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Diocese reconfirms commitment to education

Date: 6/14/2010

June 14, 2010.

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD -- Despite the impression given by a television report early last week, the Diocese of Springfield's commitment to Catholic education in the Valley remains strong.

So indicated Sr. Andrea Ciszewski, FSSJ, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Springfield during a conversation with Reminder Publications late last week.

According to both Ciszewski and diocese spokesperson Mark Dupont, the future of the diocese schools had apparently been called into question through information that was misconstrued during another media's interview with Monsignor John Bonzogni, pastorial planning officer for the diocese.

"Nothing Monsignor Bonzogni said had anything to do with Catholic schools closing," Dupont said. "His comments were that we were in a tight financial situation ... in the past if a school ran an unexpected deficit they would just come to the diocese for help. [He indicated] that would not be the case going forward."

"In that conversation, somehow the fact that the diocese would have a certain amount to provide [to its six Catholic schools] this year translated into closure and that is not the case," Ciszewski said.

Dupont said the media outlet in question did correct the story, which also appeared on its Web site, once he brought the error to their attention last Wednesday.

"It caused a lot of concern. It echoed all the way to the Berkshires," he said.

"There is no imminent danger to our six diocese schools," Dupont reiterated.

Ciszewski said the diocese has pledged $2,137,500 to the operation of its schools for the 2010-2011 school year. This figure includes monies allotted for tuition assistance for families.

Dupont indicated that figure is approximately one-third of the diocese overall budget. Non-school allotments are set at $4.7 million for the coming year.

The diocese oversees three high schools -- Holyoke Catholic High School in Chicopee, Cathedral High School in Springfield and St. Joseph Central High School in Pittsfield -- as well as the three campuses of the newly created St. Michael's Academy in Springfield, St. Mark School, also in Pittsfield and Holy Trinity School in Greenfield

Ciszewski did acknowledge that the commitment for the coming school year reflects a decrease in aid from the diocese.

"This is just reflective of what is happening in society," Ciszewski said, noting that several public school systems in the area are also struggling with reduced budgets and consolidations brought on by the economic downturn.

"We do face financial challenges, but the diocese has pledged a great amount of money to the schools," she said. "The news seemed to indicate that we are in dire straits. We are committed and we want Catholic education to continue."

She expressed gratitude to the parents who have committed to supporting Catholic education "often at a sacrifice" and to the parishioners of the diocese' churches who also pledge their support to the schools.

She also thanked the many alumni who have stepped up to support programs for specific schools and invited "other people to participate in Catholic education."

And though there are no immediate plans to take action on any schools, Ciszewski did acknowledge that Holy Trinity in Greenfield is under study

"That has been know in the area for some time," she said.

She added the school is under review and a decision would be forthcoming "very soon."