By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

St. Joseph School in Collingdale, Delaware County, and Stella Maris School in South Philadelphia may remain open for the 2010-11 school year if registration requirements are met by the month’s end, Cardinal Justin Rigali recently announced.

Meanwhile, parish planning continues in both regions to strengthen Catholic education at the elementary level.

By March 30, St. Joseph School will need to register at least 200 students, pre-kindergarten through eighth grade and Stella Maris School will need to register at least 175 students in those grades.

St. Joseph School, founded in 1916, currently enrolls 229 students, 44 of whom are scheduled to graduate in June.

Five years ago, there were 465 students enrolled at St. Joseph’s; 10 years ago, there were 768 students.

Stella Maris School, founded in 1956, currently has an enrollment of 181 students, 27 of whom are scheduled to graduate in June.

Five years ago, 284 students attended Stella Maris; 10 years ago, there were 327 students.

In early March, families of both parish schools received a letter signed by representatives of their respective parishes and schools and by the archdiocesan superintendent of schools detailing what it would take to sustain the schools for the coming year.

In that letter, parents were instructed to remit a deposit of $250 per child by March 30. The deposit will be spanided: $50 for re-registration and $200 toward tuition for 2010-11.

A final decision on the future of both schools will be rendered in April.

If the enrollment requirements are not met, deposits will be refunded.

On Friday, Feb. 26, Cardinal Justin Rigali announced the retirement, for reasons of health, of Father James E. McVeigh as pastor of St. Joseph Parish and appointed Father Michael J. Reilly as the parish’s parochial administrator.

Father McVeigh, 63, ordained in 1973, had served as pastor of St. Joseph Parish since June 2000.

Father Reilly, 35, ordained in 2001, most recently served as the parochial vicar of SS. Philip and James Parish in Exton, Chester County.

“I’m very happy, blessed and humbled that the Cardinal has entrusted this parish to me,” Father Reilly said.

“I’m looking forward to being their priest, in celebrating the sacraments with them, in working with them and getting to know them in my priestly ministry here at St. Joseph,” he added.

In a previously scheduled pastoral visit to St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale Sunday, Feb. 28, Cardinal Justin Rigali served as principal celebrant and homilist of the noon Mass there.

According to Msgr. George A. Majoros, regional vicar for Delaware County who was a concelebrant at the Mass, the Cardinal reminded the congregation that Lent was a time of great grace for the parish to come together and renew their faith in Jesus Christ and, with that great grace, to face the parish’s challenges.

“The hope is that the good people can rally to bring about and to ensure Catholic education for their children,” said Msgr. Majoros, who also serves as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Secane.

“We join our prayers with the new parochial administrator, and all the good people of St. Joseph, as they work together to meet the challenge of providing Catholic education for the children of their parish,” the vicar added.

Msgr. Kevin C. Lawrence, regional vicar for Philadelphia-South and pastor of St. Malachy Parish in North Philadelphia, said the Stella Maris School study is part of a broader study that began last September for parish elementary schools in the Philadelphia-South vicariate’s Clusters 23, 24 and 32.

The study examines how to provide quality, affordable, accessible and sustainable Catholic education to school children.

Msgr. Lawrence acknowledged the heart and hard work the people of Stella Maris School have demonstrated in providing children a Catholic education throughout the parish’s rich history.

“It will take a lot of heart and hard work to continue offering this opportunity to the children,” he said.

At the same time, “the Archdiocese has a lot of heart and is committed to finding the best possible way to continue to fulfill the mission of Catholic education in parishes with schools in Clusters 23, 24 and 32,” he added.

“The parishioners of Stella Maris are a wonderfully spirited and deeply committed people who want to see the mission of Catholic education continue in their parish community as it has in the past,” Msgr. Lawrence said.

“Recognizing the parishioners’ desire to maintain their school, the Archdiocese certainly supports this good faith effort on the part of the parish.

“However, the Archdiocese is also looking for communities to partner with one another and find innovative ways to develop schools that are deeply grounded in the Catholic faith, are affordable to both the parish and school families they serve, reasonably accessible to all in the community, committed to high academic standards and sustainable well into the future.

“I believe that any effort to accomplish this vision will best serve the children and communities within all our parishes.”

On the web: For a listing of parishes in the clusters noted in this story, visit

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or