Facing declining enrollment, the Diocese of Rockville Centre has begun an effort to revitalize education and strengthen scholarship funds in Roman Catholic elementary schools on Long Island.
Bishop John Barres announced on Friday that the diocese will partner with the Marianists to complete a comprehensive review of education in 39 elementary schools the diocese oversees. The project will be known as the Morning Star Initiative.
Barres, who called the situation “critical,” said enrollment had fallen to just over 11,000 from 25,000 in 1999. The diocese has been forced to close 14 schools since the beginning of the century.
“The core of this initiative is to foster the educational and spiritual development of our students,” Barres said. “We owe it to our parents, families, teachers, parishes, alumni and communities to provide a robust, evangelizing Catholic education for Long Island children.”
The Marianist Brothers have been involved in Catholic education for 200 years. On Long Island they have operated Chaminade High School, Kellenberg Memorial High School, the Brother Joseph C. Fox Latin School and St. Martin de Porres Marianist Elementary School.
The diocese asked Marianist Brother Thomas Cleary, who is the president of Chaminade High School in Mineola, to serve as the initiative’s chief revitalization officer. According to Barres, Cleary will work alongside fellow Marianists and seek feedback and ideas from students, parents, teachers, administrators, priests, parish leaders and community supporters to gain a full spectrum of opinion on what changes are necessary.
“As a religious order dedicated to providing faith-based education, we are committed to a strong and sustainable experience and one that promotes a powerful Catholic culture and identity,” Cleary said. “In the coming year, the Marianists look forward to leading the Morning Star Initiative team on a full review of each Catholic elementary school and making thoughtful recommendations on how they will not only survive, but thrive, in the years ahead.”
According to Barres, the Morning Star Initiative will establish four pillars to renew and transform Catholic education in Long Island elementary schools.
Barres said the pillars are to integrate a robustly Catholic culture, safe and supportive communities, academic excellence and a sense that the schools are here to stay to meet the changing needs of the community.
The initiative will also seek to strengthen the diocese’s Tomorrow’s Hope Foundation, which provides scholarship and program funding for students and schools.
Sean Dolan, director of communications for the diocese, said, “The Morning Star working group will develop an action plan based on site visits to all elementary schools, review of academic, operational and financial data and input from the community.”
The input will be gathered through a series of surveys and working group meetings that have not yet been scheduled, according to Dolan.
“We are in the very early stages of this effort and significant analysis is required to determine what if/any investments are required,” Dolan said. “The source of funding will be determined once we understand the level of investment that is required.”
The diocese said in a news release that it did not intend to close or consolidate any more schools in this school year.