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Our Parish Family Commemorates Our Catholic School

My Dear Family,

This week is Catholic Schools Week. In the recent past, that has meant a wave of recruiting and tours, plans for next year. Above all, seeking to attract new families to our beloved institution. This year, as we prepare to close our school, a poignant shadow stretches across our doors. These months will be the last months of our little Catholic school on Main Street in Maple Shade. Instead, this week we are commemorating what our Catholic School has been for our students and their families. Look in the bulletin for more details.

In church, we haven’t spoken too much about closing the school. Sure, I wrote about it and we invited everyone to come to the meeting. But, our school is deeply woven into the fabric of our community. Time and time again I have heard, “Oh I went there!” and now people add, “sad to learn that it is closing.” Yes, it is sad. I am sad. We are sad; we are grieving. It is a great loss for our community!

As I continue to get to know our parish family and our story, I am seeing more clearly that so much of our effort, love and devotion - over decades - has been directed to our school. A void will exist in the life of our parish family. It will be like losing a close family member or friend. It will be a challenge to relearn what it means to be parish family.

But like any loss, the family grieves and mourns and then continues to grow and love and serve. That will be our challenge as well. What we have to focus on is the vibrancy of our parish life! In other words, we are tasked to continue to improve our common life together as a parish family. How interconnected and supported are we to each other? And how can we take steps towards greater vibrancy?

To be frank, the monumental effort of some super-dedicated families to keep the school up and running for as long as they did is heroic… but that herculean effort has diverted us from the main purpose of our existence. As a parish we exist to live our Faith and to hand on the living Faith. To live our faith and to pass it on, not only to our children but to the whole community.

In the wake of the news, rumors abound. Rumors are like tumors: they spread and cause damage. I have heard a rumor that our parish will close right after the school. Pack your bags, so it goes. Someone even asked a deacon where he hoped to serve when the parish closed! This is a crazy rumor. It is so wrong it is hard to know just where or how to dispel it. There are no plans of any kind to close the parish. Please stop the chicken-little-sky-is-falling talk.

Another misunderstanding is the notion that a family must belong to the parish where their children are enrolled in school. A family can belong to parish (A) and send kids to school (B). No one will have to change parishes to send their children to a Catholic school. We strongly encourage Catholic education, but we also strongly encourage you to keep your parish family right here where it belongs at OLPH.

Our parish family will likely look different in 5 or 10 years. I am striving and laboring toward greater vibrancy, engagement, community life and stewardship. As we enter into a unique Catholic Schools Week, let us remember what has been, celebrate what is now, and look forward with hope and peace confident that the Holy Spirit is guiding us into the future.

May God bless you for your goodness to our parish!

Fr. Wilson