Halt closing of St. Catherine of Sienna School, Implement Action Plan
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Most Reverend William Murphy
R. C. Diocese of Rockville Centre
50 N Park Avenue
Rockville Centre NY 11571-9023
Dear Bishop Murphy,
I am writing this letter as an extremely concerned parent of students of St. Catherine’s of Sienna School in Franklin Square. I have received the letter of closing that you wrote and find it quite distressing as a Catholic in the Diocese of Rockville Centre that six schools will find their doors shut in June. People and families look to their Church for support during challenging times and this response is unjust to us as parishioners, to us as parents who are making selfless sacrifices to pay the tuition, to our children who will be the future generations of the Catholic Church perhaps as a priest, religious or lay servant.
Catholic education made me who I am today – I attended Catholic grammar school, high school, and college. Being Christ-like was taught to me by my parents, the parish priests, the teachers and my classmates. It is a legacy that I want for my children. But now this…needless to say, I/we have many questions to ask regarding this decision:
Why? We have a burgeoning parish, have increased our enrollment, have worked tirelessly on eliminating debt and have done some incredible things as far as fundraising. We have a 1,200 child Religious Education Program which offers a pool to recruit from and we will petition outside agencies, like Tomorrow’s Hope, and do more scholarship fundraising.
So, if enrollment is a concern (I think we are seven students short of the enrollment benchmark of 200), we have a plan. If finances are an issue, we have a plan. If we had the opportunity to present a plan or respond to questions regarding our plan we would have responded accordingly which leads to my next question – who were the decision-makers? Who is the advisory committee? Most importantly, why did they not come speak to us? Figures on paper don’t always tell the story and if they would have visited, they would have seen a school on the rise. Our principal and her staff are doing an extraordinary job. They treat it like a ministry, a vocation and now they too are judged without opportunity to share the great story that is St. Catherine of Sienna.
I have learned over the years an invaluable lesson – mission drives the budget, budget does not drive the mission. Is the future of our Church important? Is Catholic education important? We as Church are mission-driven not worshippers of the “almighty dollar.” So, the answer to the questions posed above is a resounding YES! Our school is worth saving. Our children’s education is worth the investment. Our faith needs St. Catherine to continue to produce people for others who bring a moral perspective to their lives as individuals and professionals.
St. Catherine’s is a wonderful example of Church – we have a diverse, middle class population. We treat each other like family. It is a wonderful mosaic of culture and ethnicity. I will go as far as saying our school is a work of art that should be maintained for the ages. Do we need assistance – absolutely, and we turn to you our Bishop for help. We seek an opportunity to map out what could be as opposed to having those who don’t know us determining what should not be or what will never be.
Collectively, we as a parish family are heart broken - and our children are devastated. Did you ever see a child cry when you had to explain to him/her that he/she might not be able to attend a school they love – where their teachers and friends will no longer be part of their lives? I always spoke in the affirmative when I shared that “Catholic education changes lives.” But now, it is “changing lives” in a whole different way.
My letter today is to share my feelings, to share my concern and ask that you give us a chance to prove that we are worth the investment. Let us respond to your concerns and that of the task force. Afford us the opportunity to present a viable plan with action steps that doesn’t enable to survive but thrive as a school and as a parish.
In closing, I thank you for listening and I pray for “tomorrow’s hope.” Now I understand why you chose that name – it is the dreams of tomorrow that build family, community and Church. Hopefully, you will give us and more importantly, our children, hope for tomorrow.
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