First, it was sad for the graduating class at St. Monica's, which had to live through what the principal aptly described as a very "tumultuous" year. These students experienced firsthand the ups-and-downs, drama, and finger-pointing of these last five months. They have been described as the "lucky ones" because they were able to graduate. However, they also were painfully aware as they sat through their last Mass together that once they left, there would be no "old school" to which to return. There would be no visiting old teachers on days off, no festivals to attend as "alumni," no place to show their children.
It was also sad for the seventh-grade class. While wistfully watching their eighth-grade classmates graduate, the seventh graders, many of whom began their St. Monica School careers in kindergarten, understand that they will leave St. Monica without having made it to the "top of the mountain."
They will never experience the thrill of being St. Monica eighth graders, being awarded captain status, and starring in the school play. They will never have the chance to be president of student council or to graduate together. While some will move to a new archdiocesan school together, others will end their elementary school careers in other places. In many ways, this, too, was their final farewell.
Nothing, however, could compare to the sadness the community felt for the dedicated St. Monica teachers. This group of women has invested a total of 250 years of teaching to the school. One member of the faculty has been there for 36 years; another for 31. Several others have devoted more than a decade of service to the archdiocese.
For many, teaching at St. Monica has been the only full-time job they've ever had. They did not stay for the glory; they stayed because educating children in the Catholic faith was their vocation.
As the school year ends, the sad ness has been magnified by the fact that most of the teachers who are looking for employment have been unable to find other jobs. It didn't help that the final announcement of the school's closing came in mid-February (and that they only had a few months' notice) or that they are job hunting in one of the worst economies in history. The fact that other schools are closing and that teaching jobs are becoming increasingly scarce only adds to the strain.
I have an idea: Archbishop Charles J. Chaput should help these women who have devoted the best years of their lives to Catholic education transition back into the workforce. The archdiocese has spent millions to defend priests. Why allow these women to leave without income or health benefits? Does the archbishop appreciate how difficult it is to reintegrate into the national economy after teaching in a Catholic school for three decades? Surely, this archbishop can help place these wonderful and dedicated teachers into other jobs.
So, Archbishop, what will you do to help these teachers?
E-mail Maureen McBride at email@example.com.