We’d been hearing rumors that St. Paul School at 502 Washington St., in Wellesley would not be opening this Fall. Unable to reach the school during its limited summer hours today, we put a few questions to St. John School in Wellesley Hills, and was redirected to the Archdiocese of Boston. Miraculously, in between the time we did that and the time we started to write up this post, we saw that St. Paul School had posted this announcement on its website.
For 60 years, St. Paul School faculty, staff and administrators have worked in partnership with parents to build a faith-filled Catholic school experience for students in PreK through Grade 8.
Please visit the Catholic Schools Office website for more information on other Catholic schools in the area. We offer our heartfelt gratitude to our St. Paul School families, and to our dedicated teachers, aids, and administrative staff for your commitment to Catholic education.
One parent, Chris Chan, says his and his wife’s twins attended pre-K at St. Paul last year and were going to enter kindergarten at the school this fall. “This abrupt, unexpected announcement in late July has literally made us scramble to find a new school for them.”
Chan described the leadership/management at the school, as well as communication with parents, as “a total mess.” School closure was raised as a possibility in March due to declining enrollment, he said, though after parents responded with $200 deposits per student, they were assured the school would open this fall. Following the departure of the principal and pastor, the new pastor reassured parents the school would open this fall, but then recently sought a $1,500 deposit per child to start school, and parents balked, resulting in the closure announcement, Chan said.
More reaction to the school closing can be found on our Facebook post, where one observer wrote: “The school might have survived another 60 [years] had there been real support from the Archdiocese and permission to conduct a multi-year recruitment drive in surrounding towns. Unfortunately the church just isn’t interested in suburban Catholic schools.”
We’d heard rumors of the school (and the church itself) being vulnerable as far back as two years ago in the wake of Father Fitzgerald being transferred from St. Paul after serving as pastor there for 11 years. The Boston Catholic Insider blog at the time suggested at the time that moves might be afoot to merge the St. John and St. Paul schools.
Beyond the enrollment issue, what else happened? Well, it’s no secret that the two parishes, like many others throughout the Archdiocese of Boston, officially became partners in a Catholic Collaborative as of June. The Collaborative is a grouping of parishes (typically two or three in close proximity to one another) partnered together for the express purpose of evangelization.
For the Collaborative’s goals, and in response to what the church has come to call their four deficits, evangelization is defined as sharing the Gospel with Catholics who have heard the message before “but need to hear it in new ways in order to be able to embrace it.”In other words, to a large degree the Collaborative is a looking within thing, rather than an attempt to convert those who are not already baptized, ready-to-roll Catholics.
The pastoral service and leadership team of Wellesley’s two Catholic churches that was put together to address all aspects of St. Paul’s and St. John’s parishes, including its schools, has been tasked with rounding up the flock to address these four deficits: 1) The Catholic Church doesn’t have enough priests. 2) They don’t have enough trained lay ecclesial ministers (ministers who serve the church but are not ordained). 3) They don’t have enough money. 4) They don’t have enough people coming to Mass.
That last one isn’t just a Catholic guilt trip. In 1970, some 70% of self-identified Catholics went to Mass on a weekly basis. Now, about 16% of self-identified Catholics are at Mass on any given weekend. The shake-up plan is a mission to call the masses back to mass and streamline operations if need be in order to help the faithful embrace the the faith, rather than just identify themselves as Catholic and leaving it at that.
Those four deficits represent a whole lot of harsh reality, and it appears that the leadership of St. Paul’s and St. John’s parishes and schools, faced with a shortage of students, has decided one of the ways to honor the new collaboration is in the form of a shutdown of St. Paul school.
Robin G. White says
I am deeply saddened to hear of the closing of St. Paul’s School. As an alum, I have fond memories of the school and the school community. St. Paul’s provided a strong foundation and desire for learning and of faith. I know this will be a tremendous loss not only for the Catholic community, but for Wellesley as a whole.
R. White, ’75
Though not Catholic, there are other Christian, faith-based private schools in neighboring towns (Ashland, Wayland and Maynard and perhaps others), if you Google for them. St. John’s too, of course. And a new Catholic school in Natick (Benedicts??, I think). There may be others.
How sad for the kids to have to change school — but maybe there are new friends to meet! (trying to offer a positive spin. not trying to offend)
Kelly McPherson says
Oh so sad, what is even sadder is that they are trying to blame the parents. My kids had a wonderful experience there! The former pastor hired a less than qualified principal, then fired her over April break. But ok it’s the parents fault…..right.
Well if you are so inclined I hear great things about St Benedict School in South Natick and if you have been blessed with daughters, try Montrose School for grades 6-12. What a wonderful investment it has been for our daughters. One out of college and working for a professional sports team!
Sarah Barry says
I am saddened to hear of the school’s closing as it is undoubtedly a trying time for all those affected. For those still looking for schools to send their daughters, however, I would highly recommend Montrose School in Medfield. It is a wonderful Catholic school that provides an excellent education. I am a graduate of the school myself and have only positive things to say regarding my experiences there. For more information, go to Montroseschool.org or call 508-359-2423.
Heather Wells says
It is extremely sad that the school is closing after so many years and I feel for the families that have to find a new school for their children with such short notice.
I am the director at the Wellesley Nursery School in the Hills at 207 Washington St. and we would love to help out any of the St. Paul’s families looking for a great school. WNSH has been developing curriculum that is a balance of academic and play based in order to incorporate all types of learners. We have limited space in our Pre-K and Transitional Kindergarten programs and would love the opportunity to show everyone what makes WNSH such a great school.
The demise of SPS was long in coming as over the decades the flow of parents pulling their children out for the same reasons was continually ignored by the longtime principal and two pastors. It had great potential to remain a viable Catholic School with the proper investment and administration.
Essentially, the SPS property is worthless unless packaged along with the parking lot and church. If SP parish brings in more collection monies and donations that does SJ – and SJ school population can fit into SPS – SJS will be relocated to SPS. SJ Parish folks can go up the road to the nearby Newton parish. If Sean O’Malley Real Estate were to sell SPS alone it would accommodate just a few houses – undesirable with a parking lot behind it.(Where will CCD classes then be held?) SJS on the other hand and parish offer huge parcels near a business zone district on a major Rte (16) to Boston via the Mass Pike
Susan Betts says
I was a student at St. Paul’s in the early ’70s before our family moved away from Wellesley. This was a very good school. The problem is obvious. Parents are treated as 2nd-class, and “the Church” is all about saving, making $$. Guess the sex-abuse settlements siphoned off some heavy dough too. Very sad. Parents, send your kids to secular schools. You’ll be glad you did.