WEST ORANGE, NJ - Archbishop John J. Myers, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Newark, announced that he would be closing Blessed Pope John XXIII Academy, the elementary school which is co-sponsored by both St. Joseph’s and Our Lady of Lourdes in West Orange. The school is expected to close on June 30 due its enrollment not having increased over the past seven years. As well as West Orange, the Academy serves students from the communities of Bloomfield, East Orange, Irvington, Livingston, Montclair, Newark, Orange and South Orange

Principal Lynda Wright commented, “Our school has been deeply rooted in West Orange for years. Although our students come from diverse backgrounds, we are all dedicated to cultivating an environment that promotes equality and respect as well as spiritual and intellectual growth in our students. Besides being committed to an outstanding Catholic education, we are also accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. When I heard this news, I was brokenhearted for all of us.”

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Credit: Lynda Wright

The school’s parent community is protesting the decision with a meeting this Thursday, March 27, in the Parish Center. “Our parent community kindly asks for your support to preserve and continue the legacy of our school’s existence in the West Orange community,” the group said in a public announcement on Monday.

The school is inviting all past alumni, parishioners and concerned residents to join their efforts to reverse the decision of the Archdiocese. They are seeking former students and parents of both St. Joseph’s and Our Lady of Lourdes to partner with them in a grassroots efforts to make their voices heard. The intention of Thursday’s meeting is to raise awareness and mobilize a strategic plan.

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Credit: Lynda Wright

Msgr. Donald Guenther, the pastor at St. Joe's, commented, "The next few months will not be easy for our school community. There has been much effort and work poured into our school over the past seven years by our Principal and the wonderful group of teachers on staff. We can never thank them enough for their dedication and commitment to the children of our school."

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Credit: Lynda Wright

"A Church So Poor It Has to Close Schools, Yet So Rich It Can Build a Palace

Archbishop Myers was recently criticized in the New York Times article “A Church So Poor It Has to Close Schools, Yet So Rich It Can Build a Palace.“ The article describes the 4,500-square-foot home which the bishop normally vacations in, in Pittstown - an affluent section of Hunterdon County, NJ - and describes the “small army of workers” he is using to add a 3,000-square-foot addition on to it.

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Credit: Matt Rainey for the New York Times

Mark Mueller reported in his Star Ledger article, that the Pittstown home sits on 8.2 wooded acres and the new addition is budgeted to cost at least $500,000 - not including architects’ fees, furnishings or landscaping. According to Mueller, the home currently has five bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a three-car garage and a large outdoor pool; it is assessed at $776,700.

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An image of the Archbishop’s Pittstown house before the new addition.
Credit: Google Maps

Besides providing a bedroom with matching sitting room, a large study, and an office area, “the new wing, now just a wood frame, will include an indoor exercise pool, a hot tub, three fireplaces, a library and an elevator, among other amenities, according to blueprints and permits filed with the Franklin Township building department,” Mueller wrote. “The third floor will house a 28-foot by 28-foot gallery with sweeping views of the property,” he added.

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Credit: Mark Mueller for The Star Ledger

According to Archdiocese spokesman Jim Goodness, the proceeds from the sale of other properties owned by the archdiocese will pay for the expansion.

Mueller also noted that Pope Francis, who recently “eschewed the papal palace for a modest guest apartment” and who “gave up a Mercedes in favor of a Ford,” has “criticized bishops for living ‘like princes’ and has called for a ‘poor church for the poor.”

According to Mueller’s article, Goodness also said “it was too soon to say if Myers would be provided a staff when he moves in full time.”

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Credit: Lynda Wright