Immaculata Academy on South Park Avenue in Hamburg is closing at the end of the school year.
Parents and students found out the news that the high school will close in June on Friday. In a letter to parents, Sister Ann Marie Hudzina writes, "Due to the changing realities within the congregation, a school ministry is no longer a viable way for the congregation to further its mission and charism."
Sister Hudzina says 60 years ago, there were more than 500 Sisters who made up the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph. But today, there isn't more than 60 and the median age is 80-years-old.
"I deeply regret having to share this sad news with you," writes Sister Hudzona. "I assure you that you, and all the members of your family, hold a special place in our hears and prayers."
The school, which has been open since 1928, underwent a major renovation in 2005. In 2008, the auditorium was turned into a theater and in 2013 the lobby and café underwent renovations. In 2014, the school gained full wireless connectivity and introduced a one-to-one iPad program.
Despite these improvements, and the fact that since 2001 nearly 100 percent of graduating classes have gone on to college, the school is shutting its doors.
Sister Hudzina writes that there were "significant growing financial concerns." Since 2003, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph have contributed more than $7.5 million to the school "in the hopes of financially stabilizing the Academy." But she says their efforts to secure "a solid financial basis... has not yielded the hoped-for-results."
She says in the days ahead, students will have access to counselors from Catholic Charities. An event will be held where parents and students can meet with other Catholic high school admission personnel. And financial resources will be made available to students who were awarded scholarships or financial assistance if they attend another Catholic high school.
Current faculty and staff will receive a compensation package.
Bishop Richard J. Malone released the following statement about the school's closure:
"For the past nine decades, the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph have been dedicated to educating generations of young women at Immaculata Academy, helping them reach their spiritual, intellectual and physical potential. We are saddened over the Sisters’ decision to end their sponsorship of Immaculata Academy and the decision of the Board of Trustees to close the school.
"I encourage Immaculata families to continue their daughters’ Catholic education at another Catholic high school. I am also asking our school communities to work closely with these young women to make it a smooth transition as they move to a new education setting.
"I know that Immaculata alumnae as well as current students, through their service and their exemplary lives, will continue the legacy of the Sisters, to witness the Gospel in joy and peace, committed to prayer, service and care for creation."