Vt. Catholic school removes name of bishop during priest abuse

Associated Press [New York NY]

May 8, 2023

By Wilson Ring

A Catholic elementary school is changing its name to remove the name of a bishop who led the Vermont diocese during a time of “unthinkable abuse of children by priests,” the school announced on Monday.

The principal of the John A. Marshall School in Morrisville told students on Monday that on July 1 the school will become known as All Saints Catholic Academy.

“While we did not discuss this with the students, we would be remiss not to acknowledge that part of our motivation to rename the school relates to the unthinkable abuse of children by priests who were under the leadership of the school’s namesake, Bishop John Marshall,” the letter says.

“While our school is not responsible for what transpired – nor can we change what happened years before the school was even built – we can take steps to assure our current and future students that we are committed to the process of healing,” the letter said. “We now know better, so we must do better.”

According to the diocese, Marshall was bishop of Vermont from 1971 to 1991.

The diocese said in an email that the while the school participates in church programs, it has its own board and is free to change its name.

In 2019, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington, which covers the entire state, released a report saying there had been sexual abuse of minors against 40 priests in the state since 1950.

On Monday, Maura LaBelle, 65, of Colchester, said she was overjoyed when she heard that the school’s trustees had decided to change the name. She lived for a short time as a small child at an orphanage in Burlington run by the Vermont diocese that has been linked to the abuse of the children who lived there.

While there is no connection between the Morrisville Catholic school and the abuse at the orphanage or elsewhere in the state, LaBelle said she was dismayed to learn relatively recently that the school had been named after Marshall. She ended up calling Wilson expecting to be hung up on.

“She was all ears and she heard me out,” LaBelle said. “And she said that they were working on changing the name.”

What is now known as the Bishop Marshall School, which runs from pre-kindergarten through grade 8, first opened in 1998. It now has 163 students.


This story was first published May 8, 2023. It was updated May 9, 2023, to correct the year the school opened to 1998, instead of 1988, and its current enrollment to 163, not about 125.