“Inconceivable” and “unbelievable” were just two of the words that first came to the mind of Brooke Spiegel, 2018 Ladywood graduate, when recently asked about receiving the news that Ladywood High School would close at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
Spiegel became a member of the final graduating class when the decision of the Felician Sisters of North America to close the high school became public knowledge on December 11, 2017. Ladywood, a Felician-sponsored ministry, is known for having a rich tradition and legacy in educating young women from the Metro Detroit area for 68 years.
Ladywood has not been the only Catholic school to close in the Archdiocese of Detroit recently. These closures have only added to the questions and concern about the sustainability of Catholic schools in the United States.
Unfortunately, the unfortunate news that came from the Felician Sisters in December 2017 seems to have become a recurring theme among Catholic schools across the country.
Catholic schools’ peak was in the mid-1960s when over 13,000 Catholic schools enrolled about 12 percent of U.S. school children. The year 2012 saw less than 7,000 Catholic schools enrolling only five percent of school age children. The statistics are only going to continue to decline unless drastic measures are taken. What has happened to these schools?
The Archdiocese of Detroit’s website lists more than 160 Catholic schools that have closed throughout the years, with the years 2015-2016 being a difficult time for those in Catholic education in the archdiocese. During that time, four Catholic elementary schools closed including Redford’s St. Robert Bellarmine, Livonia’s St. Genevieve, Westland’s St. Damian, and Garden City’s St. Raphael. What happens to all of these displaced students and teachers?
Plans to open a regional school on the site of St. Raphael were discussed, but ultimately fell through when only 75 children enrolled when the target number was 250. Even though the regional school idea didn’t work out for those communities, could this idea work elsewhere and possibly save schools?
The Archdiocese of Detroit has developed a plan to “strengthen and refocus Catholic education”. Deacon Bill Kolarik commented on this new action: “Our Catholic schools, according to the Archbishop, should be centers of evangelization. We’ve had some issues over the years with declining enrollment and other factors, and it’s time to look at our Catholic schools differently.”
The Archdiocese posted on their Twitter about “Unleash the Gospel”, a letter written by Archbishop Allen Vigneron, with a quote saying, “So today the new evangelization can only be carried out through a radical openness to the leading of the Spirit: preceding every initiative with prayer for his guidance, constantly allowing ourselves to be led by him, and obeying his promptings and inspirations.” (Here is a link to read the letter ://www.unleashthegospel.org/).
Livonia, Michigan’s Ladywood High School
The closings of these schools affect many people: students, faculty, parents, alumni, coaches, and so many more. Bridget Rogers, a former Ladywood student and current Dearborn Divine Child High School student, had this to say about her former school: “The sisterhood Ladywood held was a bond indescribable to those who never experienced it. The environment contained a solid education in each class but the bonds made in the classrooms between students and from student to teacher made Ladywood feel more like a home than a high school.”