OLOL School fund-raising falls short

May 15, 2009
By

John Ruch

BROOKSIDE—An attempt by parents to raise $500,000 to save Our Lady of Lourdes (OLOL) School fell far short of that goal, sealing the fate of Jamaica Plain’s last Catholic school.

“We understand that this is disappointing news for those who worked so hard to keep Our Lady of Lourdes School open,” said Boston Archdiocese spokesperson Terry Donilon in a written statement, confirming that the school will close forever in June. “But the reality is that because of declining enrollment and mounting financial pressures it simply is not possible to reopen in the fall.”

Church officials shocked parents early this year with the surprise announcement that the century-old school was so financially shaky it would have to shut down after this school year. Officials had known about the financial problems for about five months, but had not told parents or alumni. Outraged parents demanded and got the chance to save the school for at least one more year by raising half-a-million dollars by the end of April.

But the parents’ Save OLOL campaign raised only $150,000, parent Colleen Scanlan reported in a letter to a church official that she also sent to the Gazette. Scanlan said another donor had pledged to give $200,000 per year, and that a college had pledged to provide two free teachers.

Donilon said that closure plans are under way. OLOL students have been guaranteed seats in other Catholic schools.

Fr. Brendan Buckley, the OLOL Parish pastor, could not be reached for immediate comment.

OLOL School, part of the OLOL Parish complex at 54 Brookside Ave., is a K1-8 school with 187 students. Outrage over the school’s closure has revealed—and increased—some unhappiness with the Capuchin Franciscan friars, a Catholic religious order that took over administrative and pastoral care of the parish last year. The Capuchins recently renovated their own building in the OLOL complex out of their own funds, a move that angered many school supporters, especially when Buckley told them at a January meeting that the expenditure was “none of your business.”

In her letter, Scanlan accused the Capuchins of committing three of Catholicism’s “deadly sins”: sloth, greed and wrath. She also said she is writing a “scathing” novel based on the OLOL situation. “I am already three chapters into it,” she wrote.

“For you and all of your Capuchin brothers, shame, shame, shame on you,” Scanlan wrote.

It is unclear what will happen to the school building. Donilon previously told the Gazette that former church properties are typically leased or sold to only for uses that benefit the community and are not “offensive” to the Archdiocese. In January, church officials said they had not sought potential buyers.

School and church closures have become common in the Archdiocese due to changing demographics, the lingering effects of the scandal of priests sexually abusing children and other factors.

Six years ago, there were still three Catholic schools in JP. The Blessed Sacrament School in Hyde Square closed in 2003, and the St. Andrew the Apostle School in Forest Hills closed in 2005. Both of those parishes were shut down as well. Church officials have said there are no plans to close the entire OLOL parish.

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