MEMPHIS, Tennessee — NEWS RELEASE FROM IMMACULATE CONCEPTION
Dear Cathedral parishioners:
It is with great sadness that we must announce that grades 9 through 12 of Immaculate Conception Cathedral School will not reopen this fall. The global pandemic has impacted not only our daily lives but has had profound repercussions on the nation’s economy. These financial difficulties have made it impossible for the parish of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to continue to operate the high school portion of our parish school.
As long-time parishioners are undoubtedly aware, our high school grades have had enrollment challenges for a good number of years. Somehow, we have always pulled through. Indeed, we had hope that our recruiting efforts, combined with the availability of Tennessee Educational Savings Accounts, would enable our enrollment to grow in 2020-21. Over these last two months, as the unemployment rate rose and as incomes declined, it became increasingly clear that our hopes were not sustainable. Rather than seeing a growth in our high school enrollment, we were facing another decline.
We have been a diverse school in so many ways – including economic background. So many of our families, who were sacrificing to pay tuition in good times, have found it impossible to make ends meet in these difficult days. Many of those families who were making it through these immediate days were sufficiently unsure about their own financial stability that they were unable to make the commitment to send their daughter to a parochial school this fall. Further, many of our high school students have depended upon financial aid grants from our parish resources. In this pandemic economy, all of those resources have been largely exhausted. In 2018-2019, our parish covered $187,000 of the bills of ICCS (with the majority of that subsidy attributable to the high school grades). In this fiscal year, that unplanned and unbudgeted subsidy has more than doubled. We simply could not continue that level of support.
We want you to know that the decision to close our high school department was not made lightly. In consultation with parish and diocesan leaders (including Bishop David Talley and Superintendent of Catholic Schools Janet Donato), we saw no other feasible economic alternative. The pages of social media will undoubtedly be filled with “if onlys” dating back 50 or more years – if only this pastor had done this, if only that principal had done that. Our goal in this sad and difficult time will not be to focus on looking backward, but simply to care for our students and faculty as best we can, easing their transition in any way possible.
You should know that our students will be offered the opportunity to study at St. Benedict at Auburndale High School, our diocesan high school. Their administration is ready to welcome the IC family into the SBA community. They are anxious to work with our students to enable them to continue their high school career in a safe, nurturing and supportive environment. They want to incorporate some of the IC traditions into their school and will seek to ease the transition as much as possible. It is not the same of course, but the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy will live on to some extent.
High school students first came to our campus in 1922. In various configurations, our school has lasted for 98 years. Since 1950, we have been dedicated to educating young women, offering them a strong Catholic education that would enable them to succeed. All of the other Catholic high schools open in 1922 have closed or relocated. We remained on the IC campus even as many of our students moved away. It is heartbreaking that a school that survived so much would be felled by a pandemic, but we have no doubt that the faith first planted by the Sisters of Mercy so many years ago will continue to blossom in all whose hearts were touched by their years on our campus.
Our Pre-K through 8th grade elementary and middle school will be open in 2020-21 and we hope it will remain open as a beacon of faith in midtown for many years to come.
Please pray for our high school students and faculty in this time of transition.
Sincerely in Christ,
Very Reverend Robert W. Marshall, Jr.
Pastor, Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
Vicar General, Diocese of Memphis
Bishop-elect of Alexandria