Archdiocese Spends Millions On Seminary Library While Closing 23 Schools

It seemed an odd coincidence that the two publications would arrive on the same day. In the morning came the Chicago Tribune with its report on the closing of 23 elementary schools in the archdiocese. The afternoon mail brought the latest issue of the same archdiocese's glossy major seminary magazine about the dedication of the William H. and Lois J. McEssy Theological Resource Center on the Mundelein Seminary grounds some forty miles from Chicago.

"Cold hard numbers sank Immaculate Heart of Mary school," said the Tribune, "just as they sank 22 other Catholic schools set to close in June. In nine years the enrollment fell from 300 to 180 while tuition jumped from $2000 to $3250."

Construction of the resource center, connected by a bridge to the seminary library, lasted twenty months, said the magazine, causing "excitement among the students as they stopped to watch a few moments before heading off to Mass."

The Immaculate Heart "building is so connected to the neighborhood that 85% of the kids and two-thirds of the staff live within walking distance," said the Tribune reporter.

"The limestone accents of the exterior and the top of the windows" of the new building "had to be installed patiently," said The Bridge magazine, "but that fine craftsmanship is what gives the exterior of the building its beauty."

"This class was filled with tears today," said Immaculate Heart's fifth-grade teacher. "It's heartbreaking. This cuts me right to the bone."

The card catalog is now on line, said the magazine, "and one could search on the computer terminals located on each of the floors. Also, thanks to wireless technology, students and faculty could bring their laptops and access the catalog from their workplaces in the library."

A few months ago, Immaculate Heart's parents "proposed buying a repossessed home, rehabilitating it and then selling it to help the school," noted the Tribune story. "The archdiocese blocked the idea."

"The reading room looked so elegant. I was concerned about what a spiral staircase would do," says the Bridge writer. "When I walked in and saw the completed staircase for the first time, I realized that it did add significantly to the room."

"The resources [for schools] remain limited," Cardinal Francis George noted in the Tribune story. "This plan is a responsible way to face the future and to continue educating children here in the archdiocese." The plaque in front of the seminary's resource center, as pictured in the magazine, reads: "May our families grow in faith and be inspired by well trained and compassionate priests."

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