September 23, 2005

Work continues toward opening of a
Cristo Rey High School

By Brandon A. Evans

A feasibility study has been completed for a new center-city high school in Indianapolis, and the plan is moving into the design and preparation phase.

The Cristo Rey Network is an association of, as of this past school year, 11 Catholic high schools across the United States that provide a college preparatory education for low-income students through a work-study program.

Such a school in Indianapolis will be 60 percent funded by the students who would team with local businesses to take part in internships in a clerical setting—the work of the students will pay 75 percent of their tuition.

It may be housed in a suitable building already owned by the archdiocese, or at another location. It will intentionally remain small, having no more than 400 students at its peak.

The Sisters of Providence have agreed to sponsor the school, which they wish to name Providence Cristo Rey High School.

“It will be a private Catholic school in the archdiocese,” said Msgr. Joseph F. Schaedel, vicar general. It will be owned and operated by a board of directors under the sponsorship of the sisters, who would also have to secure long-term funding.

The archdiocese may provide the site for the school, said Annette “Mickey” Lentz, executive director of Catholic education and faith formation, “and the Sisters of Providence have made a commitment to open and sustain the school and assure that it follows Canon Law as far as the Catholic identity and mission goes.”

Some of the funding will come from grants.

The archdiocese received a $75,000 grant from the Cassin Educational Initiative Foundation to conduct its feasibility study, and recently received an additional $150,000 as an official part of the Cristo Rey Network.

Lentz said that part of the requirement to be in the network was to find a sponsoring religious order, so she and Msgr. Schaedel invited 12 communities to come learn about the project, and in the end, the Sisters of Providence showed interest in making the school part of their mission.

Providence Sister Ann Margaret O’Hara, general superior of the Sisters of Providence, believes that being involved in opening a Cristo Rey Network high school is tied to the mission of the Sisters.

“Our motto is ‘breaking boundaries, creating hope,’ ” Sister Ann Margaret said. “It was clear that this fit well with the mission of the Sisters of Providence. We do believe it’s all about breaking boundaries and creating hope for these students—and hope for the future of Indianapolis.”

Providence Sister Jeanne Hagelskamp was named project coordinator and is excited about the opportunities the school will provide for economically disadvantaged students.

Of the students who attend one of the archdiocesan center-city elementary schools, 53 percent fall below the federal poverty line, Sister Jeanne said. However, only 7 percent of students in the interparochial high schools live in poverty.

“We are convinced that that gap isn’t because students don’t want a Catholic education,” she said. “Many just can’t afford it.”

She thinks that the proposed Cristo Rey Network high school would help meet that need.

One of the things that Sister Jeanne said is required to open such a high school is the agreement of a certain number of businesses that they would take part in the work-study program. The feasibility study showed more than 40 corporations that were very interested.

“We’re delighted in the overwhelming interest because, according to the Cristo Rey Network, only 25 are needed for starting up,” Sister Jeanne said.

Having so many interested companies makes her want to open the school as soon as possible.

“We’ve got some companies and corporations on board, and we don’t want to leave them hanging—we’re afraid we’re going to lose the momentum if we wait another year,” she said. “Thus, our aim is to open our doors in fall 2006.”

“They’re ready to go,” Lentz said regarding the excitement of the Sisters of Providence for this project.

“I think it’s an exciting venture for us in Indianapolis,” Sister Jeanne said, “and it’s one that’s proven to work in the other cities in which it’s already been launched—it’s going to fulfill an unmet need that could create a brighter future for many deserving students if we are all willing to work hard to make it happen.”

Sister Jeanne recently presented the final proposal for the school to the Council of Priests and to the College of Consultors, both of which unanimously approved of the plans, and recommended that Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein allow the project to move forward.

“The archbishop and the archdiocese have shown in the past 15 years pretty much a profound commitment to inner-city education, particularly at the elementary level,” Msgr. Schaedel said. “We still are not able to serve the needs of all the inner-city children the way we’d like to, mainly for lack of funds.

“We’re enthusiastic about the unique approach of a Cristo Rey school.” †  


Local site Links: