Well I see that St. Florian Catholic School in Hegwisch is slated to be closed next school year by the Archdiocese of Chicago. That’s a shame.
But it’s an unfortunate financial reality that’s not uncommon these days with a lot of worthwhile enterprises.
Many factors are at play here. There are fewer school age children overall, as our birth rate continues to decline. There are fewer active Catholics these days. Various reasons can be cited for this. And some, like the priest sexual misconduct problem that’s been in the news again lately, are pretty sad and unfortunate.
The economic reality is tough. When St. Florian School like almost all other Catholic schools from around that era began, it was staffed largely by nuns. The Franciscan Sisters of Chicago served the school when it opened in the early 1900s.
As time went on, the numbers of women who dedicated themselves to service as nuns dwindled. And as many orders of nuns allowed their members to pursue ministries other than teaching, more and more lay teachers comprised the faculty and administration of the school.
Until more recent years, the good sisters were paid very little. School budgets were easier to balance and tuitions were easier burdens to bear.
That isn’t the reality anymore.
To attract and keep good lay teachers, salaries must be decent and benefits must be adequate. With that reality and the fewer numbers of kids, and not being in a high-end suburb in unsteady economic times, having a Catholic school is a tough slog.
I’m not pretending to be an expert about St. Florian. But I lived their reality 10 years ago when the Archdiocese of Chicago closed St. Victor School where I had taught for 34 years. Five other Catholic schools closed, too, that year. There was some seeming consolation then, as a new consolidated school, Christ Our Savior, was created. But that hardly made our closing any easier. And the consolidation itself created some new problems.
I do know St. Florian School as a friendly rival when I was in charge of the basketball program and was the academic coach at showdown contests for St. Victor. Also, a good friend and former co-teacher at St. Victor with me, Lyn Keever, was the longtime principal of St. Florian.
I knew St. Florian was, and I’m sure still is, a good school.
I also don’t want to be writing an obituary for St. Florian School. An effort has been mounted to save the school from closing. Since the announcing of the closing several weeks ago, the Archdiocese has given St. Florian time to arrange a plan to make up the budget shortfall.
Efforts by the school, church, alumni, and community are underway. There is a short time to convince the archdiocese that St. Florian can remain financially viable.
The school is asking people to become “angels” by making a commitment to support the effort to keep St. Floiran a viable educational option in the Hegwisch community as it has been for more than 100 years.
If you would like to help, I suggest you call the school. The number is (773) 646-2868.
Gook luck in your effort.
Thanks for reading.