Swansong for St. Martin of Tours, the Bronx

On Friday, the New York Times ran a feature article on St. Martin of Tours, a Bronx elementary school that closed the previous Wednesday after a run of 86 years. In the words of the Times, St. Martin’s had survived “gang fights, racial unrest and crack wars,” and “helped generations of immigrant children become Americans” and propelled “Latino and African-American children into the middle class after the tumult of the 1960s, when drastic changes washed over both the church and urban America.”

If the schoo’s history is impressive, its numbers are anything but. This year, it is expected to run $397,000 in the red — a high figure considering only 104 students attend. In this, St. Martin’s is anything but unusual. This past January, the Archdiocese of New York produced a list of 32 at-risk schools, including St. Martin’s, and asked the schools to submit plans for restoring their long-term viability. The plans of four schools were accepted; the other schools will close on schedule, and the diocesan subsidy of $13 million will be distributed among the remaining schools. It amounts to a financial triage system — a diversion of care from the hopeless cases to those whose survival is merely dubious.

The author of the Times article is David Gonzalez, a graduate of St. Martin’s. Though he doesn’t make himself a major character in the story, he appears just long enough to tell us: he attended the school’s last graduation ceremony “to fulfill a final work fo mercy: to bury the dead.”

It’s a powerful, sad and very relevant story, touching on diocesan budgets, as well as declines in parochial school enrollment and religious vocations. read the rest here:

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