By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

DELAWARE COUNTY – At the request of the pastors and with the permission of Cardinal Justin Rigali, Delaware County’s Cluster 64 and Cluster 65 parishes are undergoing a review of the state of Catholic education through elementary schools and religious education programs in their area.

Cluster 64 includes Sacred Heart, Clifton Heights; St. Joseph, Collingdale; St. George, Glenolden; St. Gabriel, Norwood; St. Eugene, Primos; Our Lady of Fatima, Secane; and Holy Spirit, Sharon Hill.

Cluster 65 includes St. Rose of Lima, Eddystone; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, Essington; Our Lady of Peace, Milmont Park; Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Morton; St. Madeline, Ridley Park; and Notre Dame de Lourdes, Swarthmore.

The combined parochial school enrollment within the two clusters declined from 2,741 in the 2003 school year to 1,986 in the 2008-9 school year, or more than 27 percent. There were 412 infant baptisms in the clusters in 2008 against 559 in 2003, down considerably from the approximate 900 baptisms in the early 1990s.

The two clusters set pastoral plans in 1999 and 2003, which did not address Catholic education.

“There was nothing mentioned about parish elementary schools and parish religious education programs,” said Father George P. Majoros, Regional Vicar for Delaware County. “Bishop (Joseph R.) Cistone, who is the Regional Bishop, and I met with the pastors and began to look at the issue because we realized school enrollments and infant baptisms were down.”

Each parish has formed a review committee, with some members forming a cluster steering committee which will meet for the first time this June.

The stated goal is to develop a plan which will ensure in the best way possible, “excellent, accessible, affordable and sustainable Catholic elementary education for future generations” within that part of Delaware County for both the immediate and long-term future.

The review will entail a broad consultation process involving all of the parish and school communities, and the steering committee will issue regular communiqués to publicize progress.

At the conclusion of the consultation process the steering committee will present a recommendation to Cardinal Rigali regarding both elementary schools and religious education programs. The report is expected to be completed later this year.

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.