Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh


L-R, Colin Fitzhenry, Adeline Roper, Caleb Fitzhenry, Jillian Palko, and Sr. Cynthia Wessel


Colin and Caleb Fitzhenry, brothers who attend Saint Agnes Parish School in West Mifflin, are no strangers to helping others in need.

“Mom always says it’s better to volunteer than to get paid,” said Caleb, a 5th grader who is helping raise money for Our Campaign for The Church Alive!  With guidance from their principal, Sister Cynthia Wessel, students have enthusiastically joined a fundraising drive that will last five years and benefit children across our Diocese through programs such as the Bishop’s Education Fund.

Sister Cynthia, who volunteers in Saint Agnes’ parish campaign, came up with the idea of using the initiative as an opportunity to teach students about stewardship and sacrificial giving.

“I love Bishop Zubik’s vision for The Church Alive! and thought, why can’t we involve the children in the campaign?,” Sister Cynthia said. “First, I went into every classroom and spoke about the importance of giving to others, using the Bishop’s pastoral letter.

“Then we created a piggybank using an old pretzel jar with a cutout of a schoolhouse in front of it and I showed it to the students,” she recalled.

“Sister came into our classroom with the bank, explained why she needed our help, and a lot of people including my friends went to their book bags and gave money,” said Colin Fitzhenry, an 8th grader. “It makes me feel great to help.” Parish funds will help with capital improvements including tearing down the old rectory, paving the parking lot and installing new windows in the social hall.

Father Joseph Grosko, administrator at Saint Agnes, engages the students in a dialogue homily at Mass every Friday. Occasionally he will ask a difficult question and gives one dollar for a correct answer. One boy recently got it right, and promptly donated his reward to the campaign.

Much Needed Funds

The Bishop’s Education Fund (BEF) was established 20 years ago to provide tuition assistance for families in need. More than 35,000 children from nearly every parish in our Diocese have benefited, but more help is needed.

In 2011-2102, families needed more than $12.6 million to pay for tuition. The BEF provided $3.3 million, or 26 percent of the overall need.

Our Campaign for The Church Alive! will infuse an additional $12 million into the BEF, increasing the endowment by 60 percent to enable thousands more students to benefit from a Catholic education.

Sister Cynthia, a member of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit who has been an educator for 48 years and served as principal of Saint Agnes for two decades, was “totally shocked” by the immediate, generous response of her students to the campaign.

“They simply asked, ‘Can we donate right now?’ Many dug into their own pockets and started filling up the bank,” Sister Cynthia said. “In just three weeks we’ve raised about $100, and we keep the bank in the hallway, no problems.”

Founded in 1870, Saint Agnes serves students in pre-school through 8th grade. Enrollment is 153 pupils and holding steady, according to Sister Cynthia. The school is known for its safe environment, discipline and family setting, benefiting from caring teachers and supportive parents.

Adeline Roper, an 8th grade student at Saint Agnes, thought it was a “really good idea” to start the campaign at school. Her father is a volunteer with the campaign.

Adeline’s classmate Jillian Palko also is glad to contribute. “I’ve always been taught to help others as best you can,” Jillian said. “I am honored to be able to donate money to support the campaign.”

L-R, Colin Fitzhenry, Adeline Roper, Caleb Fitzhenry, Jillian Palko, and Sr. Cynthia Wessel

L-R, Colin Fitzhenry, Adeline Roper, Caleb Fitzhenry, Jillian Palko, and Sr. Cynthia Wessel