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Parish is half Hispanic, and now so is the school

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A few times a year, Gloria Dominguez will man a booth outside one of the Spanish-language Masses and encourage parents to enroll their children in parochial school. Some of the Hispanic parishioners of Holy Family Church in Dale City may be worried about a language barrier, others about the cost. “A lot of people don’t know there’s a school back there,” said Dominguez. 

So she explains why she loves the multicultural, faith-filled, family-oriented environment at Holy Family School. She explains that scholarships are available, which help her family afford sending their two children there. She believes Holy Family provides a great education. “I love everything about that particular parish and the school,” said Dominguez.

In the past several years, Holy Family has ramped up its efforts to reach out to Hispanic parents in the community. “Our (former) pastor, Father (Gerry) Creedon, was very big on promoting (Hispanic enrollment) and the two of us together worked on that,” said Principal Sarah Chevlin. They connected with Hispanic parish leaders and got the word out via their ministries and prayer groups. They sent letters through religious education. 

At the time, no one in the school’s front office spoke Spanish, so a parent volunteer became the “madrina,” or godmother, helping Spanish-speaking parents prepare their kids for school, apply for scholarships or assist with anything else they needed. Some of the Hispanic families are recipients of the tax credit scholarship, the St. Beatrice Special Tuition Assistance for single-parent households and families with multiple children in diocesan schools, or the diocesan tuition assistance program.

“I think the biggest thing is reaching out and letting everyone know that if they want a Catholic education, it is accessible,” said Chevlin. “(We’re) trying to be welcoming to every culture.” 

Today, both the parish and school are about 50 percent Hispanic. 

Holy Family parent Jennifer Munoz’s children attended public school until they learned about the parish school. “We met Father Creedon, who spent a lot of time talking to us about getting our kids involved in the school. We had wanted to for a long time but never had the opportunity,” she said. 

But the transition into a new school environment didn’t come at an easy time. “When we originally started our kids here, our family was going through a loss. One of our sons — we lost him in August and they were starting in September,” said Munoz. “The school knew what our battles were (and) the support was amazing. It was so much more than sending them to a new school — (it was like) a new family.”

One way the school fosters that family atmosphere is the yearly cultural awareness evening featuring food from each family’s culture, a fashion show and dancing. The gathering is a chance to celebrate the diversity in the school, said Chevlin. “There’s so many different countries represented and every person here is so proud of their country,” she said. “They want you to learn what is unique to them. And people are interested in learning.”

 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020

@ZoeyMaraistACH