College willing to help Holy Family

Published 12:01 am Sunday, March 16, 2008

Allow me to introduce myself: I am John E. Cawthorne, associate dean for undergraduates in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College.

In the summer of 1997, Sister Marie Santry, then principal of the Holy Family School, asked for our assistance. Her description of the school reminded me of Daniel Webster’s comments about his beloved Dartmouth College: It is, Sir, as I have said, a small college. And yet there are those who love it. (Peroration, the Dartmouth College Case, March 1818)

Her story was so compelling that in March 1998, I accompanied 21 students on our first spring break trip to the Holy Family School and community.

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Last week we returned for the 11th year and 19th visit overall. (We also come down during our winter break.) We were shocked to learn that the Bishop of the Jackson Diocese, upon the advise of the Superintendent of Catholic Schools, had decided to close grades one through four. We spent the rest of our week working hard, as usual, and consoling one another about the impending demise of this cultural icon. We returned frequently to the questions, “What can we do, from afar, to help Holy Family survive?” We are still searching for the answers.

However, there are some things that are quite clear to us.

4The Holy Family School and community are models for how to make strangers feel welcome; from the very first day, this community treated us not as strangers, but as family. The name Holy Family could not be more appropriate.

4A visit to any classroom demonstrates that this is a school full of love, attention, academic and a creativity born of necessity — with limited material resources, the school is rich in its passionate pursuit of knowledge and service.

4 If Holy Family School dies, so will the parish and that would be a severe blow to Natchez and Southern Mississippi. The school antedates the parish by three years. The building is symbolic — the school is on the ground floor — the foundation upon which the parish rests and relies.

4Whatever the current debt, The Holy Family School was in worse shape 11 years ago and has over the past four years managed to reduce substantially previously incurred debts. Why close the school now when the finances are in much better shape?

4 We are not here to save the Holy Family School. We are not that arrogant! Instead we are here to help the Holy Family School save itself and as such we will take our marching orders from the Natchez community.

On behalf of the 43 members of the Boston College community who visited Natchez in 2008 and the nearly 900 who have made the 26 to 30 hour drive, I want it to be officially noted that we are prepared to work with the leaders of the Holy Family School and Parish and will do whatever we can, whatever we are asked, to ensure the reinstitution of grades 1-5. We are on call to help the school continue to serve the greater Natchez community. To this end, we pledge our sacred honors and our good names.

John E. Cawthorne

Associate Dean for Undergraduates

Lynch School of Education