Tonawanda News

January 27, 2014

TUCKER: And the fight goes on


The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Last week, this column went from just a “column” to a “commentary” and rightly so. In that same vein, this week will be a follow up as so many readers emailed, called and stopped me in stores to add their thoughts about St. Francis of Assisi School and its efforts to continue.

• The first was an email from a reader both of our paper and the Buffalo News, who forwarded this quote that was in a story. The person who said it is anonymous, but I share it with you.

“It is no surprise that the three priests interviewed in the article last Sunday about the school closing, schools all closed. They wanted their schools closed. This way it takes the heat off of them and places it on the diocese. I worked in Catholic education for a long time. Great schools, but the games the diocese and priests play are shameful. It is no surprise that only one school in Amherst closed.”

• A high school teacher and alumnus of St. Francis who works in another school district called to say that Catholic education is getting as bad as public education.

“Data, data, data — that’s all they say. But the data should show that St. Francis should remain open. It’s politics, partisan politics and getting worse.”

• Joyce Territo commented that “the church is constantly talking about people leaving the church and etc. Well, no wonder when they do stupid things like this. AND, do you seriously think that people are going to support the church/school that their children do not go to. I doubt it. So, we are probably looking at more closings. I just cannot wrap my head around this whole process. I have no idea what the bishop was thinking.

• Kristen Przybyla at Annunciation School in Elma emailed: “We are in the same situation. Our school has low enrollment from six years ago when the diocese mismanaged a situation with priest/principal and families left. Our new administration was GUARANTEED they would be allowed to stay open as long as enrollment grew. Since then we have grown over 30 percent, lowered our subsidy to the school to below 30 percent (as the diocese requested), upgraded everything they said to, and still we closed! We are financially stable and growing, have a wonderful campus as well. In addition, they closed the OTHER school that was two miles away from us as well. Nearly 300 students displaced between the two schools and the two surrounding us had room for about 100 and there is no more room. ...  (closing) doesn’t make sense, there is no logic. We are going to appeal with the other school that the bishop allow us to merge, but we know there is zero possibility of that happening. This isn’t about schools or children, it’s about money and power.”

•  Doug Smith emailed that Tonawanda United Methodist Church prayed for St. Francis at last Sunday’s service.

• A woman who described herself as an “old senior citizen” asked if I would put in a suggestion that people, instead of giving to Catholic Charities, give to the St. Francis Endowment Fund.”

(I don’t concur with that idea because Catholic Charities provides many needed services and really has no role in this disagreement.)

• Kudos to the North Tonawanda and City of Tonawanda common councils and the Niagara County Legislature for giving such outstanding resolutions on behalf of St. Francis School. I can’t remember when the Twin Cities came together to support such an effort. One woman at the DeGraff Auxiliary tea said she knew that if Betty Hoffman were still mayor, she would have done the same. I agreed.

• Joan Davern, who lives in Williamsville, emailed that she had just read the column about St. Francis closing.

“My five children went to Catholic grammar and high schools. They all graduated from college and are doing very well and are active in their community To not give children and parents this same opportunity is so against any teaching of our Catholic Church. Is everything now based on politics? No Buffalo schools on the closing list? I am very disappointed in our Catholic leadership.”

In closing this week’s commentary a mention must be made of the St. Francis meeting Thursday evening, a wonderful uplifting and faith-filled event. The standing ovation and prolonged clapping and cheering for the parish’s outstanding pastor, Father Mike Uebler, was a sure sign of solidarity and an outpouring of the love and admiration people have for this man. His humble comment that “I would rather be in a pew than preaching” was so true to his nature and left hardly a dry eye in the place.

Mark Saltarelli gave a clear, concise roundup of the happenings. People listened attentively and politely to all his remarks. There were no shout outs, yelling, angry outbursts (probably what the TV stations were hoping for) — just a community of parents, grandparents, alumni, parishioners, legislators and some from schools also on the “close” list all seeking answers from the diocese.

Keep praying that happens.