Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program to counter the damaging effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. economy (see FAQ’s at sba.gov – Why are churches eligible for PPP).
The program was designed to help employers pay salaries and benefits to their employees. Congress made the program available to profit and nonprofit employers, including faith-based employers of which the Archdiocese of New York is one.
The program monitors recipients’ use of the loans and the Archdiocese used the money for the intended purpose.
As a result of this aid, the lay people (e.g., secretaries, bookkeepers, maintenance workers, social workers, health aides, etc.) who work for the Catholic parishes, schools and charitable organizations (e.g., Catholic Charities) in Orange County kept their jobs and benefits (e.g., health insurance).
These are people who live and work in Orange County, our neighbors. The schools and organizations they work for serve people of all religious, racial or ethnic backgrounds who are also our neighbors.
In the Archdiocese, 22 schools will not reopen in September, including two regional schools in Orange County, St. Stephen-St. Edward School in Warwick and Sacred Heart School in Monroe.
Regional schools receive funding from the Archdiocese and are not under the control of the pastor of the parish in which they are housed.
The closed schools are schools with small numbers of students compared to tax-supported public schools and the decision to close a school is difficult. Financially, these schools depend on student enrollment and it would seem that increasing the enrollment (the tuition-base that supports the school) is part of the answer.
The decision of the Archdiocese to merge St. Stephen-St. Edward School and Sacred Heart School with St. John School in Goshen makes sense from this perspective. On July 9 and July 13, Fr. Jack Alotta, pastor of St. Stephens, communicated his sorrow at the closing in e-mails sent to all parishioners and school families.
The July 11th protest by school families outside the church during Saturday evening Mass was respectful.
A letter from Casey Yazdani, St. Stephens HSA (Home School Association) President, contains more detailed information about the closing and the school’s financial situation.
This letter and Fr. Alotta’s letter can be accessed at ststephenchurchwarwick.org/updates-st-stephen-st-edward-school.
Very truly yours,
Anne L. Gross