Washington, DC — The Catholic Big Shoulders Fund, a network of major Chicago donors banned together twenty two years ago at the invitation of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin to rescue Catholic schools in the Chicago Archdiocese, will be joining the FADICA organization.
“We are thrilled at the prospect of the Big Shoulders Fund joining our growing membership,” said Francis J. Butler, FADICA’s president.“ This comes at a time when the future of Catholic schools is front and center in our program as a philanthropic network”, he added.
The mission of the Big Shoulders Fund is to provide support to the Catholic schools in the neediest areas of inner-city Chicago. Grants from the Big Shoulders Fund are used to support children through scholarships, special education programs, instructional equipment, much needed school facility improvements, faculty support, and operating grants. Its board is comprised of prominent Catholic donors from the Chicago area.
Big Shoulders board member, Jim O’Connor, former chairman and CEO of UNICOM Corporation and its subsidiary, Commonwealth Edison Company, spoke before the members of FADICA last January in Naples, Florida when FADICA sponsored a major conference on the future of the Catholic schools across the country.
He told FADICA that Big Shoulders serves 93 schools, with 25,000 students in inner-city schools. The Catholic school system itself, across the archdiocese, is 100,000 children. He said, 36 percent of the children served by Big Shoulders are not Catholic; 80 percent are minority. The vast majority come from families operating beneath the poverty line, he reported.
An astonishing 97 percent of children assisted graduate from high school, in a city where fewer than 50 percent of similarly situated students in the public system do. And of the children who go through high schools supported by Big Shoulders, close to 90 percent go on to college.
This year Big Shoulders will give $11.7 million for a variety of programs, according to Mr. O’ Connor. The Big Shoulders network also supplies volunteers for hands-on work with individual schools.
Big Shoulders Chairman, Msgr. Kenneth Velo, will represent the Big Shoulders Fund June 6 when members of FADICA come together in New York for a discussion on the theme “Promoting Catholic School Innovation”. The program will consider the pros and cons of starting a national initiative to help schools financially that are trying new approaches to teaching, organization, student and teacher recruiting, leadership development and fund raising that have strategic value to other Catholic schools as well.
The Big Shoulders Fund joins a network of over fifty foundations and donors with a collective asset base of nearly $5 billion.