St. Mary’s fate is sealed by lack of stability

Rev. James Delbel speaks with parents about St. Mary’s Academy closing.

Rev. James Delbel speaks with parents about St. Mary’s Academy closing. Photo by Stephen Bartlett.

“If I could have seen a brighter future, maybe we could have worked something out,” Delbel said. “I think there just comes a time when you recognize times have changed and it is time to call it quits.”

The parish is not rich, he pointed out.

“We have not been able to make a payment on debt in three years, and the Diocese could not make a loan to us,” Delbel said.

The economy continues to struggle, he said, and the area does too, especially in the wake of the closure of Pfizer in Rouses Point. Like the rest of the North Country, he said, the area has fallen on hard times.

St. Mary’s Academy has existed since 1906, though there has been a school as part of the parish since 1867. Opening a school occurred shortly after the parish was founded.

“This was all French up here and French kids needed a school,” Delbel said. “We have a long history of Catholic education.”

Today, it is the only Catholic school in the Northern Tier and would have enrolled 67 students next school year, many of them from Quebec.

The children loved the school, as did the parents, and it is difficult to see it end, but Delbel said that is “just the way it is.”

Local people have done what they can and are not willing to put money into it, Delbel said.

“It is an older community and a lot of people are on pensions and social security, and the money just isn’t here anymore,” he said. “The church’s income is done, and the whole thing is really sad.”

The closure will impact 16 employees. Tuition and donations have been returned.

“This school provided a good Catholic education and this is a painful process,” Delbel said.

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