By Tim Jimenez
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Students, parents and alumni gathered for a rally in South Philadelphia’s Pennsport neighborhood Thursday night in support of two Catholic schools set to close.
Emotions were running high in front of the Second Street Irish Society building where, according to organizers, at least 1,000 people came out to support Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and Sacred Heart of Jesus elementary schools.
One man wasn’t afraid to send a loud message to the leader of Philadelphia’s Catholic community.
“Well, Archbishop, get out your earplugs. We can no longer be silent!” he yelled to the approving crowd.
It was a community making their voices heard on losing yet another Catholic school, six of them over the years, according to parent Joe Nelson.
John, a Sacred Heart graduate and former Catholic school teacher who had been in the classroom for over 30 years, is upset at the decline of Catholic education in a neighborhood that has depended on it throughout the years.
“The Catholic Church is abandoning this area and it’s unfair to those who have been faithful to the church,” he said.
Dan Stevenson, a father of two at Sacred Heart, said the appeals process was not fair.
“Some of the schools had over an hour, hour-and-a-half time (to appeal). Our school had approximately 15 minutes,” he said.
The Blue Ribbon commission suggests closing both schools and students would join Epiphany of Our Lord which is a little over a mile away from each school. It is a solution that many parents are against.
“It’s not personal against Epiphany,” explained Jenneane, a Mt. Carmel Alumni and Sacred Heart mother. “We simply just want to have our own school in our own neighborhood for our children.”
The school they would want to send their kids to would be the result of a merging of the two schools at the Mt. Carmel location. Parents say it would keep the school traditions alive in the neighborhood.
The Archdiocese, in a statement, says:
“We appreciate and understand the passion that people in Philadelphia have for their Catholic schools. Their identities are linked to those schools in a very special way. Change can be difficult to embrace, but we pray that everyone remains focused on the end result–ensuring that the same quality Catholic education they all received is available for future generations.”