St. Ambrose to Close Parish School in June

Another Dorchester Catholic school will close its doors permanently at the end of the academic year next month, church officials announced this week. St. Ambrose Grammar School, which cut its four top grades last year in an effort to stay afloat, will be shut down entirely in June due to fiscal problems.

In a statement on Monday, the Archdiocese of Boston's interim administrator Bishop Richard Lennon blamed the closing on "an inability to restore the financial viability of the school, coupled with its past indebtedness."

Fr. Vincent Von Euw, pastor of the Fields Corner parish, said Tuesday that mounting bills, and slumping enrollment made the continued operation of the K-4 school "impossible."

"It's so sad because you have children being uprooted who love it here. Our school has the advantages of a gym, a cafeteria and a wonderful library," Von Euw said.

But the school's troubled finances trumped its blessings, according to Von Euw, who says that "barring a miracle" in the form of a half-million dollar donation, the school will not survive.

"Change is always difficult," said Von Euw. "It is especially painful when the change involves a school that is loved by so many. I recognize the emotional loss this decision represents for each of us. I ask for your support and prayers as we work through this transition period over the next few weeks."

A mere 81 students now attend the school, according to Von Euw, who added that roughly half the students are not Catholic. The school also draws many students from outside the parish boundaries, he said. Von Euw said he did not know what the Archdiocese of Boston would do with the school building on Leonard Street.

St. Ambrose will be the second parish school to close for good next month in the neighborhood. Monsignor Ryan Memorial High School, an all-girls secondary school run by Saint Margaret's parish for the last 85 years, will also shut down after this school year ends. Alumnae and faculty at the school hope to re-open the school under private management- and possibly with a new name- next year, but thus far no concrete plans have been divulged.

A total of 2,336 students attended ten different Catholic elementary schools in Dorchester in 2001. The average yearly tuition is $2,215, according to figures acquired from the archdiocese. Saint Kevin School in Uphams Corner presently has the largest enrollment of the ten.