Students at the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, NY with a quilt given to a local rescue mission in 2016.

In this time of COVID-19, the Sisters of the Holy Names Educational Ministries have continued to respond to the needs of the times. With innovation and thoughtfulness, the administrators, teachers, tutors and staffs of these wonderful schools and ministries are finding new ways to carry on the Sisters’ mission and charism as they serve the changing needs of their communities.

Taking advantage of strong existing online learning systems, SNJM schools and ministries have pivoted quickly to offer remote classes, online college and individual counseling, Zoom-based and YouTube prayer services, and even social events to keep classmates connected with one another. In some areas, administrators have reached out to other Catholic schools to share expertise and model how to best channel new learning methods for the benefit of their students.

These efforts have had a positive impact on thousands of families with students at the primary, secondary and university levels, as well as adults enrolled in community-based ministries established by the Sisters to serve people with few other sources of educational support.

At a time when tuition and other financial obligations have become a challenge for some families, several ministries have taken action to support their educational programs with the help of the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP). Congress established the program to support operational and payroll expenses from February through the end of June 2020. The program enables nonprofit organizations to receive loans through local banks. These loans cover around 2.5 times the expense of monthly payroll, rent and utility costs. If nonprofits such as the SNJM ministries use the funds as directed, the loans become grants that the institutions do not have to pay back.

As of May 4, 2020, the Academy of the Holy Names in Albany, NY; Holy Names Academy in Seattle, WA; Holy Names High School, Holy Names University and Next Step Learning Center in Oakland, CA; Holy Names Music Center in Spokane, WA; Ramona Convent Secondary School in Alhambra, CA; and St. Mary’s Academy in Portland, OR have all been approved by their banks for PPP loans.

The loans enable the ministries to keep employees on staff through the end of June. Funds are helping to pay essential salaries as the ministries transition to serving students remotely.

The ministries have sought additional ways to support their communities as well. The spring season often includes galas and other fundraisers. In many cases, advancement offices have been inventive about moving to online auctions and various means. Other ministries have had grants and funding reduced or cancelled due to cutbacks. Fundraising work has generated additional support for families who have been impacted by furloughs and layoffs, and provided resources for students who otherwise have no access to meet with their online tutors and teachers. In addition to preserving a strong academic experience for students, the ministries have worked to provide financial assistance to the families hard-hit during the coronavirus.

Holy Names University in Oakland, CA has been able to strengthen its support for students facing financial hardship with a separate grant devoted to meet emergency needs of students such as rent and food. This grant, which cannot be used for tuition relief or employee salaries, is part of a different federal program developed to provide stimulus support for universities.