NEW YORK (NY)
July 17, 2020
By Turlough McConnell
Before COVID-19, New York’s Catholic schools were braced with challenges. Now, the pandemic has inflicted devastating financial damage on the region’s parochial schools.
The situation is stark. Registration for the fall has dropped, as widespread unemployment and health concerns have left more families unable to pay tuition. Parish contributions that help to underwrite the schools have fallen precipitously in the months of cancelled public masses and fundraising for scholarships.
As a result, the greater Archdiocese of New York has announced that 20 schools will close permanently and three will merge. “Children are always the most innocent victims of any crisis, and this COVID-19 pandemic is no exception,” said Timothy Cardinal Dolan Archbishop of New York. “Too many have lost parents and grandparents to this insidious virus, and now thousands will not see their beloved school again.”
The closure of Catholic schools is an ongoing national trend. According to the National Catholic Education Association, as many as 2,000 Catholic schools in the U.S. were shut down or consolidated in recent years. As the largest system, with more than 62,000 students from pre-K through 12th grade in nine counties and boroughs, New York has experienced waves of closure.
Other factors contribute to the decline of parochial schools. With over 17,000 parishes that serve a population of roughly 100 million, the Catholic Church is the largest single religious institution in the United States. About 24% of Americans identify as Catholic. Of that number, one-third is Hispanic; African-American Catholics account for about three percent. Despite its size and influence, the Church has faced external threats. For decades there has been a decline in membership, a shortage of priests, and continuing revelations of sexually abused minors that (in many cases) were covered up.
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