Video: A priest who says Mass is mandatory

updated 8/17/2007 2:57:37 PM ET 2007-08-17T18:57:37

Parents whose children attend St. Jerome Parish School here can save $1,400 off the annual tuition if they sign a contract agreeing to attend church regularly.

“Parents are the primary educators in the way of faith,” said the Rev. John Yockey of St. Jerome Parish, which operates the school. “This is a call to inactive parents to renew their religious practices.”

For years, parents qualified for the discount simply by registering as church members. But only about half showed up in church regularly, leaving some parishioners miffed.

So Yockey, 63, created the new policy, which will begin when the new school year starts in September. Parents who want the stipend had to sign a contract agreeing to attend church at least seven of every 10 Sundays.

Those who refuse to sign the contract or who don’t meet the 70 percent cutoff must pay the regular annual tuition of $4,500 per child.

The Catholic school in this city about 30 miles west of Milwaukee has 330 students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

“I fully expected upwards of 20 percent of parents would drop out” when the policy was announced last year, Yockey said. But only one of the 170 families did.

Yockey said he heard some criticism that the policy was a backdoor way to raise money. If that were the intention, he said, he could have adopted an ability-to-pay model that would have denied the stipend to parishioners who could afford the full tuition. But this policy is strictly about accountability, he insists, not revenue.

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