by an opportunity to meet in small groups with individual legislators. There will also be a chance to observe the General Assembly in session for those who wish to stay.

Mr. Hall said this is a perfect first step for those who want to get involved in advocacy or in speaking out for Catholic social teaching, but are uncertain about how to do it, or feel intimidated by the process.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to, in a fully supported way, to get over that initial fear,” he said. “We help connect with the right legislators, you get to go speak to them in groups with people that are more experienced. It’s a good mix of people with experience in advocacy work at the state level and people who are doing it for the first time.”

The CCK was created in 1984 by the Roman Catholic bishops of Kentucky to represent the four dioceses in public policy on the state and federal level. It advocates for laws and policies that reflect Gospel values and Catholic social teaching.

Each diocese is given a different day this year to bring their specific concerns to lawmakers. It is hoped that this year an even greater number of the faithful will give the Church a voice in the public square.

Some key bills and issues the CCK will talk about at [email protected] Capitol are:

HB 67: Abortion Neutrality Constitutional Amendment — This bill would amend the state constitution to clarify that there is no right to an abortion in the Kentucky Constitution. (CCK supports)

HB 237: Severely Mentally Ill Exclusion from the Death Penalty — This bill would prohibit the application of the death penalty against someone with a diagnosed severe mental illness. (CCK supports)

HB 350: Scholarship Tax Credits — This would establish a separate income tax credit for tuition assistance based on contributions made to a qualified scholarship-granting organization. (CCK supports)

SB 1: Sanctuary Cities — which would charge all public agencies with the duty to use their “best efforts” to support federal immigration enforcement, even if that agency ministers to vulnerable populations and with personnel that has no training in immigration law. (CCK opposes)

SB 9: Born-Alive Infant Protection Act — This provides that a born-alive infant shall be treated as a legal person under the laws of the commonwealth. (CCK supports)

The event will be held 9:30 a.m.–2 p.m., at the State Capitol Building, Room 316, Frankfort, Ky. Registration begins at 8 a.m.

Buses will leave from the Diocese of Covington Curia, Covington, at 7:30 a.m. and will return at approximately 4 p.m. There is no cost to attend. To reserve your spot on the bus or for more information, contact Faye Roch at the Diocese of Covington (859) 392-1500 before Friday, Feb. 21.

Catholic Schools prepare ‘good soil’ for faith to grow

Laura Keener, Editor.

The annual national Catholic Schools Week celebration was held Jan. 26—Feb. 1. In the Diocese of Covington, schools held daily celebrations, recognizing the contributions that everyone — students, faculty, administrators, parents, volunteers — make to the success of Catholic schools.

Bishop Roger Foys celebrated Mass, Jan. 30, at the Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption, for the diocesan recognition of Catholic Schools Week. Student representatives from the nine Catholic high schools and 30 elementary schools in the Diocese of Covington attended.

In his homily, Bishop Foys said the parable of the “Sower and the Seeds” in the day’s Gospel is unique in that Jesus himself explains the significance of the soil, offering an opportunity for him to focus on another important aspect of the parable — what makes soil “good” so that it bears fruit.

“The sower represents the Lord and the seed is the word of God,” Bishop Foys said. The fact that the seed is scattered with abandon demonstrates that God, “makes his Word available to everyone. No one is excluded from the Lord,” Bishop Foys said. “There is nothing any of us can do to earn God’s love, he puts that out to us and he is very generous. It is the response of those who are given the word where the difficulty lies.”

Bishop Foys said there are three things necessary for God’s word to bear fruit. First it has to be heard.

“To hear the Word means we have to free ourselves from distractions,” he said.

The second component that makes good soil is that it has to “receive” God’s Word.

“So much of what we hear bounces off of us. Some parts of the Gospel are difficult because the Lord makes some demands on us and we resist those — it’s like a reflex … it causes us to flinch because it means we are going to have to do something or quit doing something.”

The third characteristic necessary for God’s Word to bear fruit is, “We are called to action. If the Word of God makes any kind of difference in our heart, our soul or our life then we have to act on it. We have to be what St. James calls ‘do-oers’ of the Word and not just hearers.”

Preparing the soil so that God’s Word can bear fruit is “what Catholic Schools do,” Bishop Foys said.

“Catholic schools prepare students to hear the Word of God, to receive the Word and to act on it. We have to be formators and not just educators, to build a foundation on which students can build the rest of your life,” he said.

Chris Stefanick brings passionate reminder of Christian identity in ‘Reboot’ tour

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Nationally acclaimed speaker Chris Stefanick brought a message of love and joy during his “Reboot!” event at Northern Kentucky University, Jan. 28. The event was one of several across the country under a tour with the same name.

The evening featured a presentation from the T.V. host and author, who reminded the large crowd that “Life is a love story.”

Only when we remember that we are made for love, said Mr. Stefanick, can we truly realize our identity. “When something is made for a purpose and it’s used for something else, it breaks,” he said.

He encouraged his audience to remember that love makes demands and life isn’t going to be easy.

“If you have a God whose whole mission is to make you feel good about yourself, who lets you do whatever you want, guess who your God is? Your God is you,” he said.

The key, he said, is finding joy despite the circumstances in your life. Circumstances are only a page in a grander love story, and they don’t determine anything.

He then provided a list of five rules to a joyful life, with practical examples to live them out: give thanks, love yourself, love people, engage your body and remember the big picture.

“Joy is knowing you’re loved perfectly,” he concluded.

Mr. Stefanick spoke for over two hours and each attendee received three of his published books. Donna Heim, campus minister at the Northern Kentucky University Newman Center, and Thomas More University student Kansie Disney, whose initiative brought the “Reboot” tour to Kentucky, introduced him.

The event was sponsored by the All Saints Youth Group, Walton, and co-sponsored by Thomas More Campus Ministry, NKU Newman Center and Holy Cross Parish, Latonia.

Mrs. Heim shared that Thomas More University and the NKU Newman Center have collaborated in the recent past by sending students to the SEEK conference in December 2019. The Fellowship of Catholic University Students sponsors the conference. By pooling resources of people and finances, Mrs. Heim said the universities could collaborate to bring quality Catholic speakers and content.

“We were delighted to work with them,” she said.

Ms. Disney, a sophomore at Thomas More University, heard Mr. Stefanick at a Steubenville conference in middle school, and has wanted to share him with the Diocese of Covington ever since. After he agreed to come, she took up a six-month publicity campaign, in which she used resources such as Sacred Heart Radio, parish bulletins and the Messenger to spread the word.

According to Mrs. Heim, this is just the first of many sponsored speaker events that the NKU Newman Center and Thomas More University are planning.

“NKU really supports Catholic ministry,” she said. “And it’s exciting to see the solidarity of the Catholic community to rekindle our faith.”

In Washington, Bishop, priests and pilgrims are the voice for the voiceless at March for Life

Laura Keener, Editor.

Pilgrims from the Diocese of Covington participated, Jan. 24, in the 47th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.
The March for Life is a peaceful demonstration opposing the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which made abortion on demand legal in the United States and has polarized Americans into two political blocs — pro-choice (a women’s right to abortion) and pro-life (an unborn child’s right to life). Each year at the March for Life thousands of Americans give voice to the voiceless demanding that U.S. laws restore protection to the unborn.

From the diocese, about 300 people attended this year’s March for Life including students from Bishop Brossart High School, Alexandria; Covington Catholic High School, Park Hills; Covington Latin School, Covington; Holy Cross District High School, Latonia; Notre Dame Academy, Park Hills; St. Henry District High School, Erlanger; St. Patrick High School, Maysville; Northern Kentucky University, Highland Heights; and Thomas More University, Crestview Hills.

In his homily at Mass prior to the march, at St. Dominic Church, Washington, D.C., Bishop Roger Foys read extensively from an article, “The Truth About Abortion,” written 30 years ago and available still online at KeepBelieving.com. Despite the age of the article, its content, Bishop Foys said, rings true today.

“I think it goes without saying that abortion is a difficult issue to talk about. It is difficult because it is almost impossible to find someone who is neutral on the subject. It is the most emotionally-divisive issue in America today,” Bishop Foys read.

“This is still true today. You look at our world, you look at our country, sadly and unfortunately you look at our Church and there are divisions,” Bishop Foys said. “People taking up sides, angry at each other, holding grudges against each other —that’s not right.”

The article indicated that many are divided on the morality of abortion. After describing the developmental milestones of a fetus — at conception the baby has its own set of genes and chromosomes; before implantation the sex is determined; 19 days after conception the eyes begin to develop; after 24 days the heart begins beating; at 30 days and a 1/4 inch long the embryo has a brain, eyes, ears, mouth, kidneys and liver; 35 days fingers are formed; 40 days brainwaves are detected — Bishop Foys said, “I defy anyone to say that killing such a baby is not morally wrong. It’s not just a blob, it’s not just some mass we are going to destroy and discard. It is a human being, as the Psalmist said, ‘knit by God in its mother’s womb.’”

Since 1973, Bishop Foys said, that 61,683,903 children have been aborted in the United States and 1,562,566,150 babies have perished in the womb worldwide.

“My friends, that should frighten us,” he said. “We know the truth, so what do we do?”

Bishop Foys offered three directives — pray, be informed and get involved.

“Those poor unborn children cannot speak for themselves, so we speak for them — not with vengeance, not with hatred but with love and prayer and patience and understanding. We should not be a cause for more division — there’s enough of that in our world and in our country and in our Church. A house divided cannot stand, Jesus said,” Bishop Foys said.
Bishop Foys ended his homily thanking the pilgrims for attending the March for Life and encouraging them in their support of the unborn.

“We must not give up, we must not be silent — we must be a witness. This is why we are here today, to be a witness. We are not here to protest, or harangue, or to discredit. We are here to be a witness to life. To show people, especially those who have the ability to change this law, that there are still people in our country … who believe that God is indeed the author of all life. It is up to God, and God alone, to determine who is born and who dies and when they are born and when they die. God is the author of life.”

On the return home from the March for Life, one of the four high school buses was involved in a serious accident. A car traveling south on the AA Highway near the California Crossroads intersection in Campbell County in the northbound lane collided with the bus carrying Covington Catholic High School students and chaperones. The driver of the car was pronounced dead at the scene. Two chaperones and one student were transported from the scene to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. They were treated and released the same day. The remaining students were transferred to other buses in the caravan and returned safely to the drop-off point where parents and family members were waiting.
In a released statement Bishop Foys said, “Please join us in praying for everyone involved in this accident.”

Catholic schools represent at School Choice Rally for scholarship tax credits

Allegra Thatcher, Assistant Editor.

Yellow scarves waved and children’s voices echoed through the Capitol rotunda during the School Choice Rally in Frankfort, Jan. 27. Held inside this year, the event still drew a sizeable crowd, with older students taking to the balcony with rally signs.

Students, teachers, parents and others behind the cause advocated for school choice and scholarship tax credits.
Scholarship tax credits would give businesses and individuals a dollar-for-dollar tax credit when they contribute to a qualified scholarship granting association. Schools then dispense those scholarships to families who otherwise couldn’t afford to choose a private or parochial school for their children.

Following the rally, House Majority Whip, Rep. Chad McCoy, filed House Bill 350 that evening. This bill would create a Scholarship Tax Credit program for K-12 non-public school students.

Speakers at the rally included State Senator Ralph Alvarado, Attorney General Daniel Cameron and a panel of parents who shared testimonies of the significant impact of school choice.

Senator Alvarado of the 28th district, a long-time champion for school choice, filed Senate Bill 110 on Jan. 24, which would back scholarship tax credits. He insisted that the scholarship tax credit program is necessary to building a strong education system in Kentucky.

“The lack of means to move or go to private school (shows a) discrepancy between rich and poor…” he said. “We need to give our kids the opportunity to compete nationally with their peers.”

Three mothers also gave testimonies to the impact of scholarships on their children.

Citing experience with poverty and unfortunate circumstance, they argued that zip code should not result in a lack of opportunity. “Finances shouldn’t determine the first 15 years of childhood education,” one said. Each advocated for an option to choose what is best for their children.

Attorney General Cameron, recently elected in 2019, agreed that choice is at stake.

“Regardless of background, beliefs, wealth or race, Kentucky children should have access to an education that meets their needs,” he said. “All types of schools and learning environments are necessary to meet the unique needs of every child… public schools, parochial schools, private schools…”

He recognized the role of Representative John “Bam” Carney in championing the scholarship tax credit movement, but who recently fell ill and so has not been able to bring a bill to the floor.

Mr. Cameron accepted get-well cards from the students for the representative.

Students from Holy Cross School, Covington, ended the rally with a School Choice Week dance, which they performed for everyone present.

Andrew Vandiver, associate director, Catholic Conference of Kentucky, also attended, and was pleased with the turnout and the lineup of speakers. EdChoice Kentucky organized the rally.

“I think more than anything it’s hearing from parents, because parents and students is what this is all about,” he said. “We had students from all across the state present.

He also referenced Attorney General Cameron’s presence as significant to the cause. Mr. Cameron is the highest profile speaker they’ve had, and “We’re excited to see how in his first month of being in office he’s already behind this issue.”

The Holy Cross School dancers represented a fraction of Andi Gardner’s fourth and fifth grade class from Holy Cross School, Covington. She brought 28 students for the first time.

“School choice is very important for our school because we have a lot of families that have a variety of socioeconomic needs and we’re trying to meet them the best that we can,” said Ms. Gardner. “When we heard that there was going to be legislation going to push this forward, we wanted to be part of it.”

Ms. Gardner said she was touched by the poignant stories of the parents whose families have suffered from a lack of school choice.

“I hope this is among the years of successful stories. Hopefully it’s not the end of a great story,” she said.

To stay informed on House Bill 350, follow the link: https://www.votervoice.net/CCKY/Home; to contact your state representative to show your support call 1-800-372-7181.