St. Josephat’s closure would come during a difficult time for Philadelphia’s Catholic education system. Though the school belongs to the Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy, not the Roman Catholic Archdiocese, St. Josphat’s faces similar challenges to those of the archdiocese.
Our Lady of Consolation, a nearby Roman Catholic K-8 elementary school finishing up its final operating year, was one of nearly 50 schools recommended for consolidation or closure by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia this year.
Both parishes began providing worship to specific immigrants. Our Lady offered worship to Italians, while St. Josaphat’s offered worship to Ukrainians. Two other neighborhood Catholic schools - St. Leo's and St. Bernard's - have already shut their doors.
Statistics from the archdiocese
demonstrate a 21 percent enrollment decrease at Consolation between 2006 and 2011. The percent of capacity filled dropped from 91 percent to 63 percent in that same time and Sunday Mass attendance also fell 20 percent
While statistics for St. Josaphat’s were undocumented by the archeparchy, the school has faced similar declines.
“As of the last meeting they had 96 enrolled students for the last year, which is not a good number,” Browning said of St. Josaphat’s. “They’re looking at needing 125 to 130.”
Statistics were the last concern for Izzi, who worried about the future of his child Aidan’s education.
“We called St. Tim’s [in Mayfair] and at first they said they had no room, and then they said they’d make room,” he said. “But then I’m thinking, 'he’s coming out of a class of 16 going into a class of 40.' How’s that going to affect him?”
Aidan, a first-grader at St. Josaphat’s, explained he would be sad to leave the school, but was even more worried that he would end up in public school. Izzi dissuaded these worries, criticizing the local Philadelphia public schools.
“I went to Catholic school and I do believe that Catholic education is the way to go,” Izzi said. “It’s a kid’s only hope of making something of themself.”
Browning encouraged awareness about the school and described St. Josaphat’s as a beacon of hope for those in the community eager for Catholic education.
“We’re not part of the archdiocese but we do follow the same curriculum,” Browning said. “I don’t know what to do other than try to rally the community to help save the school.”
Erin Dungee and Laura Robb are students reporting for Philadelphia Neighborhoods, the publication of Temple University's Multimedia Urban Reporting Lab.