Daniel Schuster, owner of Schuster Concrete Construction, has been at the heart of many discussions in the Archdiocese of Baltimore lately. Following Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien’s March announcement of the consolidation of 13 schools, Schuster took to the radio airwaves for advertisements critical of the decision.
He asked people to withhold money for collections and also stated his desire to meet with the archbishop. He said he would give $700,000 to keep some schools open.
The two men met at the archdiocese’s headquarters in April. Also in that meeting was Monsignor Robert L. Hartnett, executive director of schools planning. Schuster agreed to provide $200,000 for bus transportation for the coming school year to children in need in Baltimore City. Schuster, 55, spoke about his decision to help the archbishop during an interview with The Catholic Review. The full story on the meeting will appear in the May 5 edition of the newspaper.
Here is the full interview with the St. John Westminster parishioner:
Catholic Review: Where did this change come from?
Daniel Schuster: I could not, in good conscience, live with closing the schools and not present a workable alternative. It’s heartbreaking to watch those schools close when I’ve seen so many kids come through and get such a positive (impact) from the schools. I met with the archbishop and we hammered out an arrangement. I always thought that if the archbishop put the kids in a situation where they did have an option, they absolutely could continue their Catholic education. We as Baltimore Catholics, we’re doing our duty. It’s just very, very difficult to have the financial problems of the community in general dictate the future of the some of these kids. That’s what a Catholic education can do for a child. It can change their whole life. I think the archbishop did the best he could do. It’s just a bad situation that there not funds available and I hope the archdiocese, going forward as a whole, targets urban education as their number one priority.
CR: Why have you been so passionate about urban education?
DS: I’ve been involved working with inner city kids for many years and there are so many initiatives that are trying to help these kids and the very best is the Catholic school system. To see that go away is just a staggering thought. I think the archbishop is doing the best he can. I hope going forward we just place it at the top of the list because that’s where it belongs.
CR: How long is this agreement?
DS: I don’t see a termination date. I think we’re going to do the best we can to keep it going for the foreseeable future.
CR: What is important about Catholic education in the city?
DS: Many of those kids can’t leave the four walls of their home and be safe. When they go home, they can’t go out on the street and play hopscotch. It’s a travesty. The Catholic schools really help diminish the situation. They were in a safe place from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 and many of them just blossomed under that kind of care.
CR: Are you planning on doing any more advertisements?
DS: I’ve got to put one more out to ask the people to support the archdiocese and also to help make urban education their number one priority. I hit very hard through that whole advertising campaign. It was difficult. I know it was more difficult for many people, but I felt like I really could not live with myself just watching those kids become disassociated with the very thing that is helping them.
CR: How did you emerge from your meeting with the archbishop?
DS: I’m really excited. I got to know the archbishop just a little bit in that meeting. Monsignor Hartnett is a very committed guy. I’m thinking they will provide opportunities for me to help now and again. I learned a tremendous amount. I hope I wouldn’t have to do it again. It was difficult for me and my family and so many people who love the Catholic Church.
CR: Are you glad this is over?
DS: I really am. I think it probably ended the way it was supposed to end. It was hard for everybody to lose those schools. Reason would dictate that we did the best thing and the best thing we could do. Emotionally, it was very difficult.
CR: So you’re hoping this is the beginning of a longer relationship?
DS: I’m hoping. I pretty much decided that I want to spend the last third of my life trying to help downtown.
CR: This feels like a calling to you?
DS: If you look at the problems we have, no so much in the church, but in the nation, that’s the problem – the disparity between the wealthy and the low income people. You solve that and you solve thousands of problems. You have to show a child good care while you are sharing your belief system with them. That’s how you teach a child. That’s how you instill Christ’s love in a child.