Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I write to you to share the sad and deeply troubling news of the closing of nine elementary schools and one archdiocesan-sponsored high school in the Archdiocese of Newark. Today’s announcement will cause special distress to the students and families, teachers, staff, administrators, pastors, and parishioners most directly affected by these difficult decisions.
Every time a school closes, something irreplaceable is lost. Our Catholic schools are much more than institutions. They are communities of faith and learning, as well as centers of prayer and service that build on the formation that is begun in families. Parents, grandparents and guardians make enormous sacrifices to provide their children with the great blessing of a Catholic education. This sacrifice is also an investment that will yield lifelong benefits, since Catholic schools recognize and educate the whole person (mind, body and spirit), their contributions to the well-being of each student, and his or her family, reach far beyond the excellent academic programs they offer.
Although Catholic elementary and high schools continue as a priority for the Archdiocese of Newark, this historical moment presents crucial challenges to the sustainability and ongoing success of our schools. The snowballing crisis that threatens both health and economic stability continues to expand and has exacerbated the dual threats of declining enrollment and swiftly increasing subsidies that have been necessary to sustain schools.
Some elements for the future flourishing of Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Newark are clear. These include the archdiocesan vision of “Forward in Faith Together: Our Road Ahead,” as well as a sharper sense of shared responsibility for Catholic education. Passing on our faith to new generations is an indispensable part of the mission of the Church. So, we must intensify our efforts to develop new models that can sustain our teaching mission, especially in areas of the Archdiocese where schools and other formation programs are most needed. The present circumstances invite us to renew a meaningful commitment to Catholic education in the Archdiocese in which our institutions flourish, not simply survive.
We mourn the loss of these ten schools, but we hope to shape a better future. There continues to be demand for Catholic education and many examples of thriving schools. We are proud of what our Archdiocesan schools, students, teachers, and staff members have accomplished over the past century. We hope that the families affected by the closures will continue their children’s education at a nearby Catholic school.
Please join me in praying for all our Catholic school communities, and for our students and their families. May the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who nurtured and formed the child Jesus in their family home in Nazareth, guide us as we work to educate all our children in faith, hope and loving service.
Sincerely yours in Christ the Redeemer,
Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Archbishop of Newark