By Connie Berry
A decision made in late spring last year to dissolve the Bishop’s Academies — at St. Charles, Holy Family, Most Holy Rosary and Cathedral Academy at Pompei — will result in the closure at the end of this school year of Bishop’s Academy at St. Charles in the Westvale neighborhood of Syracuse. The school opened 60 years ago. The decision was announced by representatives of the Catholic Schools Office in meetings with school staff and parents at each school on Monday evening, Jan. 10.
Late last spring Bishop Robert Cunningham announced that a parish/school viability study would be launched to determine whether or not the Academies would be able to continue as parish schools. Parish trustees and school commissions worked throughout the summer with support from the diocesan Catholic Schools Office to complete their viability reports for the bishop. Parents, alumni, school boards and pastors were involved in the process.
Catholic School Superintendent Chris
Mominey explained that the viability plans were submitted to the diocese in November.
“The bishop consulted with administrative staff and the diocesan school board and then rendered his decision,” Mominey said. “It was determined that from a stewardship standpoint it would be best to help students from Bishops’ Academy at St. Charles to transition to another Catholic school site so they could continue their Catholic education.”
The diocese will provide $650 to St. Charles students who continue their Catholic education at another diocesan school and Father Brian Lang, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Church, has said the parish will assist parents by offering another $100 to assist in the transition.
“The most important thing at the moment is transitioning the children into a new school with the most positive attitude we can take with it,” Father Lang said. “An enormous amount of work went into this decision but that doesn’t dispel the grief that goes with it.”
Two of the other three schools involved, Most Holy Rosary and Holy Family, are to become parish schools again after this school year while Cathedral Academy at Pompei was told that its plan needs further study with the bishop’s decision expected in the near future.
Father Fred Mannara, pastor of Most Holy Rosary Church, said the parents of Rosary students and the staff were very happy to hear they will remain open.
The meeting at Rosary was well attended and Father Mannara said it already opened discussion concerning how to sustain the school.
“I was very pleased with the discussion Monday night,” Father Mannara said. “This caused a conversation and it brought interest on the part of a lot of people and I’m hoping they can work together. I got a real good sense through the discussion that our people were there because they wanted to be and they want to support the school.”
Father Mannara said they will be working on ways to “stretch the dollar” even further and to find ways for others to support the school. “The diocese has been supportive but we will need help from friends of Catholic education,” he said.
The sense of having a parish school is different from the academy structure, according to Father Richard Prior, pastor of Holy Family Church. He has been pastor through the academy process and the parish school process and he said the parish school model provides more flexibility.
“We’re very happy to have our school back as a parish ministry at Holy Family,” Father Prior said. “We’re confident we can continue to provide the specials and the services the school has. We’re very excited and will work for a positive transition.”
St. Charles’ school principal Deacon Joseph Celentano has already led a prayer service for the students and staff at his school.
“Deacon Joe does an amazing job,” Father Lang said. “We’re determined to make the next six months the best the students and the staff have ever experienced. One thing that I’ve learned through this is that parents love their Catholic school and they are just as attached to the staff as they are to the school.”