It's unfair that St. John's is being closed after it followed the rules. During my earlier years there, the school, with growing enrollment, closed its doors to students who didn't live within parish boundaries - per archdiocesan instruction. From that point, until two years ago, enrollment declined. Now, because of these numbers, there will be no more St. John's. Other local schools that kept their boundaries open will remain open.
Losing these schools can almost feel like losing a family member. Hopefully, we'll get to see a successful and sustainable archdiocesan school district.
Richard G. Scott, St. John Chrysostom School Class of 2006, Media, email@example.com
For greater good, adapt to change
As a graduate of a grade school and high school in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, I applaud Archbishop Charles Chaput and the blue-ribbon commission for having the courage and fortitude to make difficult but long-overdue decisions. Streamlining, consolidation, and restructuring will result in better and stronger schools. You can't have successful 21st-century schools with a 1950 educational model. Philadelphians need to stop living in the past, embrace the future, and adapt gracefully to necessary change for the greater good of all.
Nikola Sizgorich, Philadelphia
Lost shepherds and marginalized laity
The front-page story on Catholic school closings and the story on empty pews in mainline Protestant churches ("Churches struggle with declining flocks," Saturday) were neatly connected by two letters that day on the marginalization of the laity and our lost clerical shepherds.
Like the writer of "School closings," I experienced the disingenuous maneuvers of the archdiocese when my former parish school was closed in 2004. After years of earnest efforts by lay committees to satisfy the ever-escalating monetary demands of cassocked business managers, our laity-empowering pastor was transferred and a new one installed with the clear mandate to "shut it down." The lay committees were neutered and, at least in my case, the sheep lost in the process were never carried back home.
I wondered then, as does the writer of "Support parishes," how the church fails to see that when it "severs the bond of parish and school," it unveils the mysteries of the faith to Christ's "little children." By disassembling our faith communities, the church destroys the principal way in which our faith is expressed and it guarantees a future of emptier pews.
Jeffrey Allegretti, Philadelphia
Changes that schools, parishes needed
The column "A crisis for parents and church" (Sunday) is very inaccurate and completely unfair. Of course some people are are going to be "gobsmacked" by the decision to close schools. Who wouldn't with a big, bold plan like this? But then you link those feelings to those who have abandoned their faith by saying, "Local Catholics gobsmacked by Friday's school-closing news may feel like fools for banking their kids' futures on faith long after friends fled religious education." Your friends may have fled religious education, but not mine, and not the majority of Philadelphia Catholics.
Alleluia for Archbishop Charles Chaput. Finally, we have a leader who is doing exactly what it takes to reconfigure the schools, and ultimately the parishes, into what they need to be for the next century and beyond. And he's going to do it with love, respect, and honor.
The real crisis would have been if Catholic education had not been addressed. This will make this archdiocese bigger, better, stronger, and, most importantly, closer to Jesus.
Tom Castaldi, Media
The flock should fight back
Maybe it's time for the flock to fight back. The archdiocese has been telling the parishes what to do for years. Do they forget that it is the parishes that support them? The men and women of these parishes have broken their backs working and sacrificing for decades, while the archdiocese just sits back and dictates what we should do and spends our money as it wishes. Maybe we should close it down. Then we would have enough money to keep all the schools open.
William T. Muldoon, Philadelphia
Bring laity into the leadership
The school closings were done in an ever-so-predictable Catholic way. The archdiocese's blue-ribbon commission was loaded to make its decisions based on orders from on high. Eight were priests or nuns bound by a vow of obedience. Several are either former or current members of the archdiocese board of education. Not one was a unionized secondary or nonunionized elementary school teacher. Nor were any of the 16 panelists identified as parents or lay leaders from the church's rank and file. Lay inclusion in church leadership is more important than ever in the face of the decline in vocations, the clergy child-abuse scandal, and the fiscal crisis.
As a product of 16 years in Catholic educational settings, I sincerely hope this realignment succeeds. I also pray that at some point the Catholic Church can move past institutional authoritarianism.
John J. Kirkwood, Haddonfield
Competition from charters
I have been a teacher and administrator in the Catholic school system of Philadelphia for 33 years. At Pope John Paul II Regional Catholic School, where I am the principal, the children receive a quality Catholic education. Our standardized test scores are proof of that. Sadly, our financial situation is unstable.
Faith formation, character development, and strong academics are a signature of our school. Our children have been involved in service projects. Our school offers not only academics but also fine arts. We educate the child to become a positive force for the future.
I have worked with some of the finest and most dedicated educators. Yes, we are devastated by Friday's announcement that our school is slated to close in June, and realize that there are many factors that were involved in the decision to close 49 schools.
However, it is time for the parents of students attending Catholic or public schools in the city of Philadelphia to see what is causing the demise of these once-strong educational institutions: charter schools. How can any school possibly compete with new multimillion-dollar school buildings paid for by public funds? Where is education headed?
Linda Milewski, principal, Pope John Paul II Regional Catholic School, Philadelphia, firstname.lastname@example.org
Costs could have been avoided
The anguish and sadness created by the Catholic school closings could have been avoided. Were the schools able to compete as charter schools, many benefits would have accrued.
What of the separation of church and state? That constitutional provision probably has been violated more frequently than any other, from the country's beginning. Clergy and politicians, both those in office and those aspiring to it, violate it every day.
Almost any problem in our society is resolvable with enough money. Considering the flow of students that will now go to public schools, and the expense of bus transportation, both for those in the public schools and those needing rides to the consolidating schools, the costs are going to be enormous. Add the increased taxes needed to pay for all the new students in the public schools, and this is a bad deal. Saving the millions that will have to be spent should be sufficient incentive to find another way.
Many other difficult problems have been solved by sufficient application of counsel.
Francis X. Healy Jr., Warrington