Five Catholic schools to close at year’s end

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Fouth-graders perform a special song during Mass at St. Celestine Parish in Elmwood Park on Jan. 29, 2017. St. Celestine and St. Cyprian schools will form a new school as part Renew My Church. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

At the end of the 2017-2018 academic year, five schools -- St. Cyprian (River Grove), Holy Cross (Deerfield), Incarnation (Palos Heights), St. Michael (Chicago) and Our Lady of the Ridge (Chicago Ridge) -- will close, the Archdiocese of Chicago announced Jan. 17.

The closings are a result of low enrollment and budget deficits. Decisions on two schools – St. Cyprian and St. Michael – came out of the archdiocesan-wide Renew My Church process.

At the time of the announcement, school enrollments were as follows: St. Cyprian, 138; Holy Cross, 112; Incarnation, 142; St. Michael, 80; Our Lady of the Ridge, 133.

“Like those impacted by the closures we’re saddened see the action taken on the five Catholic schools,” said Jim Rigg, superintendent of schools for the Archdiocese of Chicago. “The closures reflect schools that are significantly under-enrolled. In each case the schools have fewer than 150 students.”

For the three schools closing that were not involved in the Renew My Church process, the archdiocese has been working with them for some time to improve enrollment and finances.

“In all cases we worked with them, suggested strategies, came up with some targets and they were unable to meet the enrollment targets and eventually had to close,” Rigg said. “Closure decisions are always painful and controversial but there should not be a lot of surprise in these communities.”

Last fall, archdiocesan schools adopted a new strategic plan to guide them through the next four years. The plan focuses on five key areas: Catholic identity, academic excellence, leadership, governance and financial vitality.

It also suggests that before a decision to close a school is made, there must be extensive work with local stakeholders and clear goals related to enrollment, finances and academic progress set. This occurred in the case of all these schools, Rigg said.

Schools facing declining enrollment reflect demographic changes also seen in local public schools.

“In each of these cases there were valiant efforts to raise money to increase enrollment to keep the schools going. At the end of the day, most of these schools were facing demographic challenges that had nothing to do with the quality of the school or anything that the teachers were or were not doing,” Rigg said. “They’re simply located in areas where the population is changing.”

Despite the pain and sadness that comes with closing schools and parishes, there is hope.   

“We are a paschal church. We do believe there is rebirth after death. Renew My Church represents and effort to reinvigorate, reignite our local church,” Rigg said. “So while it is painful to close schools we know all of this is in preparation for a period of rebirth across the archdiocese, not just in our Catholic schools but in parishes, parish ministries, social agencies and the various ways we bring Christ to those we serve.”


  • catholic schools

Related Articles