msnbc.com
updated 3/16/2010 2:29:39 PM ET 2010-03-16T18:29:39

An 80-year-old grocery magnate is donating $30 million to a Boston College center established to revitalize Catholic grade school education.

Patrick Roche, 80, co-founder of the Roche Brothers supermarket chain in Massachusetts, credits a parochial school in Roslindale with helping his family when his mother died. He told The Boston Globe that Catholic schools need support at a time when the Archdiocese of Boston has been closing several small parish schools.

“It hurts, really, to think of what’s going on with the financial trouble,’’ Roche, who is giving the gift along with his wife, Barbara, told the Globe in a telephone interview from Florida on Sunday. “We never had those problems when I was a kid. We want to see if we can correct those problems now, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to try.’’

The gift will be used to help train Catholic school teachers and administrators, and to develop curriculum, said the Rev. William P. Leahy, president of Boston College.

“I think people realize how important education is, they know Catholic schools have been doing such great work, and they know these schools are under pressure financially,’’ Leahy said.

Roche and his brother Bud started the first Roche Brothers grocery shop in Roslindale in 1952 and later expanded the chain to 18 stores across eastern Massachusetts.

Roche credited his parochial school with helping his family when his mother died, leaving his father to raise four sons, ages 6 to 12. Roche, who was 9 at the time, remembers his parish and school embracing him and his brothers as family would.

“Everybody at the school was just fantastic,’’ he told the Globe. “All our friends and neighbors went to the school, and they just became closer to us.’’

Attending Mass so often, he added, “kept you closer to God, I’d say.’’

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