Erie Diocese unveils first portion of Building in Truth and Love, final plan for Catholic schools

Diocese of Erie

Tuesday, the Diocese of Erie began unveiling Building in Truth and Love, the highly anticipated final plan for Catholic schools throughout the 13-county diocese. The blueprint is part of the most comprehensive pastoral planning effort the diocese has undergone in several decades.

Catholic schools in the diocese will benefit from several key aspects of the plan, including a commitment for the creation of the new position of superintendent of schools. A more focused approach for students in grades six to eight is a priority, increasing academic rigor, emphasizing high school preparedness and ensuring age-appropriate experiences in a range of areas including faith development. The planned release of information for all schools outside of Erie County, originally scheduled for today, was postponed due to inclement weather. School officials are hopeful that meeting can be rescheduled for Thursday. Due to the rescheduling, the first portion of the plan to be released calls for the closing of Venango Catholic High School in Oil City. Cost projections for facility upgrades and low enrollment projections led to the decision to close Venango Catholic High School.

“This decision was among the most difficult of the entire planning process,” said the Most Rev. Lawrence Persico, bishop of Erie. “But the realities we are facing meant we simply would not be able to continue offering the quality education students deserve.” Analysis demonstrated more than one million dollars above operating costs would be needed to keep the school viable in the next several years. There was no evidence that an additional significant investment in marketing and recruitment would provide the results necessary for the school to reach sufficient operational vitality, according to the Catholic Schools Office. Bishop Persico and representatives from the Catholic Schools Office, including Father Nicholas Rouch, vicar for Education, met with faculty and families at Venango Catholic to discuss the decision in person late Tuesday. “Despite a dedicated faculty and strong leadership from Father Shane Mathew, head-master, as well as his predecessor, Father John Malthaner, there are simply too many obstacles working against ongoing viability for VC,” Father Rouch said. “We struggled for months—years actually—looking for options and hoping to find a responsible way to keep the doors open. Now it’s time for the VC community to finish the year with class, to celebrate all they have accomplished and trust in God’s providence for the future.” Venango Catholic High School opened its doors in 1962 because the former St. Joseph High School in Oil City was not large enough to accommodate its 442 students. The school, which has a current enrollment of 67, will remain open until the end of the 2015-16 academic year.


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