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Prayers are answered as St. Pius averts closure

St. Pius X High School holds its Class of 2021 graduation ceremony Wednesday. Supporters have raised enough money to keep the private, Catholic high school at its current site on the West Side. (Courtesy of St. Pius X High School)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

For months, supporters of the St. Pius X High School have prayed, sometimes around the clock, for the campus to be spared from being sold as part of the ongoing liquidation of assets in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe bankruptcy reorganization.

This week they learned their prayers had been answered.

Led by the St. Pius X Foundation, supporters raised enough money to satisfy the federal bankruptcy court and keep the private high school at its current location on the West Side, foundation officials said. And the school will now be overseen by a board of trustees, instead of church administrators.

“Everything in the world said we could not get it done,” Joe DeBlassie, president of the foundation board told The Journal on Wednesday. “Nothing but belief that we could do it was what kept us alive.”

He declined to say how much money had been raised.

Archdiocese officials earlier this year warned they might be forced to sell the St. Pius X property, along with significant other assets, to help pay bankruptcy claims of nearly 400 people who were sexually abused as children by priests and other clergy in the archdiocese decades ago.

The case is dragging on, as archdiocese and claimant attorneys try to come to a financial resolution with insurance carriers.

The foundation raises money for scholarships and other school needs but began its campaign to save the 64-year-old high school shortly after the bankruptcy petition was filed in late 2018, said foundation board Vice President Tony Pino.

Pino graduated from St. Pius X in 1974 and his wife graduated in 1975. They have grandkids at Annunciation Catholic school for students preschool through eighth grade.

“We could not have fathomed that they weren’t going to be able to go to St. Pius (for high school),” he said.

DeBlassie, whose four children attended St. Pius X, credits prayer for helping save the school, which has been at its current location since 1988.

Back in February, for instance, the St. Pius community held a nine-day, 24/7 novena to pray for the school’s future.

At the Class of 2021 graduation ceremony Wednesday, Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester addressed the 153 graduates and thanked those who “came together in order to preserve this marvelous school of St. Pius X.”

Some supporters feared that without a financial solution, this year’s graduating class would be its last.

But in a letter to the St. Pius X community on Tuesday, Wester wrote that the archdiocese had “arranged for financing and have received commitments from donors that, in conjunction with working with the St. Pius X Foundation, will preserve St. Pius X High School now and for many years to come.”

School administrators can now sign faculty and other employment contracts for the coming year, the letter said.

But Wester noted that enrollment numbers are “lagging significantly” for the coming year.

“Please remember that the continued success of St. Pius X High School depends largely on sustained enrollment,” Wester wrote. Last year’s fall enrollment was 525 students, according to the school website.

Wester added that the curriculum, instruction, administration and operation of the school will be overseen by a new board of trustees.

“Nonetheless, as Archbishop, I will continue to ensure that the school adheres to the theological and moral teaching of our beloved Catholic faith – something no other high school in the area can provide,” he wrote.

Pino said he believes families unsure of the high school’s future will now be ready to enroll their children for the next school year.

“It’s a new beginning for St. Pius X,” Pino added. “This will wake us up and make us stronger.”

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