Survey interest in a Catholic high school for Galesburg-Monmouth-Macomb area

The proposed Catholic high school would serve the Galesburg-Monmouth-Macomb region.

Interest in Catholic secondary education in the western part of the Diocese of Peoria has led to a feasibility study to determine if a new Catholic high school should be established there.

Meitler, a consulting firm from Wisconsin, has been retained to design and conduct a survey in May, according to Dr. Sharon Weiss, superintendent of Catholic schools for the Diocese of Peoria. Results and recommendations are due to the Office of Catholic Schools and Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, in June.

Over the summer there will be a discussion about next steps, if there are any, Weiss said.

A Western High School Study Group that includes pastors, principals and parish representatives, as well as members of the diocesan Offices of Catholic Schools, Finance, Development, and Properties and Facilities, has been formed, and focus group meetings have started.

The area being studied includes Galesburg, Monmouth and Macomb. A Western High School Study Group that includes pastors, principals and parish representatives, as well as members of the diocesan Offices of Catholic Schools, Finance, Development, and Properties and Facilities, has been formed, and focus group meetings have started.

Weiss said at study group meetings over the last year people have been aware that this is a moment in time that needs to be explored, and diocesan administration gave permission for the study to be done.

“There is interest. Let’s do it right,” she said. “And we are very satisfied with what Meitler has proposed in their study. We thought it was very thorough and would definitely be what we wanted to be able to decide.”

Meitler had a history with the Diocese of Peoria, too. The firm conducted “Renewing Our Mission: A Blueprint for Our Future,” a long-range planning study of Catholic schools published in 2009.

COMING FROM THE PEOPLE

The idea was proposed to Weiss by Msgr. Thomas Mack, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish and School in Monmouth, and St. Patrick Parish in Raritan.

“Over the last two or three years we had a lot of people come up and say, ‘Boy, we wish we had a Catholic high school,’” Msgr. Mack told The Catholic Post. “They like what they’re receiving — the Catholic education at Immaculate Conception School — and we just don’t have anything close.”

Alleman High School in Rock Island and Notre Dame High School in Peoria are a little more than an hour’s drive, he said. Notre Dame Catholic School in Burlington, Iowa, is a little closer at 45 minutes, and some Catholic families in Henderson County have chosen that option, he said.

“I wrote to Dr. Weiss and said, ‘We’re getting bombarded with people asking if there was a possibility,’” Msgr. Mack said. “I found out afterward that they were getting letters and requests from people in the Galesburg area asking, ‘Is there a possibility for one?’”

There had been Catholic secondary education in Galesburg until the early 1970s, when Costa High School closed. The desire didn’t go away, however.

There had been Catholic secondary education in Galesburg until the early 1970s, when Costa High School closed. The desire didn’t go away, however.

“I believe quite a few of our families, would continue to send their students to a Catholic high school,” said Joe Buresh, principal at Costa Catholic Academy in Galesburg.

Demographics, school-age population, parental expectations and a vision for the school are key aspects of the feasibility study, Weiss said, noting that location will also be a factor.

HAVING THE DISCUSSION

“I’m just excited that we’re having the discussion and moving forward with the discussion to see if this is something we can do and have the data to back that up,” said Randy Frakes, principal at Immaculate Conception School in Monmouth.

“I think the current administration and parish leadership all have a really good, solid working relationship between us, so if it’s going to happen, administratively this is a good time,” Buresh said.

“We always hear the negative, but the fact that people are wanting and supporting Catholic education, I feel that’s a great hope. That’s been inspiring to me,” Weiss told The Post.

She expressed her appreciation to Bishop Jenky, Msgr. James Kruse, vicar general, and Patricia Gibson, chancellor, for agreeing to explore the option and offering their financial and prayerful support.

“You just don’t know until you go out there and study and that’s the purpose of the feasibility study,” Weiss said.

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