Saturday, January 7, 2012

Catholic schools stunner: The day after

It’s the day after the announcement of the merger of 85 Catholic parochial schools and closure of four high schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The scope of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s report received Jan. 6 by Archbishop Charles Chaput was, as Lou Baldwin writes on, “stunning.”

This day after has seen candlelight vigils to explain the plans and complain about them, and as always in a Catholic community, to pray about them.

Reactions up to this point have ranged from expressions of love for the schools to be closed, bewilderment of the choices to merge some schools with others, and even wildly mistaken impressions that the parishes themselves, not just the schools, were closing. (They aren’t.)

Today might also be the day when folks are taking time to actually read the report. That would go a long way toward clearing up confusion and begin moving forward into the new day that surely must come.

Because the current situation can’t continue. One school community or another might be sad at the loss of their parish school or high school, but no one can argue that a sweeping reorganization such as this was not long overdue.

Pastors knew it, parish finance councils knew it, principals and home and school associations knew it. Maybe they all hoped the changes would sweep up someone else’s school.

Nevertheless, the Blue Ribbon Commission’s report clearly painted the dire financial picture of a system that cannot be sustained as current.

This is the plan going forward. Implementing it will not be easy, yet it must be done quickly. Recommended names of consolidated schools must be submitted in March, along with school tours for prospective students. School administrators and faculties will need to be well in place by summer so the new term can begin smoothly in September.

As the report details, besides the mergers and closures are solid recommendations to solidify and stabilize Catholic education with new structures of governance for the schools and plans to keep them academically excellent. Along with these proposals are calls for a renewed commitment on the parish level for Parish Religious Education Programs (aka CCD, to another generation) and special education schools.

So to anyone who cares about Catholic education (schools, PREP and special education) and that should be everyone, the report should be on the weekend’s reading list. Emotions at this time are natural. But the path forward will be lit with the light of truth. It should not be pounded out by
people stamping their feet in anger but by working together for the common good of education in the Church.

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