08 November 2013

Another Two Bite the Dust

From STLToday: Two south St. Louis Catholic schools to close

Two south St. Louis parish schools will close after this academic year.

The decision to shutter St. John the Baptist and Immaculate Heart of Mary comes as leaders of nine parishes on the city's south side continue looking at ways to address declining enrollment and rising costs.

The collaborative agreed that all seven other schools involved in the discussions will remain open at least through the 2014-15 school year.

The decision to close the two schools was not a surprise. St. John the Baptist Elementary School raised more than $240,000 in the past year to remain open. And in January, Principal Melissa Langevin of Immaculate Heart of Mary told the Post-Dispatch that the school had just enough finances to remain open for this school year.

In the past 15 years, enrollment at the school dropped to fewer than 150 from nearly 400 students.

Representatives from the two schools slated for closing will remain involved in future meetings "to ensure that the students of their schools have a long-term option for continuing their Catholic education," states a news release from the St. Louis Archdiocese.

Monsignor Michael Turek, pastor at St. Joan of Arc, said discussion among the parish leaders will continue. The group had hoped to have a long-term solution in place by the beginning of 2014.

"We bit off more than we could chew. That was an aggressive timeline to deal with the complexity of the issues," Turek said of the meetings that began about a year ago.

"What we don't want to do is put a Band-Aid on the problem."


Beyond St. John the Baptist and Immaculate Heart, the other parishes involved in the collaboration include: Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Ambrose, St. James the Greater, St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Joan of Arc and St. Stephen Protomartyr.

In the 2012-13 school year, there were 2,592 students enrolled in elementary schools in the South City Deanery, according to the St. Louis Archdiocese. That is a drop of more than 1,500 students in a decade.


YoungCatholicSTL said...

Based on the recent article in the review about St. Raphael school, I place my money on them as the last one standing (or at least the last one standing on firm financial ground).

Long-Skirts said...


Bare faith alone
Without work on the vine
No abundance of grapes
Without toil...His design.

Prune, dig, trellis
To produce edible fruit
The more cultivation
The stronger the root.

The bring everything on
The truth to bear
A sound education
In a sound life of prayer

As in the vineyards
Of true Catholic school fields
Mind-making plantations
Where souls the Faith shields.

While in the green arbor
Under Marian blue sky
The priest with his breviary
On all keeps his eye.

Preparing for press
Full-bodied poured
The unseen scents
Zealous souls for Our Lord

Are the Catholic priests' harvest
From the Truth of the Vine
Breeding Christ Blood-fed branches
To beget more Sacred Wine.

traddadof4 said...

the other parishes involved in the collaboration include: Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Ambrose, St. James the Greater, St. Margaret of Scotland and St. Raphael the Archangel, St. Joan of Arc and St. Stephen Protomartyr.

That's basically every geographical (non-intentional) parish in South St. Louis. I repeat, *South* St. Louis.

traddadof4 said...

Re: picture above, is that the Kingston Trio?

Anonymous said...

I am not actively involved in any way in the collaborative's meetings. From what is being reported back to the parishes, however, it appears that the collaborative's focus is almost entirely on the numbers, i.e. how many buildings can we afford to keep open, how many students can those buildings serve, how many people can we afford to hire.

That's sad. I had high hopes that the collaborative would have spent more time trying to determine why Catholic families don't use the Catholic elementary schools, rather than focusing on accounting issues.

Don't get me wrong, the accounting issues are important, but focusing on those makes the practice more about managing the glide path for the schools than about changing them in some fundamental way to attract more Catholics and even non-Catholics.


SLPS Parent

Anonymous said...

As a parent and school board member of a closed school, I can see the thought process as one long timeline. When someone talks about being the 'last one standing' I think back and point to the time when I and my peers said the exact same thing. Then comes hanging on for dear life, trying to stay open just one more year. Then the sickening realization that the debt may wind up closing the whole parish and not just the school. It's easy to lose sight of how we got to this point, and how rebuilding will be the long, slow work of generations. I can't judge too harshly because I walked that path myself.


X said...

"I had high hopes that the collaborative would have spent more time trying to determine why Catholic families don't use the Catholic elementary schools."

Are you joking? Every one knows why, you don't need a collaborative, whatever that may be, to tell you;

Step 1)Catholics cease to be Catholic, start using birth control and stop having children.
Step 2)The nuns all leave.
Step 3)Without the nuns the schools must charge tuition.
Step 4) Without the children (due to birth control) the burden falls heavily on those remaining Catholics who don't use birth control.
Step 5) The schools cease to be Catholic.
Step 6) The few remaining Catholic families leave as they can no longer afford the ever increasing tuition and as they can no longer tolerate subsidizing the children of the nominally catholic and the scandalous loss of faith of their own young.

And there you have it. Sic transit gloria mundi, and Tuesdays even worse.

JP-STL said...

While I do not disagree with the comments above, many of the issues involved in this have little or nothing to do with Catholicism. The population of South City is a fraction of what it was "back in the day." The housing stock, while adequate by 1950s-60s standards, is not appealing to most of today's families. The largest immigrant group to move into the area is the Bosnian community (Muslims). No matter how faithful a school is to Catholic teachings and traditions, it is hard to maintain enrollment levels when the overall population in the area plummets.

Anonymous said...

X, you're being flip. Of course, steps 1 through 4 and step 6 are part of the numbers and part of the cause, but those causes are not really anything that the current players in Catholic education have the ability to change.* Let's try to find a solution to today's problem, not dwell on how we got to this point, except to the extent that it animates our thinking on a path forward.

Number 5 is one cause, of course, and a big one, but it's not the only cause.

Here's are a couple of thought provoking questions:

Why are our Catholic high schools in STL attractive to Catholics and non-Catholics alike?

Why are our Catholic high schools in STL considered destination schools that can legitimately charge high price tags, even in bad economic times and still afford to turn interested, but perhaps unqualified students away?

You can't say either of those things about parochial schools.

What's the difference? What are our Catholic high schools doing right that our parochial schools aren't? Or alternatively, what are our parochial schools doing wrong that our Catholic high schools aren't? Or are they just different animals entirely?

Look, I have some opinions here, as one who has tried to use the parochial school system, so yes, I have some observations. In general, I think the parochial schools are not all that different than the public schools, except they (a) aren't as academically rigorous, and (b) cost money out-of-pocket. That's a bad combination. And no, talking about sending pennies to [insert third world country orphans or charitable cause here] isn't a difference, because public schools do those things, too.

* - Yes, theoretically, if our parochial schools had taught the catechism for the past umpty-something years, Catholics might be contracepting less. Theoretically. But let's not pretend that there is a quick fix to that huge underlying problem.

SLPS Parent

Long-Skirts said...

X said:

"Sic transit gloria mundi"...but not in the Biar Patch!

"I guess I'm going to be barbecue this day." Brer Rabbit sighed. "But getting barbecued is a whole lot better than getting thrown in the briar patch." He sighed again. "No doubt about it. Getting barbecued is almost a blessing compared to being thrown in that briar patch on the other side of the road. If you got to go, go in a barbecue sauce. That's what I always say. How much lemon juice and brown sugar you put in yours?"


Brer bishops
Brer priests
And brer people of god
Celebrate, collaborate
To sacrifice just seems odd.

Brer mother of ten cried,
"I assist tried and trued."
Brer people of god cried,
"Chill out
Take a lude."

Brer priest said,
"Ms. Brer come on smile
Serve with me
The True Faith, let pass,
Make a mess - harmony!"

With these words
Brer mother got sick
And threw up
So brer priest urged her, "Go
If you can't drink our cup."

"So you're urgin' I go?"
And her head she did scratch,
"Jus' please don't throw me
In no Pius the
Tenth Patch!!"

But brer priest
Flung brer mother
Out the door shut the latch
And forced her to land
In a Pius the Tenth Patch.

So celebration, collaboration
Is given the nod
By brer bishops
Brer priests
And brer people of god

But high on a hill
Brer mother of ten
Is singin' and kickin'
Her heels
Up again...

"I was born and raised
In a Pius the Tenth Patch--
Known as Catholic Church
And there still ain't
No match!!!"

Long-Skirts said...

SLPS said:

"Yes, theoretically, if our parochial schools had taught the catechism for the past umpty-something years, Catholics might be contracepting less."

That's exactly what the "modernists/heretics or whatever" wanted and now they're thrilled our schools are closing down.

Drove past the closed school of poor St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church this morning and they had on their neon-sign outdoors, "Autumn leaves, Jesus doesn't"

I would take something more ribald but true by St. Augustine before this tripe...

"Give me chastity and continence, but not yet." (Saint Augustine)

Cbalducc said...

How many Catholics live in South Saint Louis nowadays? And what is the difference between a "parochial" school and a Catholic high school? I sometimes wonder if the primary difference nowadays between Catholic schools and secular schools is that the former have crucifixes in the classrooms?

Anonymous said...

Few of the Catholic high schools are considered destination schools and these schools with the robust enrollment are those that tend to be located in more affluent areas and hold students to the highest academic standards.
St. Elizabeth Academy was located in a working-class city neighborhood and did not stress academics. Notre Dame High School located in Lemay is barely surviving, its enrollment is quite low. St. Mary's future is bleak. Ursuline, Vianney, DeSmet are second-choice schools.
SLUH, located in the city, has a wealthy alumni and has invested in its infrastructure & technology. Same can be said with Priory & Cor Jesu. Graduates of these schools tend to move onto Ivy League universities.