Given the uncertainty of the last year's events at St. Mary School in Platteville, recent news by Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino, Bishop of Madison, will likely provide some relief. In a letter dated Aug. 25 to St. Mary's parishioners and friends of St. Mary School, Morlino guaranteed that the school will be open for the complete 2011-2012 academic year. "It is my hope that this guarantee will provide every assurance to enroll students, so that they may hear the Gospel Word, receive the sacraments, and be formed to have the mind and heart of Christ," Morlino outlined in the letter. "For many years, even until today, individuals have made great sacrifices so that the school might be kept going, and I want to do every last thing that is reasonable on the part of our diocese to be of assistance."
As an indication to that affect, Joseph Hood, principal, indicated he was authorized to hire an assistant principal in the coming days.
The finances of the school have been a concern for more than a year, following the replacement of Monsignor Charles Schluter with Society of Jesus Christ the Priest priests. Society priests are more traditional, favoring how the church operated prior to the second Vatican Council.
"In order to create doubt in St. Mary School, some have said (much to my astonishment) that I have plotted the demise of the parish and its school in my decision to send priests of the Society of Jesus Christ the Priest to minister in Platteville," Morlino wrote in his letter. "Nothing could be further from the truth."
"The year that the Society priests were assigned was one of our most difficult years yet, in terms of the priest shortage," noted Morlino. "The first responsibility of the bishop is to provide priestly services for his people."
Morlino noted his alternatives included curtailed priestly services or sending the Society priests to Platteville. "In sending the Society priests, I was convinced and am convinced that I offered the Platteville community a great gift, because of these priests' prayerfulness, their racing after holiness, their fearless proclamation of the gospel and the authentic teaching of the church in accord with Vatican II, and the wonderful example of community life that they offer, ‘all in one package," said Morlino.
A special meeting was held last year to discuss the future of the school. Ultimately the school was able to operate last year and Morlino has guaranteed the completion of this school year. In the interim, diocese officials, along with school officials will formulate a plan to improve the school finances.
"Sometimes we suffer from rumors and gossip," said Fr. Faustino Ruiz, St. Mary Parish priest. "I encourage people that when they hear something to feel free to come and talk to me."
Ruiz and Fr. John DelPriore, both Society priests, currently serve St. Mary's Parish and St. Augustine's Parish in Platteville. Ruiz came to Platteville in July.
Hood noted the school is fully staffed. The financial issues facing the school have not made it into the classroom, noted Hood.
Hood is hoping to increase enrollment and find new revenue streams. There are currently 85 students in the school, compared to 106 in June.
St. Mary's Parish leases the school building from the Platteville School District. Including this year, the parish has three years left on the lease.
"They hope we will buy it and it is our desire as well," said Hood.
A capital campaign was started in November 2009 to raise money in order to buy the building.
Thus far, $1.5 million has been raised. If all of the pledges are received, the campaign will have about $2 million.