From The Record in Northern New Jersey comes this lengthy look at why Catholic schools are closing, and the impact on communities:
And nationwide, nearly 150 Catholic schools will close this year, a troubling trend for the church in America. The effects ripple through communities as schools and the parishes that support them lose members.
For example, Paterson Catholic High School closed three years ago, buckling under the pressures of declining enrollment and a weak economy. Its closure was one of many in the Paterson Diocese, which since 1999 has shuttered schools across Passaic, Morris and Sussex counties.
“Paterson Catholic had become part of the community, and had a major impact on this city,” said Assemblyman and former Paterson Councilman Benjie Wimberly, who used to coach football at Paterson Catholic, once one of the region’s largest Catholic high schools. “You can’t replace that.”
In the Archdiocese of Newark, which oversees Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Union counties, there are now 104 Catholic schools, compared with 176 in 2000.
Several challenges facing the church, in addition to a faltering economy, help to explain why so many schools are closing. Society is more secularized and there is a decline in the churchgoing population. The priest sex abuse scandal has kept the church in the news — and in court — for many years. And there have been demographic shifts in America’s Catholic landscape, including immigrants who are Catholic but who do not put a priority on a Catholic education.
“Fewer and fewer people are going to church now,” said Jim Goodness, spokesman for the Newark Archdiocese, “and fewer and fewer parents are sending their children to Catholic schools.”