By Mike DeNardo

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There were closures, consolidations, and reprieves for area Catholic schools this year.

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Last year’s New Year’s confetti was barely swept away when the Archdiocese of Philadelphia — facing what it called the “death spiral” of rising costs and declining enrollment — announced plans to close or consolidate 49 elementary schools and four high schools: Bonner-Prendie, Conwell Egan, St. Hubert’s, and West Catholic.

Tearful students lamented the end of long traditions.

“My grandma, she graduated from here,” said one young man, “and my mom went here after her, so they wanted be  to come here to follow in their footsteps.  And now it’s closing.  I really wanted to send my kids here,” he said.

But after two months of appeals and fundraising, Archbishop Charles Chaput said an independent foundation would fund operation of the high schools (see news story):

“Today I want to announce that all four of these high schools will remain open.” (See news story)

The group already had $12 million from big and small donors, according to developer Brian O’Neill.

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“At St. Hubert’s, six thousand individuals gave donations as small as $3.  And little children brought in envelopes with their life savings,” O’Neill said.

In August, Chaput announced the Faith in the Future foundation wouldn’t just be raising money, it would run the archdiocese’s high schools.

“This is the first-of-its-kind Catholic educational system in the United States,” Chaput said.

The foundation hired Samuel “Casey” Carter as CEO (see news story).

“There’s nothing inevitable about the closing of Catholic schools,” Carter said.  “And in fact, what we’re going to do is just change the ending.”

This past fall, three of the four high schools slated to close had their largest freshmen classes in a decade.

 

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