By Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (January 4, 2021) – Families at St. Ann School in Lansing have been hoping for a belated Christmas miracle. The school was notified earlier this year by The Archdiocese of Chicago Office of Catholic Schools that if it did not raise $150,000 by mid-January, it would be in danger of closure.
St. Ann School sent a letter to parishioners explaining the situation and laying out ways to get involved in trying to keep the school open. The letter said, in part:
We have launched the St. Ann Angel Program and are seeking donations and pledges of financial support that may be paid over the course of 10 months. As of this printing, we have so far brought in over $52,000 in pledges and donations. Thank you, thank you to those of you who have already committed. We are asking others to help us keep that positive momentum going! We ask that you pray over how you may help, whether it’s a personal donation, gathering other supportive friends to combine resources, asking your employer to match your gift, reaching out to major donors, etc.
Following the letter, St. Ann School raised nearly $87,000 by Christmas. By Sunday, January 3, donations were at $93,723.
The letter also asked parents to write letters to Cardinal Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago, communicating to him the value of St Ann School to parishioners and the community:
We were told that the Cardinal will carefully consider more than just the financial situation, and a great show of community regard will also carry significant weight. We suggest sharing your own St. Ann story, whether you or your children attended, you have interacted with the school in any way, the things you see them doing and their impact, etc. Letters should be addressed to Cardinal Cupich or Your Eminence and emailed to email@example.com or dropped off at the school or parish offices so we can forward them on together.
As some other Catholic schools have experienced in recent years, enrollment at St Ann School has declined and expenses have increased, leading to mounting debt.
St Ann School Principal Eliza Gonzalez commented on the importance of the school to the St. Ann and Lansing community. She said:
When I was first named principal, I used to joke that being at St Ann School was like traveling back in time to the fictional town of Mayberry—the school families, the parishioners, and the staff all make you feel like every stranger has a place at the table. As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of St Ann School, we are at a critical juncture. The school is the largest ministry supported and sustained by St. Ann Church, but the cost of educating our students has vastly outpaced what many families can afford and what the church is able to subsidize. And the pandemic only worsened our financial situation this year. If we do not meet our fundraising goal and end up closing at the end of this school year, a bright light will be extinguished.
Every person in the Lansing community will feel the darkness left behind when an institution in which service to others and Christ as our hero lives no more. And our town will lose another landmark. We are appealing to everyone we know to help us keep the doors open for our current families and those to come by becoming Angel Donors. Many have responded, and we are more than halfway there!
How to help
There are multiple ways for the the Lansing community to help the school. The first is donating directly by clicking here or by texting “ANGEL” to 847-201-4236. PayPal donations may also be sent to sasangel@stannschoollansing.
Thoughts from the St. Ann Community
Maria Arteaga – Maria’s family has been a part of the St. Ann Parish for 22 years, and her son graduated from St Ann School in 2013. Her oldest daughter is in fourth grade, and she hopes her three-year-old daughter will attend St. Ann as well—
These are extremely hard times that our world is going through. And right now, more than ever, there needs to be a place where our children can feel safe and comfortable to pray and hope for better times. Yes, what they do is an extension of what we teach them at home, but there is nothing that can come close to replacing a Catholic education. Our teachers are amazingly loving and caring and could never be replaced!
I can’t even fathom not having St Ann School in our Lansing community. Our school and students actively participate in village events, such as the the Good Neighbor Day Parade and the more recent Scarecrow Contest and Christmas Tree Display. Many of our school families have kids that go on to high school and colleges in other communities, but then come back to serve in this community in food drives, Eagle projects, etc—things that help this community thrive. This school not only brings life to our parish, but to our community as well. The loss would be immense if it closed, not only for us personally, but for this whole community.
Dan Podgorski – Dan is the president of the Board at St Ann School and has a daughter at St. Ann and a son who is an alumnus—
Our daughter Miley attends St Ann School. She is 13 and in the seventh grade. Previously, our son Cade attended St. Ann. He is now a junior in high school. We’re working hard to ensure the fundraising targets are reached and to convince the Archdiocese of Chicago to keep St. Ann open. It would be devastating for the school to close. Miley has attended St. Ann since pre-school, and we would like to see her graduate and make her confirmation there next year. At a time when the Archdiocese is consolidating parishes as part of the Renew My Church process, the St. Ann community is already going to be affected. It would be very difficult to accept a decision to close the school as well, at a time when it was impossible to hold fundraisers in person, and when we were limited to how many students could be in a classroom because of COVID. St. Ann has students on a waiting list that couldn’t be enrolled due to COVID. Give us another year to add students and put a fundraising plan in place that will provide a basis for sustained revenues.
Bob Dabrowski – Bob is a Volleyball coach at St Ann School and is father to two daughters, one of whom graduated from St. Ann in 2018, while the other will graduate in 2021—
The possible closure of St Ann School would affect the community to a great degree. Particularly, it would include the loss of opportunity for many kids in the neighborhood to participate in sports. For many years St Ann School has given children from the local public schools a chance to participate in competitive sports alongside the school’s own students. Without this, many athletes would not have an opportunity to play a sport if they did not make their own public school’s team. As recently as last year, 80% of the eighth-grade volleyball team was made up of players from the Lansing public schools. Over the years, many athletes who played on St. Ann sports teams went on to make their high school teams.
Melissa Dabrowski – Melissa is a parent volunteer at St Ann School and is mother to two daughters, one of whom graduated from St. Ann in 2018, while the other will graduate in 2021—
I currently have a daughter who will be a part of the 70th graduating class from St Ann School this year, and I have another daughter who graduated in 2018. Both have said that St.Ann School gave them so many opportunities to try sports and activities that they may not have been able to at other larger schools. My eighth grader is grateful that St Ann School has been able to open the doors for in-person learning while also doing it safely. Should the school close, I think many will look to other Catholic schools across the border. This means many will also leave St. Ann Parish to join a parish in the Gary Archdiocese. Even though the school has been given an enormous fundraising task during a pandemic, I am staying hopeful that St Ann School will reach its goal and remain open.
Paulette Lofrano – Paulette is a longtime Lansing resident who has seen her children and grandchildren attend St Ann School—
By way of background, we moved to Lansing 42 years ago with no ties to this community and no real intention of staying. Because my children attended St. Ann School, we remained in this community. There is a special bond, a sense of family and belonging that exudes from St. Ann School, a family atmosphere that you do not find in other places. My children grew, married, and remained in Lansing to send their children to this school with the hope of giving the next generation that same sense of faith, family, and community. If you lose this Catholic presence that will uphold these values, it will not bode well for this community. Ask yourself, who will want to live/move here?
Rose Rivas – Rose is a teacher aide at St. Ann School, as is her daughter, who graduated from the school years ago. Rose’s husband Jose worked at the St. Ann Parish for 15 years—
[My daughter’s] decision to pursue education as a career came from the role models she had at St. Ann School. Gabriela’s first grade teacher Kathy Sandrick is the reason she wanted to pursue elementary education and is her mentor. While some of those teachers are no longer here, other wonderfully creative and dedicated teachers have taken their place. I see the same excitement and commitment in the teachers who are here now.
St. Ann School has a tradition of coming together to help in difficult times. When a student has lost a parent, the school came together to offer support. Not only have they offered emotional support, but also financial. Parents have come together a number of times to pay off tuition for students who had a parent pass away. My family and I were also recipients of that kindness. I needed a kidney transplant 15 years ago and not only did the St. Ann community offer to be tested as a possible donor match, they did our grocery shopping and transported my daughter to and from school. They also came to help her with homework because my husband and I couldn’t. All schools say they are a family, St. Ann School truly is.
We need help to raise the monies needed to keep St. Ann open. No donation is too small. It is important to note that if, God forbid, the Cardinal does close the school, donors will be able to have their donations returned. Please make sure that you write “St. Ann School Angel Fund” on your check. You can also pay off your donation over 10 months.
St. Ann School is located at 3014 Ridge Road, Lansing, IL. Donations can be made here.
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