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Saint Mary of the Lake School will remain open, regardless of appeal denial

APPEAL, APPEAL, READ ALL ABOUT IT — Saint Mary of the Lake School has appealed the Diocese of Buffalo’s decision to close down the school. The appeal was denied; the advisory board has decided to continue on, and will send the appeal to higher authorities. Photo by Alicia Greco.
The Diocese of Buffalo decided to close 10 Catholic schools in Western New York; Saint Mary of the Lake in Hamburg was one of them, but has moved to appeal.

The petition, filed by school employees Marie Lukasiewsicz, Donald Busha and Paul Stottele, was denied on Jan. 30, after the school received a letter from Bishop Richard Malone.

As Busha said, the school has gone to the “next level” in the effort for an appeal, which will now be sent directly to two branches of the Roman Curia in Rome, Italy: Congregation for Catholic Education and the Congregation for Clergy, and also to the Apostolic Nuncio in Washington, D.C.

St. Mary of the Lake School has yet to receive a report or results of the evaluation that led to the closing, according to the appeal; the school employees said that they consider the issue to be a misunderstanding on Malone’s behalf.

Financially independent from the diocese, the school said that it has “no choice but to appeal the decision of the bishop to the higher authority.”

The school referenced Canon laws 794 and 800 within the appeal, to defend the school’s fight to remain open in Hamburg. These two laws state the church’s “duty and right” to educate and help expand Christian life; pastors’ duty to make this education possible; the church’s right to establish schools and “doing everything possible to help in establishing and maintaining them.”

“The ‘strategic plan’ of the Catholic Education Department of the diocese is not strengthening Catholic education, but rather crippling it,” the appeal reads.

Busha, the president of the school’s advisory board, said that he thinks closing St. Mary of the Lake will be a “huge tragedy.” He said he anticipated the initial denial, but thinks that it is necessary to continue on as if the school will remain open.

St. Mary of the Lake School recently hosted an open house and currently has 90 children registered for the next school year, regardless of the projected closing date.

Closing the school is “opening the door for families to walk away from parishes, rather than embrace them,” Busha said.

The appeal contains polled percentages to back up this claim; 49 percent of respondents have not yet decided to transfer to another Catholic school and 20 percent said that, if St. Mary of the Lake closes, they would additionally leave the parish.

“What’s happening with these families: I think we’re going to lose them,” Busha said.

The appeal specified that St. Mary of the Lake School will remain open. Busha said that he and the school board will stay true to the appeal process, maintain lines of communication with the downtown diocese and continue to appeal.

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