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Cathedral’s future to be determined by Christmas

Date: 11/20/2014

SPRINGFIELD – The official who is leading the effort to determine if Cathedral High School will be rebuilt told Reminder Publications the Diocese of Springfield would make its decision by Christmas.

Monsignor John Bonzagni, the judicial vicar and director of pastoral planning for the diocese, explained the process the diocese will undertake will include the opinions of stakeholders, but the diocese will not participate in a public meeting on Nov. 20 about Cathedral’s fate.

“First, from a process point of view, nothing good comes from a meeting with 400 people,” Bonzagni said.

He said the diocese would ask the various stakeholders, such as a group of neighbors on Surrey Road, to identify concerns and possible solutions. A website will report the discussion from the meeting, Bonzagni said, but as of Nov. 19, the site was not yet available.

The site will list enrollment figures and financial date as well. Responses to questions asked of the diocese will also be posted.

Bonzagni said people don’t have access to the same material and misinformation is occurring.

Once the various groups have had an initial meeting, each group will elect or appoint a representative to a diocese planning team who will meet with Bishop Mitchell Rozanski over a three-day period to “hammer out a solution,” Bonzagni said.

The result will be a detailed plan that will be released by Christmas.

The over-arching concern is the future of Catholic education in the diocese, which Bonzagni admitted is discussed regularly.

“The future has been brought up in a sense in that how we handle the Cathedral matter kind of sets a benchmark,” he said.

Whether or not a Catholic high school education is priced out of range for this market is another consideration, he added.

He noted the diocese is subsidizing Cathedral annually with $560,000 – something the diocese can no longer afford to do. The diocese needs a multi-million dollar endowment similar to that of Boston’s but Bonzagni added, “We have nothing like that.”

Bonzagni said, “We are having a hard time making ends meet.”

If the diocese approves a rebuilding of Cathedral sustainability is “the big issue,” he said.

When asked what the diocese will do with the insurance money if the decision is not to rebuild, Bonzagni said that hasn’t been discussed because the bishop is committed to studying the school issue.

“It has not been taken off the table,” he added.

Part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding may not be able to be used to fund other projects although those would have to been meet FEMA guidelines and approval, Bonzagni said.

A letter written by Bishop Mitchell Rozanski on Nov. 6 cast doubt on the future of the high school, which has been operating out of the closed Memorial School in Wilbraham after having sustained substantial damage in the June 1, 2011 tornado.

Rozanski wrote, “Unfortunately despite effort undertaken this year no clear consensus or recommendation emerged. I believe that is due in part because we have not been on the same page. That it, all parties did not share the same information. I therefore want to solicit the best thinking on the subject sop the diocese – those of us who are invested in cathedral High School, including those who are concerned on various levels – can move ahead in a sound and reasonable manner.”

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno responded to the new delay with the following statement:  “After several years of tough negotiations and working in unison with Bishop McDonnell and Congressman Richard E. Neal I was proud to stand with them on March 3, 2014 on the steps of Cathedral to announce a significant settlement with FEMA. The $38.5 million settlement, $29 million to go towards the construction on a new school on Surrey Road, was a hard fought victory for the city in our on-going tornado recovery efforts.

“Bishop McDonnell declared to the gathered residents, many who were alumnae, parents and grandparents of students, that Cathedral will be rebuilt on Surrey Road. This news was met with much fanfare and celebration. In addition the $10 million tuition assistance campaign was kicked-off with significant contributions in hand and without question, will pick up significantly once shovels are in the ground.”

“I am hopeful that Bishop Mitchell Rozanski and the Diocese will live up to their commitments made on that day to rebuild Cathedral where it belongs on Surrey Road. The extended Cathedral family and the neighborhood deserve nothing less.”