“After extensive analysis and prayer,” the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik has decided to move forward with the closure of four facilities.
He announced Sunday plans to close the Holy Child Catholic Elementary School along with the St. Ignatius, Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Barnabas church buildings.
According to Michael Latusek, superintendent of Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese schools, enrollment for the K-8 school has dwindled over the years.
“I guess changing demographics and so forth in the area and the opportunities that are out there slowly declining,” Latusek said. “And there’s a number of other catholic schools in the area, also.”
Only 82 students were enrolled in the Bridgeville school during the 2013-14 school year, and a mere 53 were projected to re-enroll next year.
This is compared to the 205 students who attended in 1997-98.
Latusek said both parents and officials at the school have worked to find alternative solutions, but to no avail.
“Sister Barbara Anne Quinn, who’s principal there, has been talking with the parents and the students and looking at different options of sustaining the school,” Latusek said. “And she did some exploratory surveys with the parents to see if we maintain the school, what the tuition rate would be with fewer students.”
Some of the options explored included increasing the tuition and combining grades into multi-age classrooms - both of which many parents were unwilling to support.
Tuition currently comes in at $4,100 for each child that attends the school. According to the diocese, that number would need to increase to $5,765 to stay open with current staff levels. That rate assumes the parish would raise its current subsidy of $180,000 per year to at least $271,000.
“I know Sister Barbara Ann and Father Yagesh [pastor of the Holy Child parish] are not happy with the results of what we have to do or what has to be done at this point in time,” Latusek said. “But we’re moving forward, and we’re trying to support our kids at the school to get them enrolled in other catholic schools in the area, but no one is happy when a school closes.”
He said they are also helping staff find new positions.
The school will close at the end of the school year, which is this Friday.
Also set to officially close are three church buildings: the Saint Ignatius at Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Carnegie and the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary along with Saint Barnabas of the Word of God parish, both in Swissvale.
According to Father Ron Lengwin, spokesman for Catholic Diocese, none of these buildings has been used for worship since 2011.
“The church buildings very simply have not been used because they have not been needed,” Lengwin said. “Population in those communities has decreased and therefore the number of Catholics, also, and all of the people can come together in one building to worship, and we prefer that anyway it’s best to bring people from a parish around one alter.”
He said the use of the buildings will be determined by the pastor. However, diocese is not allowed to sell them until they receive Bishop Zubik’s permission.
Lengwin said religious artifacts most likely will not be a factor.
“I would think most of them would have been removed already when the buildings were no longer being used but sometimes there are other things such as stained glass that are still in the windows,” Lengwin said. “We remove all of those items and it’s put in storage to be used by other parishes in the diocese or perhaps even other parishes throughout the country.”
Starting June 30th, the church buildings will be relegated to profane but not sordid use - meaning they will not be used for mass, but also not in a way that would be offensive to a church member.