Archdiocese Explains Rationale Behind Holy Child-St. Bridget's Merger
Appeals process is closed, spokesperson said.
Despite ongoing protests and calls for a change of heart, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia says its decision to merge Holy Child and St. Bridget's Catholic Schools at a joint facility in Manayunk is final.
"The appeal from St. Bridget's, along with the facts presented were seriously, thoughtfully, and prayerfully considered," archdiocese spokesperson Kenneth Gavin said in an email. "When weighed in light of the realities of the already regionalized school, however, the original recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Commission was upheld. That decision was final and the appeals process has ended."
Since plans for a consolidated regional school in Manayunk were announced in January, parishioners from the East Falls church have held protests and collected petitions to base the new regional at St. Bridget's. Parents have questioned the archdiocese's rationale, saying school enrollment and baptismal rates were better in East Falls.
The Archdiocese's Decision
Gavin said the "following factors figured largely into that outcome" of a newly formed St. Blaise Catholic School at the site of Holy Child.
For one, Holy Child was formed in 2005 as a regional school for Holy Family, St. Lucy, and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish Elementary Schools. In 2006, St. John the Baptist and St. Josaphat Parish Schools were added.
"As it already successfully served as a regional school in the area, Holy Child was the most logical choice. It seemed to make the most sense to recommend that the children from St. Bridget's come to the existing regional school rather than uproot children from five parishes, some of whom had been part of a merger once already," he said.
With plans underway to consolidate or merge Manayunk's five parishes into two or three churches, Gavin said the archdiocese gave special consideration to Manayunk. Financial donations from parishioners to upgrade the facility over the past five years also contributed to the decision.
Some rumors have circulated that Manayunk received favoritism due to an Archdiocese administrator who attended a Manayunk school. Gavin denied the allegation.
"At no time did the process take into account where any archdiocesan administrator went to school," he said.
St. Bridget's Push
In February, the archdiocese review committee altered 18 of its original plans for elementary schools. In addition, 14 mission schools were formed. All four threatened high schools remained open. St. Bridget's did not earn a reprieve.
Last week, the Philadelphia Daily News highlighted St. Bridget's plea. Columnist Ronnie Polaneczky pointed to the favorable baptism and enrollment rates, plus added that East Falls possesses a more navigable landscape on Midvale Avenue. Holy Child is located on Hermitage and Fountain Streets—hilly, smaller roads without a lot of traffic options.
The Fallser newspaper quoted a letter parents sent to archdiocese. In it, parents said the neighborhood "has a demonstrated, and undisputed, track record of stability and growth over the last five years—in our neighborhood, our parish and our school."
Parents said the St. Bridget's facility was better suited for the school, as Holy Child is split between two buildings.
Community members will meet again Monday night at the East Falls Library, starting at 6:30 p.m.
The Future St. Blaise
Either way, it seems a school called St. Blaise will open somewhere in the fall. Since the merger announcement, school officials have met to plan out the new regional school.
"Implementation of the regionalization plan for the school is already well under way and progressing in a very encouraging manner," Gavin said.
Last week, the implementation committee named current St. Bridget's principal, Susan Canio, as St. Blaise's new leader. Gavin said her appointment "significantly demonstrates the impartiality of the regionalization process."
When asked, Gavin said he had no available information on current Holy Child Principal Michael Patterson's position.
For more information on St. Bridget's protest, visit their Facebook page .
For the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's Faith In Our Future website, click here .