Welcome Back to School!

Bishop Pohlmeier visits with students at Guardian Catholic Schools in Jacksonville on May 24, the same day he was announced as the new bishop of St. Augustine. Photo by Fran Ruchalski

As we begin welcoming our Catholic students back to school next week, we have so much to be grateful for. This week, more than 2,000 faculty and staff members began preparing for the new school year last week by attending professional development. And on August 3, our new shepherd, Bishop Erik Pohlmeier, celebrated Mass for the schoolteachers setting the tone for a successful academic year. Our students will be back in class on August 11 and many students attending our parish religious education programs will also begin a new year this month.  

Currently, our schools throughout the diocese have hit historic levels in enrollment. We are so thankful for the many scholarship opportunities that exist in Florida that have made Catholic education more affordable. The state program now allows a family of four to earn up to $111,000 and earn a scholarship that could be worth up to $7,500 per student each academic year. Families with a mother or father who are active law enforcement personnel, and our military members automatically qualify by their service regardless of income.  

For more information regarding state scholarships, visit https://www.stepupforstudents.org/catholic2.  The Catholic Student Assistance Fund (CSAF) established by Bishop Felipe Estévez and continues under the leadership of Bishop Erik Pohlmeier awarded nearly $100,000 this year to middle-class families that need assistance in paying for their children to attend a Catholic school. To learn more and to financially support the scholarship program, visit https://dosafl.com/studentassistance

School safety is often a topic and concern for members of our community. In 2019, the Diocese of St. Augustine conducted a security and vulnerability assessment of our schools by an independent contractor.  This extensive process helped us close the gap on security issues that existed, and our schools have been implementing these strategies for the past three years.  As we continue to witness horrific events happening throughout the country and world, we are being proactive to keep our campuses safe for our families and the entire educational community.   

We are also often asked if a student who is not Catholic can attend our schools. Everyone is welcome.  In the 2021-22 school year 28 percent of our students were not Catholic. A non-Catholic student who attends our schools is required to take religion at the school and attend the liturgical events with their Catholic classmates.  If you need help locating a Catholic school and to learn more about available scholarships, call the Office of the Superintendent for the Diocese of St. Augustine at (904) 262-0668.

Please pray for our faculty, staff, students and families as we begin this new academic year. Pray for their success academically, but most importantly that their faith may be enriched by their Catholic educational experience.

By Deacon Scott Conway, Superintendent of Catholic schools