The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced this week that seven Catholic grade schools will close at the end of the school year.

Many parishes in the Archdiocese face the same prospects as these schools: too few prospective students live in a given area to keep enrollment at a sustainable level; costs of maintaining a large building, offering staff salaries with benefits and providing competitive educational resources can only be kept so low; as low enrollment fails to keep pace with costs, a parish drains its reserves as it attempts to subsidize the school.

After years of trying to turn enrollment around, a parish finally recommends closing its school. Children may enroll at a nearby Catholic school or begin to attend public school and the parish’s religious education program (PREP).

The parish community and especially parents deserve much credit for valuing Catholic education in both forms. In fact, enrollment in parish schools (54,677 in 2009) is nearly on par with PREP enrollment (51,391 in 2009).

As Catholic school enrollment declines, parents choose PREP because they highly value their own Catholic faith. They want to pass on the Catholic faith both in their home and in the classroom.

The sacrifices of families in either mode of Catholic education speak to the strong faith and commitment of Catholic parents and their parishes to the continuing Catholic formation of children.