Hundreds of supporters of Catholic school education turned out Thursday to hear an expert's view of the state of the institution.
The Rev. Ronald Nuzzi, director of Catholic Leadership Programs in the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame, was the keynote speaker for the eighth annual Celebrate Catholic Education Dinner in Adam's Mark Hotel.
The event, held to celebrate the mission of Catholic schools and raise money to help subsidize them locally, attracted more 1,000 people.
"This is exactly the kind of event that helps support the growth that we need to see in Catholic schools," Nuzzi said before the dinner.
"It's just the kind of support that you like to see from families, the civic community and businesses to come together and celebrate the past successes but also invest in the future, because some of these growth challenges are expensive," he added.
Last week, the Buffalo Diocese announced plans to close 14 schools in June because of declining enrollment and rising expenses. However, Nuzzi remains confident that the institution is viable enough to withstand the ongoing population and demographic shifts that have led to decisions like these, both locally and nationally.
"Like many industries have been doing, Catholic education is sort of right-sizing right now, especially in the North and Northeast, because people have moved and left parishes and schools behind," Nuzzi said.
"I see improvement, for sure, and with improvement, I think it would be wise to anticipate some growth," he added.
Operating in the schools' favor, Nuzzi said, are the benefits, academic and otherwise.
"Catholic school grads, by and large, tend to score better on standardized measures of achievement than their counterparts in other schools," he said. And such schools, Nuzzi said, tend to excel at producing civic engagement among their graduates, an asset for the community at large.
The co-chairmen of this year's "Celebrate Catholic Education Dinner" were Michael and Kirsten Lawley and William and Patricia Lawley.