St. Bridget alumna says school closure would put neighborhood demography ‘in jeopardy’

St. Bridget parents, parishioners and alumni in East Falls aren’t backing down from their fight to save their neighborhood school.

As they continue to wait for a response from church officials, the school community vowed Monday night to continue their push to keep their beloved East Falls school open next year.

“We have made strides every other day this week and we are not stopping,” said alumna Christina Spino during a community meeting inside the Falls of Schuylkill Branch library. “We have too much to lose and everything to gain.”

On Jan. 6, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced its plans to merge the historic institution with the Holy Child Regional School in Manayunk at Holy Child’s Hermitage Street site.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

St. Bridget parents later appealed that decision, arguing that the Archdiocese should instead consolidate the schools at St. Bridget’s building on Midvale Avenue.

A demography ‘in jeopardy’

In response, the Archdiocese argued that “significant effort and resources” had already been committed to forming a regional school and denied the appeal on Feb. 16. It has since echoed those sentiments in a recent message currently posted on St. Bridget’s website.

“As it already successfully served as a regional school in the area, Holy Child was the most logical choice,” reads a section of the March 8 statement. “It seemed to make the most sense to recommend that the children from Saint Bridget’s come to the existing regional school rather than uproot children from five parishes, some of whom had been part of a merger once already.”

Archbishop Charles Chaput, in whose hands the decision ultimately lays, has not yet responded personally to St. Bridget’s pleas for a meeting.

Spino, who has helped lead the charge against the closure, equated the move to “social injustice at best” and said that it’s time to reach out to the broader East Falls community through letters and knocking on doors. Losing St. Bridget, she said, could mean Catholic families choose to settle down elsewhere in the city.

“Our demography is in jeopardy without this service,” said Spino.

Attendees agreed.

‘Everybody stays open or everybody goes down’

Fellow St. Bridget alum Tony DiGeorge said the group should not only reach out to the neighborhood, but the entire Catholic school community.

“You have to support Catholic education everywhere,” said DiGeorge, noting that no school is safe right now from closing in the future. “Everybody stays open or everybody goes down.”

Lifelong East Falls resident and St. Bridget alum Tim Gallagher said the St. Bridget community needs to get even louder if it wants Chaput to reconsider.

“We have to make more of a stink right now,” he said.

The group has already held two protests outside of St. Bridget’s School. There may be a third toward the end of the month, though no details have been decided.

Staying positive

Either way, Sean Stevens, an East Falls resident who has also helped organize the fight, cautioned folks to keep the message positive as they keep up the energy of the campaign. He said parents and politicians could become turned off by the effort otherwise.

“Stay positive and above the fray,” said Stevens.

He suggested that all written communications should be sent to elected officials, especially state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, who was influential in the fundraising efforts that kept four Catholic high schools slated for closure to remain open.

“Two things can help us: money and politics,” said Stevens.

At the end of February, the Save St. Bridget’s Restoration Fund was created with a starting donation of $10,000.

Time is ticking, however.

A tight timeline

Anne Wilson, a St. Bridget parent, said registration letters for other Catholic schools will be sent out soon and that some families won’t be willing to wait around to see if the group’s efforts pan out.

“A lot of families are going to be putting out tuition money to hold their spot. Those same families, if god willing this works, aren’t going to get their money back,” said Wilson. “That’ll affect us staying open if we lose all of these people.”

St. Bridget’s has already lost its principal, Susan Canio. She is slated to head to the new regional school, St. Blaise Regional Catholic School, on Hermitage Street. 

NewsWorks will continue to follow this story as more information becomes available. 

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal