Diocese of Greensburg will use National Catholic School week to recruit for its 13 schools |

Diocese of Greensburg will use National Catholic School week to recruit for its 13 schools

Renatta Signorini

Karen and Jake Stilley weren’t planning on sending their children to Catholic school.

In fact, they moved to the area intending to send Julia, 10, and Tommy, 7, to public school. But they really liked the preschool Julia attended at Aquinas Academy Parochial School, and the Hempfield family has stuck with it ever since.

“We thought it just made sense to keep her there,” Jake Stilley said.

Students, teachers and principals talked about Catholic school education during more than 200 Masses this weekend at parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg.

The effort kicked off national Catholic Schools Week and a new marketing and recruitment drive for its 13 schools.

The diocese is offering $1 million in scholarship money.

Julia Stilley and her brother are in fifth and second grades at Aquinas Academy in Greensburg. Julia talked about her education Sunday morning in front of parishioners at Blessed Sacrament Cathedral next door to the school.

“At Catholic school, students can talk openly about faith in a caring environment,” she said.

Julia has a part in the school musical, is a member of math club and volunteers at church events. Her mother said outside the sanctuary that Catholic school has ditched the image of yesteryear, and Aquinas students have access to technology, foreign languages and newer offerings, such as inventing and computer coding.

“I think it’s the whole package more than people think it is,” Karen Stilley said.

The diocese has seen enrollment decline 35 percent in elementary schools between 2007-08 and 2017-18. Enrollment has declined 31 percent at the high school level. Those numbers reflect trends across the country — the National Catholic Education Association reported a 19.4 percent decrease in enrollment during the same time frame.

In the Greensburg diocese, 2,300 students attend 11 elementary and two high schools in Armstrong, Fayette, Indiana and Westmoreland counties.

“The most important thing I’ve learned at Aquinas Academy is to love God and show I love him by being kind, helping others and living to our full potential,” Julia said.

She encouraged parishioners to consider Catholic school and mentioned the $1 million in scholarships that are being funded through tax credits.

A series of open house enrollment events will be held at schools across the region.

“My Catholic school has taught me to make my own light shine brighter so I can help others recognize the light inside of them,” Julia said.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.