Deadly Backyard

Week of January 22, 2003

Deadly Backyard
Dealing with an end product: This reporter deserves a raise, a new computer and desk placement next to the sunniest window. Geri L. Dreiling's in-depth reporting accomplished the unearthing of ... the poisoning of an entire community ["Left Behind," January 8]. This "contaminated waste," as now exposed, includes the filth ... and total disregard of the citizenry by all [parties], be they governmental or private. No simple answers for this complex issue that [affects] everyone it encompasses -- only this advice: Be careful of who wants to play in your back yard! If you aren't sure of your corporate neighbor's end products, their end products could literally become your own demise. Our community has become the poster child for all of the above.
Kathy Kissel
St. Louis

A Fine Goodbye
Missing Greg Freeman: Just a note to say that I wish I had known Greg Freeman like you did ["The Worm," January 8]. I can't believe he is gone. I still remember the article he wrote when his son went to college and the other one he wrote when it was moving day. The latter cracked me up. You gave him a wonderful send-off -- he will be missed.
Lori Waddington
via the Internet

Trust Busted
No faith, no plan: I wanted to write you to express my appreciation for your article in the January 15 edition of the Riverfront Times [D.J. Wilson, "Parochial Concerns"]. I enjoyed the research you did on this subject and equally enjoyed knowing many of the people you interviewed. I believe the Archdiocese of St. Louis has bigger problems than all these [parochial-school and parish] closures and consolidations. They have yet to address the issue of urban sprawl or develop a strategic plan and process to deal with the closures necessitated by urban sprawl. They are building new, bigger buildings in O'Fallon and farther [out] to deal with the people moving out that way who have young families. Eventually those young families will grow up and move away, and [these] large buildings will also need to be closed. Because they are not taking the time to address the problem of urban sprawl and develop a process or plan that includes the laity in the decision-making process when closing schools and parishes, they are forcing the Catholic faithful to no longer trust this archdiocese and they are losing people in the pews and schools. We had a meeting at Most Precious Blood on the evening before Thanksgiving. I heard and saw people applaud and stand up when I said that we no longer trust the decision-making hierarchy in this archdiocese. I heard people chant the word "trust" when they felt they were not being included and [were being] lied to. It is very sad to see this happening. I know that if this parish closing would have taken place when my parents were alive, they would have accepted it, would not have been happy about it but would have made the move because the bishop said so. What I've seen is this next generation of Catholic families questioning decisions and choices. I believe they have been educated in the Catholic-school system and [feel] they have a responsibility to ask questions and, with the dwindling number of clergy, are ready to be more responsible within their parishes. My prayer is that the priests, bishops and laity can all find a way to work together to encourage people to remain faithful members of the Catholic Church and not alienate each other and cause division.
Mary Beth Erickson
via the Internet

Go with the pros: The Association of Catholic Elementary Educators has long supported the notion of a central fund to help struggling schools, along with a poll of knowledgeable people to assist in decision-making. The fact that such [an] initiative has not been forthcoming suggests that perhaps [Archbishop Justin Rigali] would prefer to get out of the education business. And it may be a good idea to take the responsibility for the financial and educational administration of our schools out of the hands of the clergy and put it into the hands of knowledgeable laypeople. Such a step could ... resolve the unrest the faithful feel toward the archdiocese's handling of [parochial-school] finances.
Mary Chubb
President, Association of Catholic Elementary Administrators

A difficult choice: [The closing of parochial grade schools] is already occurring in [St. Louis County]. There are just no families moving into these areas who can afford the tuition. When my kids went to parochial grade school, we paid our tuition through church donations and were able to declare it as a [tax] write-off. But, I learned that [only about half of the parents] were actually paying their full share and it was the elders of the parish or the archdiocese making up the difference. When it became a tuition-type payment and no longer a write-off, it became an economic decision for me to put my kids in the public-school system. Although I felt guilty for taking my kids out of parochial school, I realized after a short time that there [were] more opportunities being offered by the public-school system, possibly [because of] limited parochial-school budgets. As long as some of these parishes allow "free rides," they will keep dwindling in numbers and not be able to offer what the public schools can offer.
Joe Povis