It’s final. Mater Christi School will be a memory after the 2004-05 school year.
Despite a last minute effort to convince archdiocesan officials to reconsider closing the North Riverside institution, last week Chicago Archdiocese School Superintendent Nicholas Wolsonovich announced that the decision to close the school would stand.
“Despite submitting several budgets and attending several meetings to determine the feasibility of the school’s continuance, the data still suggests that the established criteria for enrollment and sound finance cannot be met,” Wolsonovich wrote in a letter to the Rev. Louis Tylka, Mater Christi’s pastor, on March 10.
“Therefore, as your request was reviewed I must inform you that the decision to close Mater Christi School has not changed.”
The archdiocese based its decision on two main criteria, according to the letter. The first regarded the school’s financial picture and the parish’s annual subsidy of the school. Mater Christi’s revised budget showed “an additional deficit of nearly $40,000” and that its subsidy from the parish exceeded the 20-percent limit suggested by the archdiocese.
In a letter sent to Mater Christi School families, Tylka indicated that Mater Christi parish subsidized nearly 70 percent of the school’s budget in the previous fiscal year, and had been averaging 40 to 50 percent in recent years.
Wolsonovich also stated that the school’s projected enrollment of 142 students “falls below the suggested number of students (200).”
With only 69 students pre-registered just before the school was initially announced for closure on Feb. 24, there was “no guarantee that a sufficient number of students would enroll in your school,” Wolsonovich wrote.
Almost two dozen parents made the trek downtown to the archdiocese offices on Feb. 24 to protest the closure of Mater Christi and many more turned up at a candlelight vigil in front of the church that night.
Last week, a ray of hope appeared when archdiocesan officials said Mater Christi could submit a revised budget and that the closure would be reconsidered.
“I really thought they’d give us a second chance to stay open another year,” said Principal Marlene Hionis, “so we could prove what we could do.”
Fundraising campaigns were never looked upon favorably by the parish’s previous pastor, the Rev. Cyril Nemecek, Hionis said.
“We were never allowed to do that,” she said. “We had some hopes that a financial backer was pretty secure.”
While Mater Christi’s fate is sealed, Hionis said that the school staff will continue on “as if we’re going to be here another 10 years. We’re going to cherish every moment we’re together.”