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Archdiocese to retain Brighton school to house Tribunal

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BRIGHTON ­— Despite a proposal from parents to buy the closing Our Lady of the Presentation School in Brighton, the Archdiocese of Boston announced that the building would house the Metropolitan Tribunal next year. The archdiocese has also announced the closure of another school in Methuen.

The archdiocese never planned to sell the school, which is scheduled to close in June of this year, but parents offered to buy the building.

In June 2004, the archdiocese agreed to sell the current Tribunal building, located on Lake Street in Brighton, to Boston College in June 2006. The agreement to sell the building, which also houses the Office of Religious Education, was reached last year when the archdiocese sold 43 acres of its Brighton campus, including several buildings, for $99.4 million. The Tribunal and surrounding land will be sold for an additional $8 million.

Archbishop Seán P. O’Mal-ley desired the new Tribunal building to be “close to chancery, centrally located in the archdiocese and accessible by both automobile and public transportation,” according to a statement released by the archdiocese Jan. 18.

“Our Lady of the Presentation School fits all of these criteria,” the statement added.

In the archdiocesan release, Father Mark A. Mahoney, JCL, judicial vicar for the archdiocese, expressed appreciation for the announcement and said, “I am grateful to Archbishop Seán in making provision that the important ministry of the Tribunal may continue in a central and accessible location and understanding the sensitive needs of those whom we serve as the ecclesiastical court of the archdiocese.”

“The decision to close Our Lady of the Presentation School was made after thorough consideration of the future viability of the school in light of enrollment declines, rising operating costs and increased deficits,” the statement continued.

The school was originally set to close at the end of the last academic year, but the archbishop extended closing by a year “in response to the parents’ request for additional time to find suitable placements for their children,” the statement said. “This closing extension was made possible by the generosity and commitment of Secretary of State William Galvin who provided access to funding that could be applied to shortfalls in operating expenses for the current academic year.”

Galvin said in a phone interview with The Pilot on Jan. 12 that he finds the refusal of the parents’ proposal “unfortunate.”

The archdiocese “is putting real estate ahead of educating children,” he added. “I think there are better solutions than this.”

The parents accepted that the archdiocese was in financial need and made a reasonable offer that would keep the building for use in the community, a community that has supported the archdiocese for over 100 years, he said.

Galvin voiced concerns about whether the building was a good fit, saying the school is much larger than the building that currently houses the Tribunal. He also questioned the archdiocese’s desire to find a building close to the chancery, considering the diminishing presence in Brighton since the sales to BC.

Many parents of students who attend the school vowed, before the archdiocese announced its plans for the building, to fight the rejection of their proposal to buy the school and keep it open. They held a vigil on Oak Square Common Jan. 17 to protest the archbishop’s decision.

“They don’t listen to lay people,” William Muti, whose 5-year-old daughter attends the school, told the Associated Press. “They just want us to follow them blindly like the flock of sheep they expect us to be. They don’t care about us.”

A call to the school on Jan. 19 was not immediately returned.

The archdiocesan statement stressed that archdiocesan officials are working with the school to ease the transition by assessing the availability at seven neighboring Catholic schools and helping faculty and staff secure employment at other Catholic schools.

Our Lady of the Presentation Parish closed on Aug. 30, 2004.

Only one other Catholic school, St. Peter Elementary School in South Boston, closed due to reconfiguration. The school closed in June of last year, and the parish closed three months later.

In a separate announcement, the archdiocese also said Jan. 18 that Our Lady of Mount Carmel School in Methuen would also close at the end of the academic year. The closure was recommended by the school’s advisory board, the statement said.

 This closure is not related to the wider reconfiguration process, said Molly Horton, a spokesperson for the archdiocese.

“The school continues to be under-enrolled and has been unable to raise additional funds to support rising operation costs,” Guy Berube, chair of the school’s board, said in the statement. “Despite our best efforts, Our Lady of Mount Carmel School will be unable to continue operating beyond June 2005.”

Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish was closed in June 2000.

AP materials contributed to this report

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