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January 10, 2003


Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua, Archbishop of Philadelphia, expresses his sadness at the closure of four parish elementary schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Saint Joachim, Saint Joan of Arc and Mater Dolorosa Parish Elementary Schools are located in the Philadelphia - North Vicariate. Saint Charles Borromeo Parish Elementary School is located in the Philadelphia - South Vicariate.

The three schools in the Philadelphia - North Vicariate are to close in June 2003 in order to establish an Area Catholic School at Holy Innocents Parish Elementary School as a result of the recommendation from a General Steering Committee, which consisted of the four pastors, principals and one lay representative from each parish. Cardinal Bevilacqua formally accepted the recommendation in December 2002. In the Philadelphia - South Vicariate, Saint Charles Borromeo Parish Elementary School is to close in June 2003, the result of a recommendation from a parish Feasibility Study Team. Cardinal Bevilacqua formally accepted this recommendation in January 2003.

"It is difficult to see these four parish elementary schools close but we must acknowledge the reality of declining enrollment and limited parish resources," said Cardinal Bevilacqua. "I know this has been a painstaking process and many people took great care to consider the best way to continue to provide affordable, quality Catholic education for children in these areas of the city. I offer my gratitude to parishioners, principals and priests who have been involved in this difficult and lengthy decision-making process. Saint Joachim, Saint Joan of Arc, Mater Dolorosa and Saint Charles Borromeo Parish Elementary Schools have educated thousands of children through the years and served the community well. It has become apparent, however, through all of the factual information studied, that these parishes can best strengthen the Catholic education offered to their children with different educational situations."

Philadelphia - North Vicariate: Following parish self-studies conducted in 2001, a broad consultation process with the families of school children and parishioners was initiated in fall 2002. Meetings at each of the four parishes were held and a survey was given to families and parishioners that asked for reactions and possible solutions to the problem of declining enrollment. Eighty nine percent of families of school students responded to the surveys. Results indicated that almost one third of families plan to move out of their parishes in less than four years.

The General Steering Committee met on November 26, 2002 to discuss the findings of the surveys. On December 6, 2002, the pastors of the four parishes sent an update to families and parishioners informing them of the recommendation. The four pastors announced the closure of the parish elementary schools and establishment of the area Catholic School to their parish communities at weekend masses (January 11-12) and to students today. No decisions have been made regarding the future of the school buildings of Saint Joachim, Saint Joan of Arc or Mater Dolorosa.

Philadelphia - South Vicariate: Self-studies were conducted in the three Cluster 23 parishes with schools from 2000-02. After meetings and lengthy discussions, a Cluster 23 Schools Review Committee recommended a feasibility study of Saint Charles Borromeo Parish Elementary School. Cardinal Bevilacqua granted permission for that study in October 2002. A Feasibility Study Team began work in November 2002. The pastor held a parish meeting on December 15, 2002 to update parishioners on the school situation and to request feedback in the form of a survey. The Feasibility Study Team also surveyed students' families who indicated they would continue to choose Catholic education. After serious consideration, the Feasibility Study Team concluded that the continuous decline of enrollment and the rising operating expenses of the school warranted a recommendation to the pastor that the school close in June 2003. No decision has been made regarding the St. Charles Borromeo School buildings.

More information regarding the schools in the Philadelphia -North Vicariate.
More information regarding the school in the Philadelphia -South Vicariate.

Catherine L. Rossi
Director of Communications

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