In January, the Archdiocesan Blue Ribbon Commission made numerous recommendations regarding the closure and merging of parochial schools throughout the five-county area.

Although some recommendations were appealed, re-examined and overturned, many students, parents, teachers and administrators face the next academic year with mixed emotions. But many look forward to creating stronger schools by combining the resources of existing schools, and students are leading the way.

In 1993, due to declining enrollment, the parish schools of St. Madeline in Ridley Park and St. Rose of Lima in Eddystone were merged at St. Madeline School to form St. Madeline-St. Rose School. They are about to become part of yet another merger as nearby St. Gabriel School in Norwood will join them to form St. James Regional Catholic School, set to open in September at the location of St. Madeline-St. Rose.

Patricia Kaeser, who currently is principal of Conshohocken Regional Catholic School, has been appointed the first principal of St. James Regional and is looking forward to the new school year.

Students of the partnering schools are also enthusiastic about their new school, and they are ready for the challenges that await them. Bridget Durning and Ryan Tait, seventh-grade students at St. Madeline-St. Rose, shared their anticipation. “I look forward to being connected to my father’s alumni and being the first Durning girl to graduate from St. James,” Durning said. Tait added, “I am looking forward to meeting new friends and teachers, and am also excited about the new school colors and mascot.”

At St. Gabriel School, while there is sadness that their school building is closing, there is still enthusiasm. “I hope they have a track team there so I can be a runner like my dad was when he went to St. James High School,” said St. Gabriel third-grade student Mia Baroni. Fellow third graders Ryan Butler and Patrick Eisenfelder both expressed hope for a positive learning experience while meeting new teachers and friends.

Meanwhile, another recommended merger will bring together St. Stanislaus School in Lansdale, St. Rose of Lima School in North Wales, and St. Maria Goretti School in Hatfield at the location of St. Stanislaus School. The new name will be Mater Dei (Latin for “Mother of God”) Catholic School and Diane McCaughan, principal of St. Stanislaus, has been appointed as the first principal.

“It is an honor and a privilege to be the first principal of Mater Dei, and it is my hope that the partnership between St. Stanislaus, St. Rose of Lima and St. Maria Goretti parishes will create a strong, quality, faith-based educational program so that the powerful legacy of Catholic education will continue to serve our children for generations to come,” McCaughan said.

Msgr. Joseph A. Tracy, pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish, said, “Keeping all current names in a new title was awkward, and we feel that the new name (Mater Dei) offers students, faculty and parishioners the chance to start off fresh under Mary’s mantle.”

Just like future students of St. James Regional in Ridley Park, students who will attend Mater Dei Catholic School in Lansdale see a promising future in their education.

“I am excited and would like to thank my mom and dad for choosing Mater Dei Catholic School for my brothers and me,” said Spencer Ward, a third-grade student at St. Stanislaus. “Mater Dei Catholic School rocks, and our new uniform is going to look cool!”

The new school will be committed to maintaining the traditions, customs and annual events of the partnering schools as well as creating new ones.

“I think going to Mater Dei will be a fun educational experience, and I hope to help shape the school’s future as a proud member of the first graduating class,” said Daniel Adams, a seventh grader at St. Maria Goretti.

Matthew McDonald, a fifth-grade student at St. Rose of Lima added, “I have already met some of my new classmates, and we will have a great time in school, especially playing sports and creating new traditions for Mater Dei. I hope everyone is as excited as I am to be part of the new school.”

George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.