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This September, in the wake of the closure of five Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Boston, the doors of a new all girls Catholic high school, Elizabeth Seton Academy (ESA) in Dorchester, will open.
One of the schools closed last year was Monsignor Ryan Memorial High School (MRM) in Dorchester. A group of 24 MRM alumnae and friends were reluctant to let go of one of the last bastions of female secondary school education in Boston’s inner city.
However, insufficient funding forced the Archdiocese of Boston to issue a statement Feb. 3 announcing that MRM would be one of the schools closing at the end of the school year.
"Rising costs, changing demographics and declining student enrollment at these schools over the past few years contributed to the decision to close these schools," the statement read. "The decision for the closures was made after a long process of consultation with the regional bishop, Catholic Schools Office, advisors, pastors and principals for each school."
The group of alumnae knew that saving MRM was not plausible, instead they focused on opening a new all-female Catholic high school.
As of the end of last month, the group had thus far raised between $250,000 to $300,000 in donations. The new school’s administration and finances will be separate from the archdiocese.
"For nearly a year, our group... has worked tirelessly to continue the mission of MRM so that the young women of the inner city would be able to receive an affordable, quality Catholic education in a single sex environment," read a letter issued by Brenda Mickiewicz, a member of the ESA board of directors.
"We believe that it is absolutely vital to provide the young women of the inner-city with the option of a Catholic education. Without ESA, the girls in Dorchester, South Boston and Roxbury and nearby suburbs would have very limited choices for Catholic education and would need to travel a good distance to a Catholic high school," the letter continued. "ESA will serve to fill the void that was left by the many Catholic school closings over the past 15 years."
On July 18, ESA received the blessing of the Archdiocese of Boston to open as a Catholic school. In its first year ESA, which will be located in the former St. Gregory High School building that closed in 1992, will enroll students in grades nine through 11. The school hopes to have an enrollment of 75 students.
"Our inspiration is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who began her first school in a tiny house in Baltimore with only a few students," the ESA website explains. "She did this against all odds that a Catholic woman of her day could draw enough children to open a school. She also believed that a good education was the key to the door of life and that all had a right of access."