The Archdiocese’s Blue Ribbon Commission is the Bain Capital of Catholicism

Closing Bonner and Prendie proves the Commission's members care more about money than families.

Miracles come at a cost these days—one million dollars to be exact—and that’s just a down payment. Rev. James Olson, the president of Archbishop Prendergast and Monsignor Bonner High Schools is hoping to have at least that much in his pocket when he tries to convince the Archdiocese to reverse its decision to close the schools. Right now he is substantially short of his wishes with $300,000 in donations. He is meeting with Philadelphia Archdiocese Archbishop Charles Chaput today to discuss if it is even worth going through with an appeal.

[UPDATE: Delco’s Daily Times reports that, after meeting with Archbishop Chaput, Olson will go forward with an appeal.]

Prendergast and Bonner sit within yards of each other on top of Drexel Hill in Delaware County. Since the announcement that the schools were on the hit list put together by the Archdiocese’s Blue Ribbon Commission, there have been masses, prayer vigils and rallies to save the schools. The passion and prayers of the students and alumni have been inspiring. I am an alumni of Bonner and I experienced the same emptiness as the rest of the community when my high school was forced into hospice.

But passion and prayers of the community mean little to the Blue Ribbon Commission, whose members acted less Catholic and more corporate when making decisions that impact the future of 49 schools and thousands of children. Like Wall Street efficiency experts, they studied the cold, hard numbers of enrollment, tuition and projections to make their list. They are the Bain Capital of Catholicism.

In its cold calculations the Commission left children in a large section of the Archdiocese without the opportunity to choose a Catholic high school experience. By announcing the closing of the two Drexel Hill schools and West Catholic at 45th and Chestnut in West Philadelphia, thousands of poor and middle-class children who saw Catholic education as their only alternative to inferior and sometimes dangerous public schools are left without options. The Archdiocesan recommendation is for those less fortunate children to now make their way to the richer areas, where the Catholic schools will remain open, creating more of a hardship for those children and their families.

The obvious solution is to merge all-boys Monsignor Bonner and all-girls Archbishop Prendergast into one co-educational high school. The trolley from the 69th Street Terminal offers an easy commute for West Catholic students and would drop students right at the doorstep of the newly merged school.

Still, Rev. Olsen knows that it will take more than common sense to convince the Blue Ribbon bean-counters. It is “show me the money” time and the good father just doesn’t have enough. It would take a commitment of $5 million over 10 years to seal the deal. There are more fundraisers planned, but big corporate money is what’s needed and that just doesn’t happen overnight.

We should know today if the schools will even go through with an appeal next week or will decide on a more humane decision to not resuscitate and allow the schools to close on June 6th. Rev. Olsen does not want to torment the students, parents and alumni with a long, drawn-out process.

In the meantime, the school has set up an online donation page. If the schools close, all donations will be refunded minus a one percent administration fee.

I would also suggest praying. The Blue Ribboners may not listen. But a higher power just might.