St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Constance, St. Viator, Pope Francis schools would stay open under initial RMC recommendations, although final decision not until Christmas
By BRIAN NADIG
Merger plans for seven Catholic parishes in the Jefferson Park, Portage Park and Old Irving Park communities may not be finalized until Christmas, but it appears that Saint Constance School, Saint Robert Bellarmine School, Saint Viator School and Pope Francis Global Academy, which is located on the Saint Pascal Parish campus, appear likely to remain open under initial recommendations.
Decisions were expected by mid-November under the Archdiocese of Chicago’s “Renew My Church” consolidation process, but additional discussions are needed now that the Saint Bartholomew Parish is being moving into a different consolidation grouping. Saint Bartholomew, which holds a Spanish Mass, could be merging with Our Lady of Victory and/or Saint Pascal parishes in an effort to maintain or expand the archdiocese’s reach to the Hispanic communities on the Far Northwest Side.
According to the archdiocese, the consolidation scenarios for additional consideration include: (1) Saint Pascal, Our Lady of Victory and Saint Bartholomew uniting as one parish, with Saint Constance and Saint Robert Bellarmine as a second parish, and (2) Saint Pascal and Saint Bartholomew uniting as one parish, with Our Lady of Victory, Saint Constance and Saint Robert Bellarmine uniting as a parish. It is not clear which, if any, church buildings would be closing under these scenarios.
Additionally, the archdiocese’s Renew y Church Commission expressed significant concerns about the manageability of Saint Bartholomew, Saint Viator and Saint Wenceslaus all uniting as one parish while continuing to extend its reach for Hispanic ministry to the west. After reviewing the grouping’s feedback and data, the commission recommended that Saint Viator and Saint Wenceslaus uniting as one parish and Saint Bartholomew uniting to a new parish scenario west/northwest offers a more fruitful future.
“What to expect next: Saint Bartholomew, Saint Constance, Our Lady of Victory, Saint. Pascal and Saint Robert Bellarmine will engage in additional discernment meetings, targeting a full and final decision before Christmas.
“Saint Viator and Saint Wenceslaus: While Cardinal Cupich has not yet made a formal decision, he has indicated support for moving in the direction of Saint Viator and Saint Wenceslaus uniting as one parish. While awaiting a formal decision, leadership of the two parishes are encouraged to pray together and continue building relationships as best as possible given the restrictions on gatherings currently in place,” the archdiocese said in a statement.
The original parish consolidation groupings had Our Lady of the Victory, Saint Pascal, Saint Robert Bellarmine and Saint Constance together, while the other grouping consisted of Saint Bartholomew, Saint Viator and Saint Wenceslaus. Saint Bartholomew is now being moved to the other grouping.
On the issue of schools, the archdiocese said the following:
“Based on the current and potential enrollment of Pope Francis Global Academy, Saint Robert Bellarmine School and Saint Viator School, the RMC Executive Committee does not see a need to reconfigure their school programs and recommends they continue in their current programs and campuses. Each school will be the parish-governed school of its final parish configuration.
“Based on dedicated financial support, Saint Constance School also is not recommended for structural change. This will remain dependent on ongoing donor financial support. St. Constance School will shift to a new governance structure rather than being parish-governed to avoid having one pastor administrate two schools. The pastor and parish will still provide the school pastoral and Catholic identity support.
“Due to enrollment and financial concerns, the Office of Catholic Schools will work with Saint Bartholomew School leadership to review if there is a financially viable path forward in 2021-22 and beyond and what its administrative governance structure would be in relation to a new parish structure.”
Last year the archdiocese merged Saint Thecla, Saint Tarcissus and Saint Cornelius into the new Saint Elizabeth of the Trinity Parish, which is based on the former Saint Tarcissus campus near Milwaukee and Ardmore avenues.
The archdiocese has been consolidating parishes in part due to declining attendance at Mass, reduced school enrollment and a shortage of priests.