The bottom line on archdiocesan schools

In a lot of ways, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is unlike any other business. After all, the archdiocese ministers to the spiritual health of Catholics in the five-county Philadelphia region.

That makes their “product” a very special connection; it’s a central part of the faithful’s lives that most businesses simply can’t claim.

But in some ways, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is exactly like any other business. That’s especially true when it comes to the archdiocesan schools.

Yes, they also play a vital role in the spiritual growth of their students. But there is also a business element that cannot be denied.

On that business side, as in every other business, there are two sides to the ledger: expenses and revenue.

In order to maximize revenue, the archdiocese is doing what just about every business does, they are going where their customers are.

Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali kicked off Catholic Schools Week Monday morning by striding to the microphone and announcing the archdiocese would build two new high schools. Neither will be in Delaware County. There are currently four archdiocesan high school in the county.

No, the new facilities will be built in the booming suburban areas of Montgomery and Bucks counties.

A new school will replace St. Pius X in Pottstown and Kennedy-Kenrick, itself formed by a merger of two former high schools, in Norristown. The new school will be built in Royersford.

Likewise, the current Lansdale Catholic will be replaced by a new school to be built in Hilltown, Bucks County.

The last time the archdiocese built a new school, it was in the exploding Chester County region, when Bishop Shanahan was moved out of its West Chester site to a much bigger new home in Downingtown. That was in 1998.

Cardinal Rigali spent a lot of time detailing how the archdiocese is not giving up its mission of Catholic education.

He did not spend as much time talking about the tuition hike enacted for Catholic high schools. It will cost families another $240 to send their children to one of the archdiocesan high schools next year. That brings total annual tuition to painfully close to $5,000 a year.

Then there’s the matter of the archdiocesan elementary schools, many of which continue to struggle in Delaware County, in particular the older, eastern end of the county.

St. Cyril of Alexandria School in East Lansdowne, which was saved when the community rallied around the wish of one of its students, Tommy Geromichalos, is back on the critical list.

So is Our Lady of Peace School in Milmont Park, Ridley Township.

It’s the same old story. Costs are increasing. Enrollment is sliding. Parishes are making hard decisions concerning their schools.

Already the pastor at St. Cyril has again recommended to the archdiocese that the school be closed. The final decision will be up to Cardinal Rigali.

At OLP, families are likely looking at a serious boost in tuition if enough money cannot be raised to keep the doors open.

It’s simple arithmetic. And in too many cases for Delco’s archdiocesan schools, the numbers simply aren’t adding up.


Anonymous said…
Someone should look into some of the Bucks County Schools. I see Bensalem, St. Ephrem is around Delaware County Schools, but St. Jude in Chalfont is $4100 for KINDERGARTEN!!! and $3300-4700 if you don't donate $15/week all year. We have requested an operating budget from the parish, the school, and the Archdiocese and NO ONE can supply it. Also, they have an outdoor pool, yes in PA where it's cold and there is no school in summer. What is the waste? Why can't they take their extra funds and help out the sister parishes of Delaware County. I was taught as a Catholic to help one another and that priests/nuns take an oath of poverty. How is a pool in the summer of a season closed school efficient? Why are they making it harder and harder for children to attend Catholic school when public is free? I think the Archdiocese needs to do some audits. Maybe some schools are making a profit, which is against tax law.