Priests move to close St. Germaine despite fundraising efforts

By: Alyssa Ochss | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 25, 2024

 According to a letter sent to St. Germaine Catholic School parents and others  on March 25, a decision has been made to close the school despite fundraising efforts.

According to a letter sent to St. Germaine Catholic School parents and others on March 25, a decision has been made to close the school despite fundraising efforts.

File photo by Patricia O'Blenes


ST. CLAIR SHORES — According to an email sent to parents and others on March 25, the decision has been made to close St. Germaine Catholic School at the end of the academic school year, despite a parent-led fundraising effort to save it.

This comes right after an anonymous donor gave $100,000 to the cause, raising the total amount donated by the community and others to $535,200, with around $355,000 raised and around $180,000 pledged, amounts that surpassed the school community’s fundraising goals.

The email was sent by the “Team of Priests in Solidum serving the Gadium et Spes Family of Parishes.” According to the statement, the team spent the decision time — the planned closure was first announced in a letter on Jan. 16 — “in prayerful discernment and in close consultation with community members and the Archdiocese of Detroit.”

“As a result of this process, it is with heavy hearts that we share our final decision to proceed with the planned closure of St. Germaine Catholic School at the end of this academic school year,” the emailed statement said.

The priests commended the efforts of the community to raise money and enrollment and stated all money raised will be returned.

Though the money and enrollment were raised past the goals, the team still worried about the “long-term operational viability of the school.”

“And our ability to provide adequate spiritual care to the community,” the email said.

The team is re-extending their offer to help families find other schools for their students, the email said, and they are also working with St. Germaine to find employment for those looking.

The school, near Martin Road and Little Mack, has been part of the St. Clair Shores community for 60 years, serving students in preschool through eighth grade.

Krystal Moore, a parent of St. Germaine students, said she feels like they were completely misled. She pointed out the statement the priests made saying they couldn’t support them spiritually and said that aspect should have been brought to the forefront.

“We can’t understand what we did wrong, and we can’t understand how we were given a mission and a goal and we exceeded that goal; however, we were never given spiritual support or given any info about the lack of spiritual support you had,” Moore said.

Moore said she is feeling outraged and disappointed, a feeling she says is felt by many in the community. She said this could happen at any school.

“How does this not happen at another school because (this) could happen at our neighborhood schools down the street from us,” Moore said.

She said she feels bad for the people who have come out to support the school.

“We’re confused. We’re hurt. We’re really questioning, like, do we continue on with our Catholic education?” Moore said.

Most of all, she is concerned about the children who are experiencing grief, saying no third grader should have to experience that. Right now, she is allowing her children to grieve the apparent loss of their school before taking the next steps.

“We’re going to do our best as parents to find a school that can support them in every aspect that they need,” Moore said.

Moore said she wishes there had been more communication and accountability from the archdiocese.

“We just wish there could have been more support and resources for our children,” Moore said.

John Carlisle, a parent of a student at St. Germaine, said the priests lied to them and gave them false hope. He also said a concern about the ability to provide adequate spiritual care was never mentioned when the intended closure was announced in January and the parents started raising money for the school.

“These benchmarks were a scheme,” Carlisle said. “They never thought we would meet them and we did, and so they had to find another way out, so they made this up at the last minute.”

Carlisle said the dishonesty from the priests is unfathomable.

“You would think that priests would stand for honesty and trustworthiness, and these priests are the opposite of that,” Carlisle said. “The parishioners of these churches should be embarrassed to have such despicable people in charge of their churches, and I feel bad for those people.”

He said the next step right now is to comfort the children who he says had the rug pulled out from under them for the second time.

“Right now, most of us are dealing with distraught children, so we’re trying to take care of them first before we figure out what to do,” Carlisle said. “But it’s hard to see what to do. The archdiocese is just as corrupt as these priests.”

Holly Fournier, associate director of communications for the Archdiocese of Detroit, reiterated what the priests said, citing the long-term viability of the school and the inability to provide spiritual guidance as reasons why they ultimately decided to close the school.

“The Archdiocese supports the team of priests in their decision,” Fournier wrote. “We join them in thanking all who have shown their support over these last few weeks and offer our assistance and prayers to the community during this difficult time.”

Fournier also said in a separate email that it was a process to come to the decision to close the school, and it is never their desire to close a Catholic school. 

“It is important to remember these efforts were part of a larger process of exploring the possibility of ensuring a viable future for the school,” Fournier said in the email. “It was through that process that the team of priests ultimately made the difficult decision to proceed with the planned closure.”

According to the Archdiocese of Detroit’s website, the priests serving the Gaudium et Spes Family of Parishes are the Rev. John Wynnycky (Holy Innocents - St. Barnabas Parish, in Roseville), the Rev. Joe Barron (St. Isaac Jogues Parish, in St. Clair Shores), the Rev. Ronald DeHondt (St. Margaret Queen of Scotland Parish, in St. Clair Shores) and the Rev. Greg Piatt (St. Pio of Pietrelcina Parish, in Roseville).

St. Germaine Catholic School serves the Our Lady of Hope Parish, which is also part of the Gaudium et Spes Family of Parishes. The parish’s priest, the Rev. Jim Bjorum, died late last year.