We’ve now entered into a new chapter in the ongoing story about Catholic education here. This is indeed the winter of our discontent, to steal a line from the Bard.
It was expected by many that Bishop Mitchell Rozanski was going to say one of two things at his press conference: Cathedral High School would be rebuilt or Cathedral High School would not be rebuilt.
I think some might have guessed a merger of the student bodies and educational missions of Holyoke Catholic and Cathedral was the other option for the conversation, but I doubt that anyone would anticipated yet another study and another delay in the construction of a new school.
Plus there are the new issues of the diocese selecting a location based on demographics – whatever that meant – and whether or not the new school would be called “Cathedral.”
I honestly felt sorry for him as either he has received some bad advice or he feels restrained from leveling with people about the fact that a secondary Catholic educational experience may be something this area can no longer support or afford. Granted Rozanski is faced with the promises made by his predecessor and he couldn’t possibly say that gentlemen spoke out of turn about the future of Cathedral.
One aspect of his presentation did concern me and that was his sidestepping again of working with the Committee for Cathedral Action.
The announcement left people with more questions than answers and undoubtedly angered a new group of people: the Holyoke Catholic community and alumni.
I don’t know if the bishop is aware of how people feel about the way Holyoke Catholic was ousted from it location in downtown Holyoke. I don’t know if he is aware of how parents and alumni worked so hard to save the school.
With his announcement this week, the bishop has sealed the school’s fate. It was ironic since that school is attracting many students.
And he has changed the mood of Cathedral supporters from being patient and discreet to be openly hostile.
This has not been a win-win for the new bishop.
I don’t know who is making the decisions about relationships between the diocese and the city, but it was a lousy idea to prevent Cathedral alum and City Council President Michael Fenton from attending the press conference.
Fenton was genuinely angry and he wondered why it took the city far less time to rebuild the Elias Brookings Museum Magnet School. In this case, dealing with the various challenges of government was a swifter path than for the diocese to rebuild the high school with both a location and funding in hand.
Now the diocese has very openly defied the very politicians who had ardently supported the rebuilding of Cathedral.
Now, no one at the diocese will take my advice. I’m just a battered greybeard journalist and I’m not even Catholic.
The diocese has been through many trials and tribulations. The number of the faithful has decreased with age and with reaction to a number of issues. The diocese has merged and closed parishes, which has angered and saddened many. The diocese has faced considerable pain through the abuse of children.
Frankly the Cathedral issue has been one that has sparked support for a local Catholic institution and I believe that many people have had hope for the future of seeing some revival in the diocese through the rebuilding of the high school.
The announcement this week put a considerable dent in that resurgence. It’s being perceived as being business as usual: the diocese is doing what it wants as part of an agenda that is hidden.
Perception is as powerful as truth so here is my advice: embrace candor. Call another press conference and tell the people what they know to be the truth. The diocese has the funding and the location for a new Cathedral and there is a need for it. Merge the two schools if you have to, make it smaller if necessary, but move on it now.
If people question a turnaround, then simply say a mistake was made. We all know about forgiveness and its power to unite and heal.
Agree? Disagree? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 280 N. Main St., East Longmeadow, MA 01028. As always, this column represents the opinion of its author and not the publishers or advertisers of this newspaper.