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St. Christopher nears $2 million goal

People gather Wednesday hear update fund raising efforts keep
open St. Christopher School Midlothian. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times
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People gather Wednesday to hear update on fund raising efforts to keep open St. Christopher School in Midlothian. | Steve Metsch~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 24, 2014 1:28PM



Move over, George Bailey.

John Clavio, head of the financial committee at St. Christopher School, drew a comparison Wednesday night between the hero in the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” and what’s happened in one week as the Midlothian parish tries to save its school.

“At the end of the movie, George Bailey receives a big basket of money from everybody anywhere. It’s phenomenal,” Clavio told those attending a meeting Wednesday night at the church. “That’s what the rectory office has looked like the last five days. It’s absolutely phenomenal. I’ve never seen anything like it except in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ and I thank you for that.”

St. Christopher School may have a chance of not being closed by the Archdiocese of Chicago thanks to “overwhelming” support from the community, Clavio said.

The archdiocese recently announced plans to close six schools because of low enrollment, including St. Christopher, unless supporters came up with a financial plan to keep the schools open. The archdiocese indicated that it would need proof that any financial commitments from parishes would be enough to sustain a school.

St. Christopher, which opened in 1924, is just below the 225-student cutoff that the archdiocese uses when it decides which struggling schools to close.

Parishioners have responded with pledges that are just shy of the $2 million, five-year goal set a week ago during a meeting at the church, Clavio said. He said that as of Monday night, the fundraising drive had received $362,737 in annual pledges, adding “that sounds so much better when I say $1.8 million over five years.”

“In addition to that, in one-time donations in cash or checks we have another $55,000 in the parish office. And there are two envelopes waiting for me,” he told the audience, resulting in loud applause.

The school’s financial team presented its funding plan to the archdiocese on Tuesday and was asked to return for another meeting Thursday, Clavio said, viewing that as a positive sign.

Tony Manrique, who has children in first and second grade at the school, said he wants them “to finish all eight years here.” Dale Anderson, 69, is retired and his youngest child is in eighth grade. Yet he agreed to donate $5,000 over five years because he thinks a “Catholic education is very important.”

Clavio said 466 families have made pledges ranging from a low of $2 per year to $5,000 per year. A five-day phone-a-thon had 70 volunteers making about 4,400 calls, seeking donations. The parish website had 1,000 hits over five days, and many of those pledged donations.

The goal was to have 400 donors pledge to give $1,000 a year over five years for a total of $2 million.

“The archdiocese wants to make sure this is a sound financial plan for multiple years. None of us want to go through this again next year,” Clavio said.

That’s why committees are being formed as watchdogs for continued support, he said. He asked for and received volunteers for committees focused on fundraising, marketing, volunteers, diversity, outreach and gift administration.

The outlook is not entirely rosy. Clavio said some “unfortunate budget cuts to the tune of $100,000 are needed.

“I’m not at liberty to share that right now,” he said when asked where the cuts would be made. “Everything was placed on the table. When you fine-tune, it adds up quickly. It’s not one big chunk, it’s bits and pieces all over. I don’t know we are talking any jobs.”

Pledges are nice, noted parishioner Chuck Enk, but the parish must make sure that donors follow through in future years.

“There’s no doubt everyone who pledged will pay on March 1, but what about the 50th month or the 55th month? We must remain on top of it,” Clavio said.

Leaving the meeting, former Midlothian Mayor Tom Murawski, a longtime parishioner, smiled when asked about the pledges.

“This is a great, great day. Good news. It’s not over yet. I encourage the community to stick together, pray a lot and contribute,” Murawski said.



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