Gift of gratitude

Local family donates $1 million to Catholic schools
By connie cissell / SUN editor

Joseph and Elaine Scuderi are no strangers to the Catholic community of the diocese. Joseph graduated from Christian Brothers Academy (CBA) in 1953 and the couple married at St. Matthew’s Church in East Syracuse in 1960. Most of their seven children attended Catholic schools at one time or another. It was their belief in Catholic education that motivated their recent gift of $1 million to Bishop James Moynihan’s newest venture — a $10 million foundation for Catholic schools. It is the bishop’s hope that the schools can use the interest for tuition assistance. So far, Bishop Moynihan has raised $2.1 million, including this latest gift.

“The future of our Catholic schools depends on the generosity of our people,” Bishop Moynihan said. Years ago many of the schools were staffed by women religious; today most of the staff of the diocesan schools are lay people. “We no longer have that human endowment that we had in the sisters,” he said. “We need to be able to pay our teachers a decent wage.”

Bishop Moynihan plans to oversee the foundation himself with help from Morgan Stanley. He began this endeavor approximately two years ago. There are more than 1,500 applicants asking for tuition assistance from Catholic schools within the diocese. Bishop Moynihan wants to ensure that their requests are not abandoned.

“We’ll use the same tuition assistance program we have now, but we’ll have more funds to draw from,” he said.

Joseph Scuderi spent years serving on the board of CBA. While he was growing up in Syracuse, his family could barely afford the tuition, some of it being paid through a football scholarship. “I think I might still be paying it back,” Scuderi chuckled.

He is well aware of his roots and obviously does not take his Catholic education lightly. Scuderi is still in touch with many of his old CBA friends.

Scuderi credits his wife with holding the family together while he was out working and building his real estate development business, Widewaters Group, Inc., one of the most successful and prominent real estate enterprises in the Northeast. Elaine Scuderi is a Dame of Malta and a lay Franciscan. She admits that she spent quite a bit of time praying during those years.

The Scuderis are parishioners of Immaculate Conception Church in Fayetteville and they spend summers in Skaneateles. All of their children but one currently live within the diocese either choosing their own career paths or working for the family business. In addition to their seven children, the Scuderis have 23 grandchildren ranging in age from two months to 16 years making for lively get-togethers and providing Elaine with plenty of babysitting opportunties, something she relishes.

When asked why the Scuderis’ children might stay connected within the community while so many other offspring choose to travel to cities with better job prospects, Bishop Moynihan chimed in, “Because they’ve got a holy mother and father.”

“Well, I’ve never seen anyone work as hard as him,” Joseph Scurderi said about Bishop Moynihan.

“I work hard but I love it,” Bishop Moynihan responded. “It’s not really work; it’s enjoyment. When I retire I’m going to stay right here. Maybe I’ll walk the streets of Syracuse.”

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