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Bishop: Diocese's Oldest School Can Stay Open Only if Parish Rallies Around It

Diocese of Covington Bishop Roger Foys told parishioners on Saturday that if the St. Joseph School in Camp Springs is to continue operating, they would have to make efforts to increase enrollment which is currently only 15 children heading into the 2015-16 school year. 
 
"My dear friends, the future of this school is in your hands. Only you can decide whether or not there will be a St. Joseph's Catholic School here in Camp Springs. At the present moment, with the possibility of only 15 students and the deficit of some $140,000, the future of St. Joseph School looks bleak. It would certainly not be tactical or good stewardship, either from a financial or educational perspective to go on. That being said, the situation being bleak does not mean it is impossible. All things are possible with God," Foys told parishioners at mass on Saturday afternoon.
 
Foys said that he received a report from Covington Diocese Superintendent of Schools Michael Clines that recommended not opening the school for the upcoming school year, but that the Bishop in general does not like to close institutions of the Diocese because it feels like defeat. 
 
"I have been your bishop for 13 years," he said. "In that time, you have heard me speak about my distaste for closing any diocese or parish institution. It is my personal fear that when we close a parish or school or any Catholic institution that we are given to defeat, we have given up. The fact of that matter is that in most cases, it is not the pastor or the bishop or any other one person who closes an institution. In the case of our St. Joseph's School in Camp Springs, in the final analysis, it will be the decision of the parishioners whether or not this school, which has been serving the parish even before our diocese was formed, will survive and thrive. When parishioners choose to send their children to other schools, and when parishioners will no longer give moral and financial support to the school, then they themselves decide the future of that school."
 
Despite the bleak future of the school, Foys pointed to recent efforts made by the parish to keep the historic school operating under difficult circumstances. 
 
"That faith has been here at St. Joseph School for 164 years. In the just recent past, you have rallied on more than one occasion and almost miraculously saved your school. Just this past year, by taking the step of initiating a pre-K was yet another sign of your determination and of your faith. You are to be commended and congratulated."
 
He said that by mid-July, evidence of more support by the parishioners must be demonstrated in order to have a plan in place that will save the school.  
 
"So, is the Bishop going to close the school? No.  Are you going to close your school? That is entirely up to you. Believe it or not, the next school year is quickly approaching. You will have to move fast. I would think that by mid-July, we will have to have some plan in place. I leave it up to you," Foys said. "Will the parish rally in support? Will they enroll their children at their parish school? Will parishioners give their moral and financial support? The answer to these questions, my dear friends will determine the future of your school. I encourage you to work closely with your pastor and your superintendent of schools to determine the future of your school that has served St. Joseph parish in this diocese over the last 164 years. Your school is the longest continuously operating school in our diocese. Know, my dear friends, that I will support your efforts and I will be sure to keep you in prayer over the next few weeks. In the end, we see the will of God what is best for the future of the parish and of St. Joseph School. I will eagerly await the results of your efforts."
 
The Bishop read from a prepared statement which he said he typically does not like to do, but felt he needed to take the step in order to keep from being misquoted by the media. He explained that he did not lead mass last weekend because the church festival was happening on the Saturday he was scheduled to appear and many of the parishioners could not attend mass since they were busy setting up for the festival. 
 
"I very rarely write down my homilies or speak from notes. I prefer to speak from the heart. I'm reading this text today so that everything I say will not be misunderstood or misinterpreted or worse, misquoted to the media. I had intended to be with you at mass last Saturday, but I was informed early last week that many parishioners felt it was best I come this Saturday, since last week was a festival weekend and that many people would not be at the 4 p.m. mass since they would be preparing for the festival. I did not make a last-minute decision not to celebrate mass with you last week. Actually, I came to the festival."
 
Written by Bryan Burke, associate editor