Archive for Sunday, June 13, 2010

Former flagship Catholic school closing

June 13, 2010


— Even as financially strapped Catholic schools continue to close across the country, no one in Philadelphia ever thought the church would shutter Cardinal Dougherty High School.

Not the flagship campus that once boasted 6,000 students and billed itself as the biggest Catholic school in the world. Not the school whose marching band once played for a pope, a princess and a presidential inauguration.

Not Cardinal Dougherty.

But the unthinkable came to pass in October when the Philadelphia archdiocese announced 2009-10 would be Dougherty’s last school year. The school, a victim of declining enrollment and changing demographics, will close this month after 54 years and more than 40,000 graduates.

“My head understands it, but it really hurts your heart,” said 1966 alumnus Tony Conti. “This is where I went to high school, this is where I met my wife.”

Dougherty is hardly alone. Nationwide, 174 Catholic schools have closed in the past year, compared with 24 opening, according to the National Catholic Education Association. Catholic school enrollment in the U.S. has declined 20 percent in the past decade.

Named after a former archbishop of Philadelphia, Dougherty opened in 1956 in the city’s East Oak Lane section with more than 2,600 freshmen and sophomores.

The students — nearly all white and nearly all Catholic — paid no tuition, because local parishes could afford to subsidize the cost. A wall divided the boys’ and girls’ sides of the building.

Urban Catholic schools have been hard hit by dwindling enrollment. Neighborhoods once filled with large families have emptied as parishioners move to the suburbs. For those in the city, free charter schools are an appealing option.

Some dioceses paying settlements to priest-abuse victims have less money to subsidize school operations. Fewer subsidies leads to higher tuition, which fewer families can afford in a recession, creating a vicious circle.


mickey1454 8 years ago

The author just HAD to get their little "dig" in about "priest abuse" didn't they? Though completely inexcusable, the percentage of priests who were involved is FAR LESS than men in other professions. Let's move on to scandalizing other professions like automobile salesmen, home builders and in-home repairmen ...not to mention one's own parents. On second thought, let's not!

Maddy Griffin 8 years ago

Sorry Mickey, but one is too many. And then to have it covered up and the perp shipped off quietly to another parrish?!I was born and raised Catholic and I'm sorry they are having financial trouble(aren't we all) but if I hadn't left the Church before this started coming to light, this would have clinched my exit. They've brought it on themselves.You expect better from the Vatican.

mickey1454 8 years ago

I agree "even one is too many" and I'm sure matters have not been handled in an ideal way (as if there was one!). Child abuse is a deplorable act -- by clergy or anyone. It's certainly not a "unique to" nor a "common characteristic of" the ordained. My point is, the inclusion of abuse has little or nothing to do with the article which is about a tradition-rich school closing. I think it was just an irresponsible cheap shot by the author to stir up comments such as ours!

Maddy Griffin 8 years ago

Agreed!I'm a big advocate of education and it's always sad to me when a school closes, whatever the reason.

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