After raising money to stay open, St. Alphonsus eyes another battle ahead
For Jill Moskal, a longtime parishioner at St. Alphonsus Liguori Parish in Prospect Heights, nothing less than the parish's future was at stake with the imminent closing of its school.
"Our parish is a three-legged stool," she said -- the three legs consisting of the school, the parish and the Catholic faith. "We have to train our children as they go forth in this world in the Catholic faith."
Moskal and other parishioners are proud their school will remain open during the 2016-2017 academic year after meeting the enrollment target of 135 students and its fundraising goal of $400,000.
Father Curt Lambert formally made the announcement at Sunday morning Mass, while a letter confirming the good news was shared in the parish bulletin.
Keeping it open beyond the near future will be a challenge, said Jeff Ostrowski, who is involved in the fundraising effort and attested to the critical role of the school in the parish's life,
"Without the kids, you don't have new life coming in. The church would actually die," he said.
Parishioners like Marie Burns of Prospect Heights expressed hope that the publicity surrounding the school's plight will help to attract new families.
But parishioner Paulette Ludvigsen of Prospect Heights, who has been in the parish for 50 years and whose husband was in the first graduating class at St. Alphonsus, was happy for the school but realistic about the challenges ahead. "The school is going to have to take care of itself, because the archdiocese will not loan us any more money. So we're still in dire straits, in my eyes."
At Sunday's service, Lambert expressed gratitude for the support from the school families, the parish community and school alumni.
"The concern, of course, is to continue to build enrollment so we don't have to do this all over again," he said.
For 11-year-old Emmet Suerth, a 5th-grader at the school, notice of the extension was welcome.
"I didn't want to imagine it," he said, referring to thoughts of what life would be like without the school.
His father, Ray Suerth, said the school is "a nice, small, safe community," in which the teachers know all the children, as well as their brothers and sisters.
Ostrowski, whose children went to the school, one of whom is graduating from college with honors, pointed to the children coming in for 8:30 a.m. Mass and the fact that "at 11 o'clock, this place will be filled up with kids."
He said fundraising efforts are ongoing, mentioning a recent Comedy Night and plans for other events, such as an Oktoberfest.