By Ben Simmoneau
FAIRLESS HILLS, Pa. (CBS) — As hundreds of students across the Archdiocese protested his decision to close dozens of schools, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput spent Monday morning in calm confines at a school that will not close: Bishop Shanahan High School in Downingtown.
The Archbishop celebrated mass there to mark the beginning of a week that promotes opportunities for serving the Church, but he also spoke with Eyewitness News about the closures. He said it was a difficult weekend everywhere across the Archdiocese.
“I got a lot of mail, most of it sad, some of it negative,” he said. “Each person sees his or her school as the most important school in the diocese.”
But the Archbishop says it will take much more than emotional letters to get him to overturn any of the recommended closings.
“If there are appeals, it has to be based on facts and not on emotion,” he said. “We just can’t continue to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re bleeding financially.”
Parents of students at Conwell-Egan High School in Bucks County hope they can get their school off the closing list by arguing logistics. Their school is the only Archdiocesan High School in Lower Bucks County.
The closest neighboring high schools are Archbishop Ryan, which is 10 miles down Interstate 95 in Northeast Philadelphia or Archbishop Wood, which is nearly 20 miles away in Warminster.
“There are literally no options for us,” said Susan Singler, whose son is a junior at Conwell-Egan. “The Archdiocese by doing this has literally choked lower Bucks County from having a Catholic education for their children.”
About a dozen parents rallied in place of their children on Monday afternoon on the front lawn at Conwell-Egan. Students had planned a rally through Facebook but were told by administrators to postpone it.
“I’ve already inquired at some of the other surrounding Archdiocesan schools: Ryan and Wood, they don’t even return phone calls,” said Singler. “I think they were ill prepared for this.”