It sounds like the priests assume that parents have every intention of sending their children to St. Blaise but have been childishly ignoring reminders to complete the enrollment process.
The assumption dismisses the fact that parents' repeated requests for answers about the viability of St. Blaise have not only fallen on deaf ears but the parents have been scolded — sometimes by Archbishop Charles Chaput himself — for raising them in the first place.
And it telegraphs that the Philadelphia Archdiocese still doesn't understand that, unlike past generations of Catholic parents, this crop of moms and dads won't ignore their families' best interests just because the church expects them to.
To those not following the saga, it began in January, when the Archdiocese announced that St. Bridget's parish school in East Falls would merge with Holy Child in Manayunk. The new school would be called St. Blaise.
St. Bridget parents agreed that a merger was a wise idea but were baffled that it was to occur at the site of Holy Child, which had formed in 2005 when five Manayunk parish schools were consolidated.
Since then, Holy Child's enrollment had plunged 51 percent, while St. Bridget's, with a smaller catchment area, had increased 16 percent. St. Bridget families attributed their school's uptick to the fact that the East Falls area in general has been on a growth spurt, while the five parishes feeding Holy Child, and the population of Manayunk itself, has been shrinking.
"It's clear that the Manayunk location has been rejected by its own surrounding community as a viable location for a regional school," St. Bridget parent John Grady told me last spring, after leading an appeal to the Archdiocese to rethink the St. Blaise location.
The Archdiocese both rejected the appeal and refused to explain to potential St. Blaise families how a site that had failed miserably for five years would suddenly become successful. The expectation seemed to be that St. Bridget families would pony up their kids to the cause, simply because the Archdiocese needed them to.
Instead, St. Bridget families have been registering their kids at other schools — parish, charter, private and public — with broken hearts but without apology to the Archdiocese that has taken their devotion for granted.
Two months ago, I attended an open house at Thomas Mifflin Elementary School, a public school a half block from St. Bridget. Principal Leslie Mason had invited St. Bridget parents to stroll Mifflin's halls and poke around its gleaming new information center and full-size gym. Parents seeemd surprised by the school's energetic vibe, but I wasn't sure it would trump their loyalty to Catholic education.
Especially as it has played out at St. Bridget, a sweet, intimate little haven that generations of Fallsers had supported with their love and fealty.
On Monday, Mason told me that her open houses had prompted a wave of enrollments from current and potential St. Bridget families.
In September, Mifflin will welcome 16 transfers from St. Bridget. And Mason's list of incoming kindergartners, which usually numbers just four at this time of year, is already at 27. She didn't ask, but it stands to reason that at least some parents of those wee ones would've chosen St. Bridget if it were still open.
Says Mason: "I know some are coming only because St. Bridget is closing. But I hope they stay because we've listened to them, given their children a wonderful education and made them feel part of the Mifflin community."
If only the Archdiocese had thought to do the same.
Contact polaner@email@example.com. Call 215-854-2217. Blog: phillynews.com/ronnieblog. Twitter: @RonniePhilly.