By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

A new Cristo Rey (Christ the King) private Catholic high school will open at the closed Our Lady of Hope (formerly Holy Child) School on North Broad Street in September 2012, it was announced last week. A letter of intent has already been signed to lease the school buildings from the parish.

It will join 24 Cristo Rey schools around the country, based on a model pioneered by Jesuit Father John Foley in Chicago. It will be open to students of all faiths with a focus on educating economically disadvantaged students in a college preparatory program.

Some Cristo Rey schools are operated by the Jesuits, but others are not. The Philadelphia Cristo Rey will be owned and operated by a private non-profit corporation. {{more}}

Although each Cristo Rey school is independent of the others, they follow the same guidelines as other schools in the Cristo Rey network. A key feature of the schools is a combination of a four-day school week and one day working at entry-level clerical positions for a corporation in a professional setting with earnings offsetting much of the tuition.

At this time the organizers of the school are lining up potential employers for the students. The work study is required for all students.

As explained by John R. McConnell, board chairman of St. Joseph’s Preparatory School and one of the organizers of the new school, the plan is to enroll 125 freshmen in 2012, with a class added each year until 2015 when the full 500 will be enrolled over the four high school years.

In addition to tuition and work study, Cristo Rey schools are funded through private benefactors. The immediate goal is to raise $2.5 million this year, and McConnell is confident this can be done.

It is estimated the annual tuition will be a modest $2,200, but after the work study offset, the cost to parents should be about $1,100. According to the organizers, 99 percent of Cristo Rey graduates are accepted into college.

“For me, this has worked successfully in 24 other cities, and our chances of it working here are very good,” he said.

Active in the planning are the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales and the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The Oblates were also involved in the aborted plan for a Cristo Rey at Northeast Catholic, which they conducted through its entire history.

“This is really exciting for people in Philadelphia, especially those families who cannot afford a traditional Catholic education,” said Oblate Father Kevin Nadolski, a member of the planning team.

His congregation still conducts Father Judge High School in Northeast Philadelphia, and he sees this as a way for the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales to strengthen their legacy of Catholic education in the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

“Together with the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, the I.H.M. Sisters are happy to co-endorse a Cristo Rey High School in Philadelphia,” said Sister Lorraine M. McGrew, general superior of the congregation. “The Cristo Rey model includes a college prep curriculum and real-life work experience within a Catholic environment for the poor who would otherwise not have such an opportunity. In a unique way, serving with the abandoned poor resonates with our I.H.M. charism, spirit and commitment. As we move forward, we trust God’s providential care and rely on the prayers of many to bless this endeavor.”

Cristo Rey schools are not established without the consent of the local bishop, and this latest endeavor has diocesan approval.

“The Cristo Rey model has proven successful in 24 locations across the country,” said Mary Rochford, archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools. “We welcome the Cristo Rey Network to the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and believe this model will prove most successful for certain students.”

For more information on the Philadelphia Cristo Rey visit

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