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Unyielding Position Urged On Rebuilding Cathedral High School


A decision on the fate of the only Catholic high school in Springfield, Massachusetts won’t be announced until after the first of the year.  Advocates for rebuilding the historic Cathedral High School, destroyed by a tornado more than three years ago, continue a public campaign.

An estimated 300 people rallied in front of Springfield City Hall just before sunset Tuesday to cap a day of  social networking  and other activities that advocates for Cathedral High School said were intended to demonstrate a broad consensus  for rebuilding the school in the city’s East Forest Park neighborhood where it has been for a half-century.

The downtown rally attracted students, alumni, parents, teachers, neighbors and the city’s top politicians.  People wore purple T-shirts and hoodies and waved “Save Cathedral” signs as a pep band from Springfield Science and Technology High School played (Cathedral does not have a marching band).

Congressman Richard Neal, whose four children attended Cathedral, put on a Cathedral baseball cap and addressed the crowd.

" The thought that Cathedral would not be around for succeeding  generations for all of us is unthinkable," said Neal.  " Stay unyielding to the course of getting that high school rebuilt on the Surrey Road site."

In a moment of drama, Neal and Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno left the rally before it concluded to go to the chancery to meet with Springfield Bishop Mitchell Rozanski.  The private meeting was later described as “cordial” by all parties.

Rozanski, who was installed as bishop in August, touched off a furor last month when he ordered a study to determine Cathedral’s fate.  He seemed to walk back from a pledge made by his predecessor to rebuild the school using funds from FEMA and proceeds from an insurance settlement.

Sarno said the fate of the school hangs like a dark storm cloud over the middle class neighborhood of single family homes the tornado plowed through on June 1, 2011.

" We have nearly rebuilt in every area that was affected by the tornado to make us bigger, better stronger. What is left is Cathedral."

In a statement, a spokesman for the diocese said the show of support for Cathedral demonstrated at the rally was commendable.  The statement said a decision about the school’s future would not be made this month.  The diocese has undertaken a study process that includes meetings with stakeholders in small groups and an online survey.

Al DiLascia, a retired business owner whose two grandchildren attend Cathedral, and who is co-chair of The Committee for Cathedral Action, said they won’t take no for an answer.

"We are not going to accept any decision other than rebuilding a new Cathedral, even if we have to go at it ourselves in some way."

DiLascia said there has been discussion among Cathedral supporters about operating a high school independently of the Springfield diocese. 

Some Cathedral supporters have mentioned the Cristo Rey network of schools, which operate in low- income urban areas as a contingency plan should the diocese decide not to rebuild.

 The diocese has raised concerns about plunging enrollment at Cathedral and the need to build up a scholarship endowment fund.  There are 217 students enrolled in Cathedral, which is holding classes at a former elementary school in Wilbraham.

DiLascia argues enrollment will recover if the school is rebuilt. 

He said Cathedral would draw students form a population base of more than 500,000 in greater Springfield and northwest Connecticut.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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