A group of Cathedral High School students has launched an on-line petition calling on the Springfield Diocese to rebuild the school at its long-time home on Surrey Road.
Cathedral’s campus was badly damaged by the freak tornado that hit the city in June of 2011. Since then, the school has been operating out of a vacant school building in Wilbraham rented by the Diocese.
Last summer, after a protracted battle with its insurance company, the Diocese was awarded as much as $49 million to rebuild the school. But some Cathedral families and alumni, as well as residents of the East Forest Park neighborhood where the school was located for more than 50 years, have criticized the Diocese for the lack of movement on a rebuilding plan.
“Shortly after the tornado hit Bishop McDonnell said the Diocese will ‘undertake everything necessary to bring us back home, here to Surrey Road in East Forest Park. Cathedral will be back. Cathedral will be here. Cathedral will continue,’” the petition says.
“It’s time for Cathedral High School to return home to Surrey Road.”
The petition was organized by three Cathedral sophomores, Jack Mulcahy, Brendan Markey and Denny Tran. As of this afternoon, 565 people have signed it.
In response to the petition, Diocese spokesman Mark Dupont offered these comments, via email, which I’m running in full. (In a version of this story for next week’s Advocate, I didn’t have room for Dupont’s full comments):
“We applaud the efforts by Cathedral students to generate support for this beloved school—Bishop shares their strong desire to bring Cathedral High School (CHS) back to Surrey Road—so any action to engage the larger CHS community is welcomed and appreciated.
“It's not surprising that in just a few days more than 500 people have signed this on-line petition- the CHS alumni community is large and very dedicated to their school. That is why we remain hopeful that the Bishop's challenge to them, issued back on Sept. 10 to raise over $9 million for a tuition endowment fund will be met with equal and unqualified support. Although we welcome pledges from all CHS alumni, we are especially looking to those who received a free education through the mid 1970's to help provide for future generations that which they were blessed to receive for free, a CHS education.
“The diocese has been doing its part, fighting for the highest settlement, working with its architects and structural engineers reviewing the Surrey road site and developing plans for CHS' return. We have restarted our FEMA discussions, and those officials share our goal to expedite this process but not at the expense of qualifying for some much needed additional funds. In the end a building is not our obstacle ... rather sustaining that school is the challenge which must be now faced.
“The diocese has underwritten CHS expenses and deficits to the tune of some $10 million in just the last decade and we no longer can continue- our resources have been nearly depleted.
“Although CHS is often mentioned as a peer to some of our area's most prestigious private schools- with the results that qualify such a listing - what CHS lacks is the endowment funds to maintain and support the many families who greatly desire a CHS education but simply cannot afford it.
“Religious communities, like the Sisters of Notre Dame and the Sisters of St. Joseph along with our parishes did not start Catholic schools over a century ago to provide a faith based education for just those who could afford it. Rather they undertook their ministry for the working immigrant classes- most of whom now find a CHS education well out of their reach. A factor most prevalent by the absence of students from the city's most populated but impoverished neighborhoods. They need and deserve access to Catholic education.
“For CHS to succeed in the future, it must return to its original goals and find a way to financially support that mission. Building a school that is not sustainable simply makes no sense, and sadly the adage ‘if you build it they will come’ is a clever but largely inaccurate predictor.
“So the students who have undertaken this on-line petition are now preparing to ask those 500 plus people to qualify their on-line support and make a financial commitment to CHS so that together with we can begin planning the next and exciting chapter in this school's history.”