MATTOON (JG-TC) -- Immaculate Conception Church has asked the region's bishop for permission to close the Mattoon parish's school, St. Mary School, due to declining enrollment.
The Rev. John Titus, pastor of Immaculate Conception Church, wrote to Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, bishop of Springfield-in-Illinois, on Wednesday to ask for permission to close St. Mary, 2000 Richmond Ave. Titus said, via email Monday morning, that he shared this letter with Immaculate Conception's parish over the weekend and had this letter printed in the parish bulletin. He emphasized that no decision is official until it has been approved by the bishop.
Titus states in the letter that, "Last month I wrote to the parish to explain where we stood in regards to enrollment for St. Mary School for the 2018-2019 school year.
"At that time, we had 44 students registered for the new year (pre-K through fifth grade). After our continuing efforts to share the good news about the mission of our parish school, including a pre-school open house this past Tuesday evening (attended by no potential school families), our enrollment number remains at 44.
"Based on these numbers, I do not feel it would be fiscally responsible to continue the operation of our school. The trend of decreasing enrollment over the last several years continues, and parish census and community demographics do not point to a realistic hope of a growing number of potential students.
"In justice to our school families, faculty, and staff, I believe the decision to close the school at the end of the current year needs to be made now. After consultation with the school board and pastoral council, I have accepted the recommendation of our parish finance council to do so."
The Catholic church has operated the school in the community for more than 150 years.
This story will be updated.