Just this evening it was announced that another of our Regional Catholic Elementary Schools will not open for the 2014-2015 school year - Saint John the Baptist Regional Catholic School in Scottdale. The reasons are very clear and self explanatory - ever decreasing enrollment (despite drawing from a larger regional area that in years gone by supported five parish Catholic schools), the financial challenge of tuition rates that demand great sacrifices, and the challenging burden on the parishes involved (which will not lessen with the closure of the school, but be directed elsewhere to support Catholic education). Hard work went into promotion and evaluating a program that has proven its worth, and every opportunity was afforded the parents and communities to keep the school alive. Thus the sadness. Saint John the Baptist Regional School has been in existence since 2007, but the original Saint John the Baptist School has been in existence continuously (except for a few years during the depression) since 1889 - and even included a high school program for a number of years. 125 years of Catholic School educational history has come to an end. Again ... thus the sadness ... but also thus the PRIDE!
When you stop to consider the overwhelming good that was accomplished by the dedication and sacrifice of the parish, the priests involved, particularly the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill who committed just shy of 100 years in service at the school, the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh who took up the task, the dedicated and outstanding lay faculty and staff and friends and supporters and volunteers who provided a stellar program of education and development, and in more recent years the leadership of Dr. Joe Dreliszak who has lived the school for the majority of his academic career - the GIFT that Saint John the Baptist school is (both parish and regional) will continue to be remembered and more importantly lived in her alumni and their families. What has been accomplished in an area that years ago was not always welcoming of the Catholic Faith, in a small rural community of immigrants, in a parish that struggled to make ends meet, is remarkable. Our sadness gives way to pride, our loss reminds us of the challenge to the Faith in the future, and our hearts must include deep and abiding gratitude to the Sisters, the faculty and staff, and to all who supported this school for these 125 years.