St. Louis School in Englewood to close

Archbishop Aquila: 'We can't forget the rich history of this school'

At Masses this weekend Father Robert Reycraft, pastor of St. Louis Catholic Parish in Englewood, will announce the decision to close St. Louis School at the end of the 2015-2016 school year.

Father Reycraft made the decision together with the Catholic Schools Office and Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila.

In a letter written to the parish and school communities, Archbishop Samuel Aquila stated that the decision was a difficult one, but that “after reviewing enrollment and demographic trends, parishes and schools that are nearby, your parish and school finances and other data to assess the viability of the school, I fully believe that this is the best decision for the parish.”

“It is with sadness that this will be the last school year for St. Louis School,” Father Reycraft stated. “I thank the parents who dedicated so much of themselves to our school. I thank Mrs. Hagen, Principal, who worked tirelessly over decades in devotion to the school. I thank the parishioners of St. Louis Parish who supported school activities and all of our many benefactors including the Archdiocese of Denver. I thank all of the teachers and support staff throughout the years.”

The pastor pointed to low enrollment mixed with rising costs as factors that “have brought us to a point where we cannot meet our obligations to continue.”

“St. Louis School has contributed much to the lives of students and their families since 1929,” he continued. “We are all grateful for that.”

St. Louis Catholic School has been impacted by several factors, not unlike hundreds of schools across the country that have had to close. The primary factors affecting the school’s lack of viability are changing demographics, which has led to shortfalls in enrollment and the resources necessary for sustainability.

“St. Louis Catholic School is a hidden gem,” said Principal Pattie Hagen, “but we have not been able to recruit significant enrollment. The small class sizes are a double edged sword in that the scholars receive differentiated instruction however financial it is not a viable reality to sustain.”

The last 15 years have been a time of declining enrollment for St. Louis. Enrollment has dropped to its lowest count with less than 80 students. Additionally, per-student costs have risen to over $11,000, requiring St. Louis Parish to substantially subsidize school operations, which is an unsustainable situation for the parish.

Despite every effort to build enrollment, including the diligent work of the School Advisory Council, make tuition affordable, and raise funds through the support of several generous donors, the recurring and on-going struggle to make the school viable has taken its toll.

“Father Reycraft, the parish, parents and our benefactors have donated much to help us continue our educational  mission but we can no longer ask for such a sacrifice from these parties,” said Hagen.

“St. Louis Catholic School has changed the lives of countless people in south central Denver since its founding in 1929, thanks in no small part to the sacrifice and hard work of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, as well as the laity that have staffed the school since 1973,” wrote Archbishop Aquila. “We can’t forget the rich history of this school, and the thousands of children who have passed through its doors.”

To read the letter Archbishop Aquila sent to St. Louis Parish, click here:

To read the FAQs sheet on St. Louis School, click here:

COMING UP: Care for Her Act: A common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies

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The pro-life community is often accused of only being pro-birth; however, a congressman from Nebraska is seeking to not only bring more visibility to the countless organizations which provide care for women experiencing crisis pregnancies through birth and beyond, but to also imitate that care at the federal level and enshrine it into law.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R), who serves the first congressional district in Nebraska, is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill that’s been in the works since last year. The overall goal of the bill is to “[commit] to care for that journey of life through a complementary set of services whereby the government makes a decided choice on behalf of the life of the unborn child and meeting the needs of the expectant mother,” Rep. Fortenberry told the Denver Catholic.

The Care For Act seeks to accomplish this through four basic provisions: A $3,600 tax credit for unborn children which would apply retroactively after the child is born, in addition to the existing tax credit for children; a comprehensive assessment and cataloguing of the programs and resources that are available to expectant mothers; providing federal grants to advance maternal housing, job training mentorships and other educational opportunities for expectant mothers; and lastly, offering financial incentives to communities that improve maternal and child health outcomes.

The Biden Administration recently indicated that they’ll be removing the Hyde Amendment in next year’s budget, which has historically been in place to prohibit pubic funds from going to abortions. The Care for Her Act would circumvent this to some degree, and it would also test whether Rep. Fortenberry’s dissenting colleagues who have in the past expressed that women should be cared for throughout their pregnancies and beyond are willing to stand by their words.

While the conversation around pregnancy and women’s health often centers around abortion, Rep. Fortenberry intentionally crafted the Care for Her Act to not be against abortion, per se, but rather for women and their babies.

“Abortion has caused such a deep wound in the soul of America,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “However, the flip side of this is not only what we are against, because it is so harmful, but what are we for? So many wonderful people throughout this country carry the burden of trying to be with women in that vulnerable moment where there is an unexpected pregnancy and show them the gift of what is possible for that child and for that woman. Let’s do that with government policy as well.”

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry (R) of Nebraska is expected to introduce the Care for Her Act to Congress soon, a bill which seeks to provide a community of care for women facing an unexpected pregnancy. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives)

Even The Washington Post has taken notice of the Care for Her Act. Earlier this year, Rep. Fortenberry introduced the idea to his constituents, and as to be expected, he received mixed feedback. Those who are pro-life were supportive of the idea, while those who support abortions were more apprehensive. Still others shared consternation about what the government ought to or ought not to do, expressing concern about what the Care for Her Act seeks to do.

“My response is, if we’re going to spend money, what is the most important thing? And in my mind, this is it,” Rep. Fortenberry said.

However, he was very encouraged by one response in particular, which for him really illustrates why this bill is so important and needed.

“One woman wrote me and said, ‘Jeff, I had an abortion when I was young. But if I had this complement of services and commitment of community around me, I would have made another decision,'” Rep. Fortenberry recalled. “And I said ‘yes.’ That’s why we are doing this. For her.”

So far, Rep. Fortenberry has been able to usher support from a number of women representatives on his side of the aisle. He is hopeful, though, that support could come from all sides of the political spectrum.

“Is it possible this could be bipartisan? I would certainly hope so, because it should transcend a political divide,” he explained. “We, of course, stand against abortion because it is so detrimental to women and obviously the unborn child. At the same time though, I think that others could join us who maybe don’t have the fullness of our perspective, who want to see the government actually make a choice on behalf of protecting that unborn life.”

Amidst the politically polarizing discussions about pregnancy and unborn life, the Care for Her act is a common-sense approach to caring for women and their babies. It offers women facing an unexpected pregnancy the chance to experience hope in a seemingly hopeless situation and make a life-giving decision for both herself and her child.

“I’m excited by this,” Rep. Fortenberry said. “I think it opens a whole new set of imaginative possibilities for America, a transformative ideal that again makes this moment of vulnerability when there is an unexpected pregnancy, our chance, our commitment as a community of care.”