One of Cardinal Francis George’s final acts as archbishop — the ordered closing of nine Catholic schools across the archdiocese — will not be revisited despite an outcry from those affected.
New Archbishop Blase Cupich said Sunday the closure plan must “move forward now to continue to strengthen our Catholic schools.”
“This was done over a long period of time, and the cardinal made a deliberate decision on these reconfigurations,” Cupich said.
Cupich, elevated to archbishop in November when George stepped down, made the remark after celebrating mass at St. Hyacinth Basilica, 3640 Wolfram. The parish school is slated to close in June despite a campaign by students, parents and educators to reverse the decision.
“The decisions will stand,” Cupich said, referring to George’s October decree, which came amid rising costs and declining enrollment. “The only question that I ask is, ‘Are all of the children affected by this reconfiguration — do they have a possibility of going to another Catholic school?’ And I was assured, ‘Yes.’”
The schools slated for closure had an average enrollment of about 125 students, the archdiocese has said. Schools receiving tuition subsidies of more than $300,000 a year were also targeted.
Several parishioners and students who attended the Mass were disappointed by Cupich’s remarks. They had hoped the archbishop would address the planned closure of St. Hyacinth during his homily. Instead, he steered clear of the issue.
“It made me feel sad because he didn’t mention anything about it. I thought he was going to say that the school was going to stay open,” said Carolina Ortiz, an eighth-grader. “Knowing that the school is closing is really disappointing for me and my friends.”
Educators at the school recently launched a letter-writing campaign, instructing students to ask Cupich to spare St. Hyacinth, the 13-year-old said. “I’m not sure if he read them. We haven’t heard anything.”
Cupich said he was “happy to receive” the letters from students. But he added: “The decisions are final.”
Still, Javier Jimenez and his 8-year-old son, Antonio, who is a third-grader, hope for the equivalent of a Christmas miracle.
“We’re going to keep on going,” Jimenez said. “Hopefully the principal can do something and [it] gets worked out.”
Time is running out, though. St. Hyacinth is among six schools slated to close at the end of the school year.
“We looked at other schools and we’re trying to work something out — something affordable,” Jimenez said. “Chicago Public Schools are overcrowded.”