Generous gift will fund Catholic schools’ computer upgrades

By Kenneth J. Souza
Anchor Staff

OSTERVILLE, Mass. — With a desire to share the many blessings they have received, the John Dawley family of Osterville recently made a substantial donation in excess of one-half million dollars to fund a district-wide Wi-Fi Readiness Project for Catholic schools in the Fall River Diocese. It is the largest non-scholarship contribution to the Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Education in diocesan history.

Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., recently acknowledged this generous gift and its donors within the context of a private luncheon hosted by benefactors of the diocese on August 9 at the Oyster Harbors Country Club in Osterville.

Presenting Jack Dawley and his wife Susan with a plaque signifying “a small sign of our recognition for your gift,” the bishop thanked the couple “in the name of the more than 6,000 children who are going to benefit from your generosity.”

“We want to say thank you, and may God continue to bless you and your family with good health for many years to come,” Bishop da Cunha said.

The Dawleys’ $550,000 contribution will be supplemented with $300,000 in federal funding to ensure that students, faculty and staff of all the Catholic schools in the diocese have reliable access to robust Internet service to support the expanded use of technology in classrooms and the implementation of digital learning initiatives.

“This is one of the few areas where we can access public resources, and so we were able to leverage that,” said diocesan superintendent of schools Steve Perla. “We’re very grateful to the Dawley family for their gift of more than $550,000, and we’ll be getting about $300,000 from the federal government and that will allow us to update our (technology) infrastructure. Which is very important, because now we’re moving into an instructional model where students use computers much more frequently in our classrooms.”

“This project will provide Wi-Fi in all the classrooms, faster access to data and to all kinds of online information, and that’s going to be the new method of teaching, so that students are not just sitting at a desk looking at the teacher,” Bishop da Cunha added. “They will be interacting and involved in a new process of learning. I think that is going to make a huge difference for the teachers and for the students, because they are benefitting from technology that is available now. And if we don’t do it, we are going to be really behind.”

Perla said the timing is perfect, as they just completed a major review of the 22 Catholic schools in the diocese and each one is now preparing a three-year strategic plan to “help us in terms of visioning for the future.”

“One of the major projects that emerged from our review was a real need to update our infrastructure for technology,” Perla said. “We found that we needed about $800,000 to complete this project. Most of you who understand Catholic school finances know that to come up with capital money is very challenging, because most of these schools live on the margins. And so we were very grateful that we had a donor who was very interested in this project.”

Bishop da Cunha recalled how Dawley, a longtime supporter of diocesan charitable efforts, first approached him saying he wanted to do something “substantial” to help the mission of the diocese.

Bishop da Cunha shared a written proposal for the Wi-Fi Readiness Project with Dawley, who immediately connected with it.

“The fruits of those meetings is what we have here today: over half a million dollars given to our schools,” the bishop said. “But I’m really hoping they are not the only ones. Because Jack told me, there are a lot of other people with means in the diocese who can help the mission of the Church — they just need to know what the needs are and what specific project they can connect with and support.”

For Jack Dawley, when he heard about the schools’ computer technology needs, it was an immediate “four-bagger” for him, using the sports analogy for a home run.

“I read the beautiful proposal for a Wi-Fi project for all the schools in the diocese, and that sounded great to us,” Dawley said. “We traditionally have given money to my alma mater and that’s gone into endowed scholarships, so we figure we’ve helped about 25 kids over the last 25 years. But this proposal would benefit 22 schools, five high schools, and 6,000 kids. So how can you beat that if you want to give to charity?”

As a former teacher and someone who personally benefitted from a Catholic education, Susan Dawley was equally enthused about helping to provide state-of-the-art technology for the diocesan schools.

“I know that when students can visualize something, it has a huge effect on them,” she said. “They pay more attention when they can see something in front of them, so having this opportunity is great.”

“Educators today are talking about ongoing education — you can’t just take a job and stop learning,” Jack Dawley added. “You have to continue to learn, and this is the vehicle to do that. You only have to read the press to realize how important Wi-Fi is in today’s world. And we feel that 6,000 kids will now get some exposure to this and in this environment, it’s important even for those who don’t go on to college.”

Dawley was also pleased that the diocese had a proposal in place that they could readily support.

“For the diocese to take the initiative and approach us, it was just so well planned that we were impressed,” he said. “We’re thrilled that we’re able to do this, and we’re confident it’s going to successful. We have the utmost confidence that the bishop will use this gift wisely.”

Having been blessed with the means, Dawley said it is important for him to support the ongoing mission of the Catholic Church for future generations.

“We’ve always liked to give to the Church, because we think the Church’s contributions to society are grossly underestimated,” he said.

And Bishop da Cunha hopes other faithful Catholics like the Dawleys who have been abundantly blessed will similarly find a way to give back to the Church.

“I know I’m making a difference here, but I also know there are so many good people helping me to rebuild our Church in faith and hope,” he said. “And that gives me hope, it gives me encouragement, it gives me the energy to work every day to put all my time and talent and faith and all that God gave me into it — for the good of the diocese and the good of the Church.”

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