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Bishop announces 10 Catholic elementary schools will close in June

Fourteen Holy Helpers in West Seneca is one of the schools closing in June.

BY: Lauren Kirchmyer | January 16, 2014

BUFFALO - The Diocese of Buffalo came to a decision and 10 of the 45 Catholic elementary schools throughout Western New York will be closing their doors at the end of the school year. Bishop Richard J. Malone was joined by Carol Kostyniak and Sister Carol Cimino at a press conference on Wednesday discussing the school closings and the future of the “Faith in Tomorrow” strategic planning process that was launched in June 2011.

“When you think of the students, families, faculty, staff, parishioners, alumni and supporters of these schools, you realize how gut-wrenching this day is for them,” Bishop Malone said. “I ask that you keep them in your prayers and also ask that all neighboring Catholic schools be welcoming and compassionate as these families make the transition to another Catholic elementary school.”

The schools selected to close were based off of a calculation based on each school’s enrollment, population trend and financial state. The schools that are scheduled to close are: Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary School in Elma, Fourteen Holy Helpers School in West Seneca, Our Lady of Pompeii School in Lancaster, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart School in Orchard Park, St. Bernadette School in Orchard Park, St. Francis of Assisi School in Tonawanda, St. Joseph School in Gowanda, St. Leo the Great School in Amherst, St. Mary of the Lake School in Hamburg and St. Vincent DePaul School in Spring Brook.

“While we disagree with and are disappointed by the decision of the Diocese of Buffalo to close Annunciation School at the end of the school year, we will do everything in our power to help our parish through this very difficult time,” said Fr. Eugene Ulrich, pastor of Annunciation Church. “Now, we ask for your prayers for our students, parents, teachers and staff, and the time and space needed to fully absorb the depth of this situation. In the meantime, we will continue to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the students of Annunciation School.”

Neighboring Catholic schools will be able to accommodate every student transfer, and Malone encourages families to remain in their home parish while continuing their commitment to Catholic education at the parishioner rate.

“Our focus must be on the students. Meeting parent expectations and welcoming their input are important considerations,” Kostyniak said.

“Parents who entrust their children to Catholic schools expect that their children will receive a quality Catholic education imbued with Gospel values of faith, justice, and charity,” she continued. “This revitalization process has resulted in a renewed dedication of clergy, the enhanced sense of partnership between pastors and principals and the strengthening of Catholic identity and the Catholic culture of our schools.”

Closing these schools will allow the Diocese of Buffalo to concentrate on the future of Catholic education, improving programs and results, and making Catholic schools more competitive. Starting this spring, three long-term projects will be introduced to change and improve the remaining schools.

According to Cimino, the first project is to introduce STREAM over the next three years – focusing on science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math – to help students prepare for the 21st century world. The second project is to “increase the participation of the laity in the governance of our schools,” allowing interested persons to become more involved in the schools. The third project, creating the Buffalo Diocesan Federation of Home-School Associations, began in November.

“We invite everyone to continue supporting us, now more than ever,” Sister Cimino said. “We are dedicated to a process of continual improvement, and we think you will be pleased with the upgrades and improvements that are happening in our schools.”

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