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Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki

Bishop of Springfield-in-Illinois

April 11, A.D. 2018

Dear Bishop Paprocki,

I am writing to ask your permission to close our parish school, St. Mary School. The parish school of Immaculate Conception parish in Mattoon, Illinois.

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 forty-four students registered for the new year (pre-K through 5th 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 forty-four.

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 happiest hours of the last 29 years of my priesthood have been spent in the classrooms of Catholic schools around our diocese. Parochial school education has been at the heart of the mission of Immaculate Conception parish from our first days. This is not a decision that has been made lightly or with any sense of satisfaction. I believe it is a decision that has been made collectively by many families and individuals over the course of the last several years.

And now we must choose to move forward.

Next Saturday night, April 21st, is our Bright Beginnings for Promising Tomorrows dinner intended as a fundraiser for St. Mary School. As always many people have worked hard for and are supporting its success. Funds raised will continue to support the financial needs of our school which includes our financial commitment to our faculty and staff. All funds will be used for the Catholic education of our young people.

Although the Promising Tomorrows will look a bit different than those we initially hoped for I believe that they are ours to be had. Prudent stewardship of our spiritual, human, physical, and financial resources will lead us to a future that God has already imagined. I believe we can and must commit ourselves to the ongoing faith formation of our families, our youth, young adults, and community members of all ages.

As our St. Mary School students can tell us: God made us to know him, to love him, and to serve him. Together we can continue to fulfill this mission and continue to strive to become the Saints God made us to be.

With gratitude and prayers,

Rev John M. Titus



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