CHESANING - Following the recommendation of the local pastor, task force and parish council, the Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw, today announced his acceptance of a collective recommendation to close Our Lady of Perpetual Help School in Chesaning at the conclusion of the 2009-10 academic year.
The recommendation and approval come following a special June 4 meeting of the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Council, which found the school was not able to meet benchmarks set forth by a special task force to remain open.
“Closing a school is never easy and never something you want to do,” said the Rev. Richard Bokinskie, who has served as pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish since 2004. “I can assure all of our families of the commitment of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish to continue to educate and form our children in the Catholic faith.”
Father Bokinskie said Our Lady of Perpetual Help School’s more than 100 years of dedication to Catholic education will live on through dynamic faith formation opportunities offered through the parish. Our Lady of Perpetual Help School opened its doors to students in 1906.
“We’re proud of our teachers, students, families and parishioners and the commitment they made to our Catholic school. Unfortunately, the reality of the economic challenges facing our area has led to dwindling enrollment and we can no longer afford to keep our school open,” Father Bokinskie said.
In a letter to Father Bokinskie conveying his acceptance of the recommendation, Bishop Cistone noted, “With deep regret, I accept the recommendation that Our Lady of Perpetual Help School close at the end of this current academic year. In doing so, I share your own sadness and that of the students, parents and parishioners of your parish community.”
Bishop Cistone went on to say, “Catholic education remains a priority for me in my ministry as Bishop of Saginaw. I recognize that our parishes and diocese as a whole are experiencing extraordinary times in this economically unstable environment. I am distressed by the fact that many long-time, faithful members of our parish communities are finding it necessary to move to other locations in order to find work. Although these circumstances have caused some of our parish schools to reorganize or close, I remain steadfastly committed to doing everything possible to ensure the stability and growth of our Catholic schools.”
In the fall of 2009, a special task force was created from within the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish and School communities to examine the viability of the school. In February, the task force recommended the school would need a minimum of 35 students enrolled for fall 2010-11 and $100,000 in the bank by June 1, to keep the school open. The community raised nearly $64,000 and enrolled 14 students in grades K-4. The money raised to keep the school open will be returned.
The last day of the school year for students of Our Lady of Perpetual Help School was Thursday, June 10. Plans will be made to hold a farewell gathering to give teachers, current and former students, families and parishioners an opportunity to celebrate the wonderful legacy of Our Lady School in the Chesaning community.