Bishop Matthew Clark has decided that 13 of the 24 Catholic elementary schools in Monroe County must close. Since he obstinately refuses to release any of the data used to arrive at that decision, one is left to wonder just what factors were considered and how much weight each received.
One factor that seems to have received little weight is the role that Catholic Elementary Schools play in shaping vocations.
A few years ago the USCCB and Our Sunday Visitor joined efforts to sponsor a survey of recently ordained priests. The survey was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University and the results may be found here. Over 2,100 priests participated, giving the results a very low margin of error.
Question 46 (click on the Codebook tab and scroll down) asked if the priest attended a Catholic elementary school. Almost two-thirds (66.4%) answered yes. The next question asked about attendance at a Catholic high school. Just over half (51.4%) responded in the affirmative.
Whether or not a young man attends a Catholic high school seems to play no role in his becoming a priest. Attendance at a Catholic elementary school, however, plays a huge role in nurturing his vocation.
Since the Diocese of Rochester assumed control of all Monroe County Catholic schools, policy blunders and other mismanagement have driven thousands of children from a system that should serve as the incubator for the vast majority of our vocations. Now our bishop assures us that closing another 13 schools and packing the remaining 11 with as many children as will fit is the only way to save what's left.
I sure wish he had some credibility on this issue.