Right Call at the Right Time
By Deborah Manog
“It must’ve been the work of the Holy Spirit — Dr. Rockers had no way of knowing the situation,” Betsey Gunderson, Head of school for St. Anthony Junior-Senior High School, said about her dilemma last year regarding a student’s continued enrollment.
She clearly remembers her quandary when she discovered that a student’s father was battling a major health challenge that would render him unable to work for a period of time. The student was afraid that his family could no longer afford his tuition. Gunderson was worried because she had witnessed a large change and improvement in the student throughout his time at the Wailuku campus.
“The child had come to us from a public school and was not doing well in that environment, but here he was thriving,” Gunderson said. “Knowing that dad’s health was in bad shape, we knew that our school would be able to provide exactly what he needed in terms of spiritual support if his dad got even sicker.”
Gunderson spoke firmly as she told me about her decision, against all odds, to do her best to keep the student at the school because she felt it was the right thing to do. As if on cue, the phone rang like the chimes of an answered prayer.
On the other end of the line was Hawaii Catholic Schools Superintendent Michael Rockers. He called to inform her that there were extra funds available, for a student in need of financial assistance.
“I had a number of situations like that where he (Dr. Rockers) calls at just the right time and has helped us out.”
The student received financial aid from the Maui Catholic Student Tuition Assistance Fund, created with donations from a monthly second collection that most Maui parishes participate in. Through the leadership of the Hawaii Catholic Schools office and Msgr. Terrence Watanabe, the Maui vicar instrumental in initiating the fund, along with the pastors and parishioners on Maui, the support of Bishop Larry Silva and the Augustine Educational Foundation, the student was able to continue his education at the Wailuku Catholic school.
“We have a lot of kids that, without a lifeline like that, would not be attending Catholic schools,” Gunderson said.
Written by Deborah Manog
*This short story was printed in the Hawaii Catholic Herald’s 2015 Diocesan Stewardship Report (click to read in its entirety).
All ministries of the Diocese of Honolulu were asked to tell a true story about how they have reached out, served and affected someone.