On Jan. 5, Catholics will celebrate the feast day of St. John Neumann, who served as bishop of Philadelphia from 1852–60 and founded the first Catholic diocesan school system in the United States.
On Jan. 6, an Archdiocese of Philadelphia blue ribbon commission will issue recommendations about the future of Catholic education in Philadelphia and the suburbs.
The recommendations will be reviewed by the Rev. Charles J. Chaput, archbishop of Philadelphia for the last three months.
“It will likely counsel that some, and perhaps many, schools must close or combine,” Chaput wrote in a letter that was read at Masses last weekend.
There are 156 archdiocesan elementary schools in Philadelphia, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery Counties. Seventeen of those schools are in the Northeast.
The archdiocese runs 17 high schools. North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty were closed in 2010.
Since 2003, the archdiocese has closed five local schools: Mater Dolorosa and St. Joachim in Frankford, St. Bartholomew in Wissinoming, St. Leo in Tacony and St. Bernard in East Mayfair.
Catholic schools everywhere are suffering from declining enrollment because of changing neighborhoods, an increase in the number of charter schools and rising tuition.
Parish pastors and school presidents and principals are tentatively scheduled to gather on Friday, Jan. 6, from 10 a.m. to noon, at Neumann University in Aston, Delaware County. There, the 16-member commission will release its findings.
Chaput’s letter also noted that, in early 2012, there will be a resolution of the cases of priests placed on administrative leave because of alleged sexual misconduct. ••