Archbishop Robert J. Carlson has accepted the recommendation of the leadership of two parishes that their schools close at the end of the school year. The pastors made the recommendation after extensive consultation with their parish communities.
Declining enrollment and financial concerns are cited in both situations. Our Lady Queen of Peace School in House Springs has 57 students this school year, and Holy Trinity Parish in St. Ann has 127. Since 2002, Our Lady Queen of Peace’s enrollment declined 71 percent and Holy Trinity’s enrollment declined 67 percent.
Father Dennis C. Schmidt, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, and Father Eric Olsen, parochial administrator of Holy Trinity Parish, met with their school faculty and staffs March 22 to inform them of the recommendations. The pastors also sent letters to parishioners and school families following the meeting.
The recommendations came after reviews of enrollment, finances and building structures at both parishes. “The pastors of both parishes came to this hard decision after meetings with parish councils, finance councils, and the Office of Catholic Education and Formation,” according to a statement from the archdiocese.
Father Schmidt wrote in his parish bulletin on March 17 that “I think everyone knows that for the last 15 years our number of school students have gone down. We were hoping that it would level off this year. At the beginning of last week, we had less students registered for next year than this past year.”
Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish was established from the merger of St. Philomena in House Springs and St. Columbkille in Byrnesville in 1961. St. Philomena had opened a school in 1959. Previous to that, Catholic children in House Springs went to St. Anthony School in High Ridge. The ground was broken for the new school at Our Lady Queen of Peace in 1960, and it had 156 students when it opened the next year. It had a high of 269 students in the 1987-88 and 1988-89 school years. Rapid decline in enrollment occurred in the last 10 years.
The parish in House Springs has many active ministries, including the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, faith-formation, youth programs and adult education.
Holy Trinity Parish and School were established in 2002 with a merger of St. William, St. Kevin and St. Gregory parishes and schools. All Souls Parish school also closed and became the fourth school to enter into the new consolidated Holy Trinity School. In its first year, it enrolled 382 students in K‐8. When merged in 2001-02, St. Kevin School had 216 students, St. Gregory had 70, St. William had 52 and All Souls had 111. Those schools had their highest enrollments in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Holy Trinity remains a diverse parish with congregation members from more than 40 countries. Weekend Masses are celebrated in English and Spanish, and once a month, Mass is also celebrated in Swahili for a Central African immigrant population in St. Louis County. It has a wide range of ministries from the Society of St. Vincent de Paul to a telephone prayer chain.
The archdiocese will assist families who want to place students into new Catholic schools. Placement assistance will be offered to the staff of both schools also.