These are uneasy days for Catholics in Philadelphia.
Just as Archbishop Charles Chaput warned last month, Catholic schools are closing and merging throughout the archdiocese, as the church faces declining enrollment.
Protests are sweeping the area. But a Blue Ribbon Commission report that was released Friday said 40 to 45 of the elementary schools could not be sustained – with 34 of them having fewer than 200 students, and 14 of those having fewer than 150.
The report also recommended closing the four high schools.
Behind that lies a trend – a consistent drop in parochial school enrollment throughout the archdiocese: From 271,088 in 1960 to 67,787 in 2010.
And that’s not the only attrition problem. The number of priests and religious faculty has dropped from 3,901 to 282 over that same period, and even baptisms have dwindled from 40,098 to 13,799.
“We can no longer avoid dealing with enrollment and financial realities that have been building in our schools for many years,” Archbishop Charles Chaput said. “The restructuring proposed in the Commission’s report is a critical first step in renewing the health of our Catholic education ministry.”