If you have not done so already, please consider writing a letter to the Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi as well as to the Archbishop of Philadelphia, His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali. Share your concern for the church and for our Catholic schools. Once you have written your letter, please consider posting it here so others may read it. Your thoughts and insight may also offer some needed inspiration to others who also wish to pen a letter. To share your letter, simply post it as a comment to this entry; you need not have a blog account, and your thoughts are surely welcome! Thank you to Mr. Mark Albrecht for coordinating the letter writing campaign.
Here are the addresses:
Archbishop Pietro Sambi
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America
3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
His Eminence Justin Cardinal Rigali
222 North 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103-1299
6 thoughts on “Letter Writing Campaign”
January 21, 2007
The Most Reverend Archbishop Pietro Sambi
3339 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20008-3687
My name is Anna Mike. Along with my husband Theodore, we are parents of children in Luzerne County, PA (the Scranton Diocese), who attend Catholic schools. With heavy hearts we inform you that hundreds of children in Luzerne County will now be unable to continue receiving a Catholic high school education. Bishop Joseph Martino has decided to close most of our local Catholic high schools, including my school, Bishop O’Reilly Junior/Senior High, along with Seton Catholic and Bishop Hafey, and keep only one high school open in Luzerne County, at the Bishop Hoban High School building in Wilkes-Barre. The Hoban building cannot accommodate all the Catholic high school students. This will force many Catholic students to either travel long distances to the one remaining high school (our county is 891 square miles) or to forego Catholic high school altogether. Moreover, those who do get accepted will not get the teacher attention that they do now in smaller local schools. Many of us parents are heartbroken as we consider that this consolidation will shrink our Catholic establishments, education, and test or diminish many of our children’s Catholic faith, as they do not understand why the bishop will not consider options for allowing our schools to stay open.
Moreover, Bishop Martino’s plan was devised essentially without the input of Catholic parents. There was a “consultative process” but it did not afford its few members a view into the plan as it was being developed–contrary to what the Bishop later indicated. At our school, the group was given general information about the economic status of the schools, but was not asked to provide constructive input, and worse, was not given any information about the Bishop’s plans to close schools. When the plan was announced in November 2006, there were many inaccuracies, and the Bishop gave parents 3 weeks to digest and offer comments, then refused to consider those comments. He has said that his decision is final. We are heartbroken that he has not given his Catholic flock the opportunity to demonstrate to him that there are viable economic approaches which could lead to keeping many of the local Catholic schools open. Moreover, he and his planners have not been truthful to or open with us. As parents, we are committed, as I know you are, to Catholic education. As homemakers and professionals, we have carefully considered alternatives to massive closure, and have offered viable plans with sound economic planning; yet the Bishop will not listen to us.
Archbishop Sambi, I ask that, with prayerful heart and open mind, you look into our Bishop’s plan and immediately instruct him to meet with the parents’ groups to review our alternatives. We would like the opportunity to demonstrate to you and Bishop Martino that our Bishop O’Reilly Junior/Senior High, and hopefully the others proposed to be closed should, and by careful planning can, remain open to serve our children. Our goal is to assure that the Catholic faith is spread through education, not continuously shrunk as has been going on for some years now. Our parents and grandparents found ways to build and expand Catholic Churches and schools, and we can too.
I ask for the favor of a reply, so that I may put you in touch with Catholic parents like me, from our schools proposed to be closed, who are working on plans to revive our schools. We ask to meet with you and give you a different perspective than Bishop Martino’s. I look forward to your reply. Thank you, Your Excellency.
Anna M. Mike
January 22, 2007
Archbishop Pietro Sambi
Apostolic Nuncio to the United States of America
3339 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20008
Re: Future of Catholic Education
Dear Archbishop Sambi:
We have a son who is a sophomore at Bishop O’Reilly High School in Kingston, Pennsylvania. Our daughter graduated from Bishop O’Reilly High School in 2000.
The purpose of this letter is to ask you to intercede on our behalf to force Bishop Martino of the Scranton Diocese to give us the courtesy of a reply. He refuses to meet with our parents concerning the closing of our schools and will not give us any information regarding the new school which is scheduled to open September of 2007. He expects us to blindly register our children on February 5, 2007 but will not tell us the registration fee, tuition fee, curriculum, teachers, administration or any other pertinent information regarding the new school.
I am 56 years old, a graduate of St. Nicholas High School in Wilkes-Barre, PA. My husband is a 1974 graduate of Kings College, a Catholic college run by the Holy Cross Fathers in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Frank and I are parishioners of Holy Name-St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Swoyersville, PA. We are both very active in our church and in Bishop O’Reilly High School. Frank and I have been happily married for 27 years and we try very hard to live our faith and to raise our children in the Catholic faith. However, the way Bishop Martino is treating us makes us ask if this is the way Jesus would like His Bishops to treat their flock. I doubt it. Bishop Martino makes me question my Church, and Archbishop Sambi, I am not alone in these feelings. This frightens me because I believe in my heart that our children are the future of the Catholic Church and our Bishop, with his arrogance and lack of compassion is turning our children away from their Catholic faith. We need your help.
Jane N. Aritz
At the meeting last night I said I would have a draft letter today that I could submit to the Bishop, Superintendent of Schools and Editor(s). Below is my draft. Please feel free to add your commeints or suggestions.
As concerned parents with children in Catholic schools, we are writing to respectfully ask for your help to ensure a smooth transition into the future. Change is difficult for all of us, however it is more difficult when change is unknown. A reasonable person would not drive blindly into a thick fog with reckless abandon, or pay for a product sight unseen.
This is what you are asking us to do with our children especially our high school aged children. There is certain fundamental information we need in order to make an informed decision. As Catholics we cherish our rich tradition, in particular our educational system. Our parochial schools provide the values, norms and structure following Jesus’ works and word. Our public schools can’t provide Our Lord’s guidance, strength, or teachings, only in our Catholic schools can we be assured of this. We offer this to show our unity, our children are our future, not only for our country but our church as well.
Continuing our children’s parochial education is important to us and to them. They have the same questions we have if not more. We all want to know the following:
•What is the curriculum going to be at the new high school?
•What is the registration fee?
•When is registration?
•If I register my child and there is no room at the school, will the registration fee be refundable?
•How will the grading system be consolidated?
•Who are the teachers?
•What is the tuition?
•How will the tuition be paid?
•Will financial assistance be available directly from the school or only through the Diocese of Scranton?
•What are the class size limits?
•Will the school be accredited?
•If I register my child and later find I can’t afford the tuition, am I responsible for the tuition if my child has to withdraw from the school?
As you can see the questions can go on, creating a very long list. However these are the basic questions. We respectfully ask for answers to these questions before we register our children for the next school year. Asking parents to budget for a large investment without providing the necessary details is like driving blindly into a thick fog.
As our leader we respect your decision, whether we agree or not, but we need your help and guidance in order to move forward to ensure a smooth transition. Throughout the entire process I have heard that children are resilient, what many people don’t realize is that there is a limit to what our children can endure.
It is in the spirit of unity that we seek your guidance.
My name is Theodore Mike and I am an alumnus of Bishop O’Reilly High School, Kingston PA. I wish to explain my disappointment with His Excellency Bishop Joseph Martino’s decision to close my alma mater and several other Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Scranton. I believe that the closing of Bishop O’Reilly will be a great loss, both academically and spiritually, to the Scranton Diocese.
My education at Bishop O’Reilly High School was second to none. My high school left me well prepared for college and beyond. More importantly, Bishop O’Reilly provided me with a firm understanding of my faith.
Bishop O’Reilly High School is rooted in Catholic tradition. Originally named West Side Central Catholic, the school was dedicated to Our Queen Mary and has had thousands of successful graduates. My mother and sister have also graduated from this school, and I have two brothers who hope to graduate from O’Reilly in the next few years. Many people have sacrificed a great deal to create a place where their children could receive a quality Catholic education. It saddens me to think that the sacrifices and achievements of so many are being swept away.
In addition to Bishop O’Reilly High School, Bishop Martino intends to close Bishop Hoban, Bishop O’Hafey, and Seton Catholic high schools in Luzerne County, PA. A high school is planned to be created in the Bishop Hoban building. Unfortunately, this building cannot support the combined student bodies of the four schools. The diocese hopes that some of the current students will attend public schools. While this may make sense logistically, it is tragedy religiously. Catholic education is invaluable to a developing Catholic and should be encouraged. It is a shame that so many young Christians will be deprived of this enlightening experience.
The Diocese has stated that it cannot afford to continue Catholic education in its current form. Consequently, experienced groups of professionals including parents, alumni, and friends of the schools have developed realistic plans to allow the schools to operate in the black. However, the Bishop has dismissed all of them without giving these plans any serious consideration.
I truly believe that Bishop Martino is making a grave mistake for our Diocese, although I’m sure that he is only doing what he feels is necessary. I mean no disrespect to His Excellency but I feel that this this issue is too important for me to remain silent. I ask for your assistance in preserving Catholic education in the Diocese of Scranton, and please keep us in your prayers.
I am writing to express my concern for the future of Catholicism in Luzerne County in the Diocese of Scranton,Pa. The people of Luzerne County are currently shepherded by Bishop Joseph Martino, Bishop of Scranton. The people of Luzerne County do not have a religious leader with whom they can communicate. Jesus cared for his flock, His followers. He listened to their expressed needs and desires and enriched the number of his followeres by, at times, granting seemingly impossible requests. He enjoined the people He helped to go out and spread the good news and care for others.
Bishop Martino has undertaken actions which he feels will save Catholic education in the Diocese. He has restructured schools to ‘help’ Catholic education survive with a one sided perspective without apparent regard for the people whose lives he is forever changing. He hired the Meitler Group at a cost of more than $190,000 to asses many aspects of the ‘health’ of Catholic schools in the Scranton Diocese. A draft of this plan was presented in mid November 2006. The final determination of this plan was presented 1/17/07. Within those few weeks, which encompased the Advent season, Christmas and two major holidays, representatives from the Catholic high schools in Luzerne county came up with alternate plans to revise Catholic education in the county. Many errors in the information presented by the Meitler Group report were noted. Not one error was corrected. Not one aspect of any of these plans was incorporated in the final plan.
The Bishop has not met with one parent, one student, or one alternative planner in reaching his determination. Bishop Martino does not know his flock. He has not taken any steps to get to know us. Lack of communication with the people of the diocese does not foster growth and involvement and vocations to religious life. It does not encourage volunteerism. It is not modled after the early church where the apostles, the first Bishops, were in constant contact with their flocks. We are the church and we wish to participate in the process.
We agree that Catholic education in Luzerne County could not go on as before. We only ask the we as parents, volunteers and students of the Catholic high schools of Luzerne County, be allowed to take actions which will make our schools succeed without draining local parishes of funding. We agree that if our plans do not succeed, our schools should be closed. We ask for the opportunity to achieve our goals.
Currently more than 1,400 high school students are attending a Catholic High School in Luzerne County. Bishop Martino’s plan is to house high school students in Luzerne County in one building which can hold 900-1050 students. His plan does not provide space for more than 300 students currently attending a Catholic high schoolin Luzerne County. He is preventing those overflow students from attending a Catholic high school in the future. He expects parents to enroll their children in this new school on February 5, 2007 for a fee of $100.00 without informing those registering what the tuition will be, who the teachers will be, what the curriculum will be, what the class size will be,what transportation if any will be provided or guaranteeing a seat for the enrollee. How do any of these actions serve to save Catholic education? This is further proof of a lack of understanding of the factors which weigh in on the determination of the amount of sacrifice parents can make to educate their children in a Catholic high school. If he guarantees a place for all 1,400 students in this maximum capacity 1050 building, what quality of education will be provided? If the Bishop would speak to us, he might understand that these are major concerns for parents which must be addressed before registration.
The Church in the Scranton Diocese has a problem. The elimination of Catholic education for more than 300 students adds to this problem. Being led by a Bishop who prides himself on never altering a decision despite excellent plans to the alternative adds to this problem.
Please contact Bishop Joseph Martino. Ask him to meet with those most involved with and affected by Catholic education. Ask him to meet with those who are the future of the Catholic Church in Luzerne County. Please inform him that it is not a sign of weakness to attain a mutually desired goal by using someone else’s means. Ask him to get to know his flock before abandoning us. Please help us to contribute to fiscally responsible Catholic education for our children. Let us grow our church with love and concern by our contribution to the educational process.
Thank you for your interest and any possible assistance.
Dear Archbishop Sambi:
It is with a very heavy heart that I write this letter, to advise you of the serious concerns in Luzerne County in the Diocese of Scranton PA, regarding Bishop Martino’s recent announcement that fourteen of our Catholic schools will be closing at the end of this school year. This decision is a destruction of the Catholic dynamics & footprint in this region. This decision came after months of studies and consideration, but an element that studies and research cannot equate to, is the religious connection these schools provide our community.
I understand that this decision was a difficult one for Bishop Martino to make, but he did so with the intent to strengthen Catholic education for the 21st Century. However, the more difficult and painful choice would be to humbly adhere to the pleas of the people of the Catholic church and reconsider this action, by meeting with his people, and giving their suggestions an opportunity to prove, or disprove, over a period of a few years. It is clear that the financial situation of the Scranton Diocese is a main factor in this decision, but making a ruling that will affect such a great number of Catholics in this generation must be made with sacrifice. As the Catholic student’s parent must selflessly make sacrifices to afford their child’s tuition, so too, must the church. The vow of poverty is one that can only be truly followed with sacrifice.
If Jesus were here in human form today, instead of 2000 years ago, and had to make the decision to maintain these 14 schools, or close them, or work to spread the good word to expand them; what would Jesus do? Jesus was the greatest of all teachers, and he asked us to “listen to the children”. I feel it is my duty as a Catholic to stand up for what is right, and to speak out against what is wrong. I understand the priests take a vow of obedience, and therefore, may not be able to speak their personal views on this issue. Therefore, I feel it is my responsibility to bring this to your attention, and have faith that you will listen to God’s answer to resolve this grave issue.
This is a time of uncertainty, but also a time of hope, and belief that God works in mysterious ways to strengthen our faith. It is a time of opportunity for the Diocese of Scranton to step up to the plate, & show that the needs of the children are of utmost importance. With this issue getting a great deal of media attention, this is a prime opportunity to prove that with a humble heart we can do what is right in God’s eyes.
The future generations of Catholics will one day study this pivotal moment, and realize that we made the proper choices to keep God as the center of our lives everyday, not just when it is convenient. Thank you in advance for your time, prayers, consideration, and for taking all the necessary steps to assure that our Catholic education flourishes until Christ’s coming…..