Catholics worried Bishop Timon will be next school to close

Diocese pulls funding for six high schools
Posted at 6:28 PM, Jun 28, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-28 18:28:36-04

Susan Zimmer calls it “a staple of South Buffalo.”

“It’s a really big deal,” she said. “It’s family.”

She’s talking about Bishop Timon - St. Jude High School, one of six high schools the Diocese of Buffalo has stopped funding as it prepares to pay millions of dollars in settlements to victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Zimmer’s son Riley chose Timon for the math program and small class sizes. He’s the third generation of his family to attend the South Buffalo school.

“It definitely is a family tradition,” Zimmer said. “But now hearing about this where funding’s being pulled…I don’t know what may or may not happen with Timon.”

The sudden closure of Niagara Catholic High School left parents angry and stunned, but Timon board president Mike Burns says says that won’t happen at Timon.

“The community loves this school,” Burns said. “And it’s going to be here for many, many years to come.”

He points out the school has technically been independent from the diocese since 1991, and said diocesan funding made up a small part of its budget.

Timon graduated just 45 young men last year, its smaller graduating class ever. The school has had a tumultuous few years. 

Last year, its principal was fired and athletic director Charlie Comerford resigned.

The school also hasn’t had the money to finish a half-built athletic complex in the parking lot behind the school. 

But Burns said recruitment efforts since then have rebounded.

“It may impact the way we allocate scholarship money, but we haven’t cut anything,” Burns said. “We won’t be cutting anything.”

Parents, though, should be ready to pay more for a Catholic education -- and the timing of the cuts doesn’t sit well with many Catholics. 

“What bothers me the most about the whole situation at Timon is that the diocese is having to spend this money on the current scandals that are going on in the whole Catholic Church, when they should have been using that money to support the Catholic schools,” said Larry Astyk, who lives near the high school. 

He added, “These hard-working, middle-class families have to pay more and more for tuition every year, and they get less and less support from the Catholic Church.”

Burns said despite the funding cuts, he has already been contacted by alumni and donors who want to know what they can do to help the school survive long-term.