First Communion Class, Gesu School 1926. Gesu is still open.
The last week of January has always been Catholic Schools Week in the Detroit area as far back as I can remember. The open houses and spaghetti dinners abound. Patricia Montemurri of the Detroit Free Press wrote a nice article on February 1, 2013 entitled: "Detroit area's Catholic schools shrink, but tradition endures".
Some distressing statistics are included. Here is a excerpt from part of the article:
"Mercy is one of 96 schools enrolling 30,000 students in the six-county Archdiocese of Detroit. It's a far cry from Catholic schools' baby boomer heyday, when 203,000 students were enrolled in about 360 Detroit-area schools in 1964-65. At that time, nearly every parish had a school. There were about 55 high schools in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park alone, and nearly twice as many grade schools."
Patricia does know, first hand, about the shrinkage of Detroit Catholic schools. She was a junior when Detroit Rosary High School closed.
I talked to Patricia briefly on January 31, and she was nice enough to mention the Bishop Gallagher Society in the article, as well as its mission of Detroit Catholic school heritage preservation.
As is pointed out in the article, there are many reasons for the decrease in the number of schools and students in Detroit area Catholic schools:
"Many factors have contributed to fewer Catholic schools in Detroit, including the city's heavy population loss; migration by white Catholics to the suburbs; the low number of African-American Catholics; the dwindling number of nuns to staff schools; escalating tuition costs, and the rise of no-tuition charter schools."
But, as Patricia Montemurri so rightly points out, whatever the numbers, the values taught and learned, and the traditions, continue. The Bishop Michael J. Gallagher Society will continue to work to preserve the memory of people and places: the schools, the churches, the teachers, the students, the coaches and the parents who have made and will continue to make the Detroit area's Catholic schools, great.
One of the best parts of the Free Press coverage is the album of vintage photos now found on the same page as the article. A couple are included in this post.