By Julie M. Daly
“Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Matthew 6:21)
Ask yourself what you want your community to look like for the next generation. Gloucester City would like future generations to have the opportunity to attend the Saint Mary School. They may not get that wish. The biblical passage above is displayed on the website for the school. Let’s see if we can show how true that is.
Some of you may have attended this school as a child. Perhaps you know a child attending now or one who has attended in the past and loved it, like so many before them. The school was founded in 1858. It was the first Catholic school in southern New Jersey. For most residents of Gloucester, it is not just a school. It is a family tradition and a way of life. It has been that way for the last 153 years.
Sadly, on May 20th, students and their parents were given the devastating news that Saint Mary’s will close its doors for the final time at the end of this school year. This is due to a significant budget deficit. The school board and the community are trying to raise at least $250,000 by June 30th to save the school.
My 12-year-old goddaughter and her 10-year-old brother attend Saint Mary’s. They love everything about the school. The teachers, staff and the many friends they have made there are like family. It is the only school they have ever known. They are now faced with the fear of the unknown. The possibility of having to go to a different school, in another town, come September is looking more and more likely.
It would be an unfamiliar place where teachers and staff are complete strangers to the students. The friendships they have made over the years will be severed because there is no guarantee that their friends will be going to the same school in the fall. Kids are resilient but should they really have to endure this during their most formative years of childhood development?
The City of Gloucester is now faced with a crisis that would not only be an emotional hit to this small, tight-knit community but a financial one as well. As with every dilemma Gloucester has encountered, the residents, both past and present, have rallied to show their support. They are planning a prayer vigil at Saint Mary’s School on Monday, June 6th, following the 7PM Novena at St. Mary’s Church. All are welcome to attend the Novena and then proceed to the school where the vigil will take place.
There is also a massive effort to get pledges and donations. This is no small feat as the June 30th deadline is quickly approaching. A meeting is planned to take place on Wednesday, June 8th at Gloucester Catholic High School at 7PM. The meeting will detail the plans in place to assist in this time of need. In addition, an account is currently being established so that donations may be made directly to the Save Saint Mary’s School Fund. Please contact Jamie Hutchinson (member of the school board) at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find information on the “SAVE ST MARY’S SCHOOL IN GLOUCESTER CITY NJ” Facebook page that has been set up to coordinate efforts and distribute information.
We are asking all of you reading this to help us fight this battle. It can be done but we can’t do it alone. No amount is too small. Every little bit will bring us one step closer to attaining our goal. Saint Mary’s needs you. Please help us keep this tradition alive so that generations to come can continue to carry on this legacy. Our hearts are big, but our treasure is not. Your contribution could be the one that evens the score. In the process, you will be teaching the students of Saint Mary’s a few valuable life lessons: working together we can accomplish much more than standing alone and the kindness and generosity of others can save a school, and city, in desperate need.