At approximately 4:45PM on May 12th, the bells of St. Paul’s church joyfully rang out the good news. The petition of the parish and community to allow St. Paul – Our Lady of Vilna School to remain open was granted. The announcement was made by the superintendent of Catholic Schools, Dr. Nicholas Wolsonovich. This ended after three months of intensive work.
On February 22nd, St. Paul’s administrator, Father Jose Marino Novoa, Father Richard Todd, associate pastor, and the school principal, Ms. Susan Dzikas, were notified that St. Paul – Our Lady of Vilna school would be required to merge with St. Ann’s School. The main reasons were finances and the age of St. Paul’s 1892 school building. The archdiocese could no longer afford to subsidize the school as it so generously did to the amount of over $200,000 yearly. The solution was to merge.
The parishioners, parents of the students and business community objected. It would have a negative effect on the community and pastoral work. Meetings with the archdiocese were requested and granted. A serious dialogue began. The archdiocese set four criteria based on what makes a school viable and self supporting. If the criteria were met, they would consider a reversal of their decision.
Parish committees began to work on the criteria with the help of Pilsen Neighbors. Soon 230 students were registered. A one week fund drive began during the Sunday Masses and $30,000 was collected. Our alderman, Daniel Solis, stepped in to help. Parishioners and the business community collected $104,000 in a week. Mota Construction made a study of the stairwells and presented a plan. A strategy was prepared with the help of Pilsen Neighbors for a future executive board to assist the school to secure funding in future years. The challenges given by the archdiocese were met and ready.
All this was presented at a meeting on April 28th to the pleasant surprise of archdiocesan representatives. The parish demonstrated leadership and unity. Archdiocesan engineers reviewed the construction study. Drawings would be made to assure proper compliance with city code. The representatives of the parish left the meeting in an atmosphere of great hope. This is what they shared when they met the parents and children of the school who held a prayer procession outside of the offices of the Archdiocese during the meeting.
On May 12th, the Office of Schools called to meet with the parish administrator, principal and representatives of the parish. The answer was given. The school would remain open. The parish celebrated this with great joy! We can continue our ministry with the children.