By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
MOBILE — Heart of Mary Catholic School, which has impacted the African-American community in Mobile for about 120 years, is beginning this school year with a new operational structure. The school is being operated by a lay-run board of directors and is no longer a parish-based ministry.
“Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic School has a legacy in the City of Mobile that spans almost 120 years. It has served the African-American Catholic community well and still does,” Board of Directors president Jack McNichol said. “But the community that surrounds the school changed and the reality of maintaining it became clear. About two years ago the school was on the verge of closing for good. Several parish leaders reached out to others in the Mobile community in an attempt to find solutions.
“Their effort resulted in numerous marketplace individuals gaining permission from the Archbishop to seek a new management forum for the school; thus the formation of the Most Pure Heart of Mary School Board. This board would assume responsibility for the management of the school, thus relieving the parish of its day-to-day operations.
“The board is seen as a win-win situation for the parish, school and Catholic community. The board is committed to providing solid Catholic education to the community it serves. The successes of the school’s past shine brightly today as a guide post to successes yet to come. This is a tall order that will not be realized unless we all understand our commitment to the community in which we live.”
Q: What does this structure accomplish?
A: It allows members of the business community to become involved in operating and marketing the school in such a way that will provide for the ongoing vitality of this Catholic school.
Q: Is the school the responsibility of the pastor or the Archbishop of Mobile?
A: This is a lay-run ministry. After years of the pastor and archbishop trying to save the school, it is felt that this would be the way for the school to have a bright future. This is a win-win for Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish. It allows for this Catholic school to continue, but in a way that will not be a financial burden to the parish.
Q: How is it hoped this message will be received by the parishioners?
A: It is hoped that parishioners will consider this a win-win. Several parishioners want the school to continue. At the same time, parishioners realize that the school has become an unaffordable financial challenge to the parish. This will allow the school to continue, but without being a financial burden to the parish.
Q: Has this structure ever been tried in the archdiocese?
A: No. This will be the first such arrangement in the Archdiocese of Mobile, although this structure has been used in many other places around the U.S.
Q: Will the school buildings be taken away from Most Pure Heart of Mary Parish?
A: No. The parish continues to own the school buildings and property. It is the day-to-day operations of the school which will now be the responsibility of a school board.
Q: Will Heart of Mary’s School Advisory Council continue?
A: Yes. The School Advisory Council in the past advised the pastor. Now the School Advisory Council will continue its important role and will advise the school board.
Q: Will it still be Catholic?
A: It will still be Catholic. There’s a commitment on the part of the members of the board to maintain the strong Catholic identity of the school.
Q: Will the school still be involved in Archdiocese of Mobile school activities?
A: This school remains a part of the Catholic school family of the Archdiocese of Mobile.
Q: Who hires the principal?
A: The board hires the principal. The principal reports to the board.
Q: Will the pastor be involved with the school?
A: Yes. The pastor plans to continue to celebrate Masses for the students, to visit classrooms and to attend board members.
Q: Will parish activities still be allowed in school buildings?
By ROB HERBST