St. Hubert's keeps the faith

Posted: January 27, 2012

MARIE GALLAGHER, who as its principal helped save Little Flower High School from closure in the early 1990s, hopes she can replicate her magic and protect her alma mater, St. Hubert's Catholic High School for Girls, from shuttering.

Back in 1991, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia held public meetings to hear appeals of closure decisions, including Little Flower's, Gallagher said yesterday.

The genders donate differently to charities, said Gallagher, a 1965 graduate of St. Hubert's who now serves as president of its advisory board. "Women give much more emotionally. . . . If somebody threatens something that a woman loves, they are going to rise up and protect it," Gallagher said.

The reaction from the St. Hubert's community - which in two weeks has raised $722,000 - has been similar to Little Flower's when it faced closure, she said.

"I think the story will be the same here," she said.

But the appeals process in 2012 poses a different challenge for St. Hubert's, at Torresdale and Cottman Avenues in the Northeast, and the other schools targeted for closure.

The Archdiocese said earlier this month that it will close four high schools and 45 primary schools in the five-county region. A school appealing closure must show "sustainability not just for the next year or two, but for the long run" and show how it would increase and maintain enrollment, Archdiocese spokesman Kenneth Gavin said.

Even if a school has substantial pledges or hard cash - as is the case with Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast High School in Drexel Hill - the review committee also wants to see a long-term plan.

Three representatives from St. Hubert's - school president Sister Mary Smith, principal Regina Craig and Gallagher - met Wednesday with the committee at archdiocesan offices, on 17th Street near Race, Gallagher said. They pitched their plan and told of the 161 eighth-graders who pledged to attend St. Hubert's and of fundraising efforts. They've set a $1.2 million goal.

St. Hubert's also showed a sustainability plan for the long term, Craig and Gallagher said: Pay off debt, establish a scholarship fund and set up an annuity plan.

St. Hubert's expects that 172 students will graduate this year, but the optimist in Craig said the school hopes to recruit 200 students for this fall's freshman class.