In a letter to Holy Rosary Academy earlier this month, the Archdiocese said that unless Holy Rosary Academy accepts nine new business and legal procedural points, it will be decertified as a Catholic school. .
A town hall on Thursday will be followed by a second town hall on Friday, October 22 at 5 p.m. to answer parents’ questions and discuss the implications of the situation for the school.
Holy Rosary Academy, a K-12 school in Anchorage, was founded in 1987. It is an independent Catholic school that functions as a “lay apostolate”. On Monday, the archbishop plans to withdraw his Catholic designation.
According to the Holy Rosary Academy Board of Trustees and Director Dr. Mark Newcomb, in April 2021, Father Patrick Travers, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau, sent a letter to the Academy Board. Holy Rosary, signed by Archbishop Andrew Bellisario. . The letter specified that the school would have to accept in writing nine new points of “business and legal procedures” in order to maintain the recognition the academy had previously enjoyed.
“The letter also indicated that our respect for these points would be proof that we are sufficiently Catholic to be so designated within our archdiocese. None of these issues involved visiting campus or meeting with faculty, staff, alumni, benefactors, students, or families to assess the depth of our Catholic identity at HRA, ”the board wrote. administration to parents.
“However, one of the stipulations required would have granted the Archdiocese full control of the program of the Academy of the Holy Rosary. Other points would require strict compliance with all health and safety protocols promulgated by the Archdiocese, require approval of presentations and speakers on our campus, and involve the creation of harmless compensation between HRA and the Archdiocese. », Explained the board of directors.
The school has recognized that the Archbishop is the undisputed head of the Church in the Archdiocese and has the power to determine which institutions are officially considered Catholic.
“Since in the past HRA has been viewed not only as Catholic, but exemplary in the education and training that we provide to our students, we are puzzled that the current Archbishop and Father Travers seem totally reluctant to acknowledge the existence of HRA as an independent and Catholic institution. school. We don’t understand why they would suddenly demand full academic, legal, and business compliance that would require changing the school’s identity, mission, curriculum, and charter. The Academy of the Holy Rosary does everything it has always done without asking for anything more than it has ever done in terms of recognition. This sudden change on the part of the Archdiocese is therefore as disappointing as it is puzzling, ”the group wrote.
The board said it had requested a meeting with Bellisario in August to discuss how the Holy Rosary Academy could maintain its status as an independent and Catholic school while demonstrating its Catholic orthodoxy in the chancellery.
“We have sought to collaborate with the Archbishop to honor the spirit of the demands that have been sent to us under his signature. Alarmingly, one of the Archbishop’s claims in this conversation was that all but day-to-day operations at the Academy of the Holy Rosary would be under the control of the Archdiocese, including staff, programs and business. Nonetheless, out of a desire to be obedient in all areas of legitimate Archdiocesan authority and out of courtesy to the office, we made another attempt to stand with the Archbishop on our common historical ground. As a result of the meeting, we indicated in writing our concessions to many Chancellery specifications and highlighted areas for further cooperation in a further effort to bring mutual harmony, ”the board wrote.
It was in vain. In a letter of October 4, 2021, the Archdiocese said the school must either fully acquiesce or will no longer be officially designated as a “Catholic school”.
This would mean, for example, that the school would be prohibited from having the sacraments celebrated on campus for any non-urgent circumstance, as well as the withdrawal of the reserved Real Presence of Jesus from the tabernacle in the chapel. The actual presence of Jesus in the tabernacle is, in practice, a consecrated host which is considered to be bread and wine, and the Catholic understanding is that it contains the body and soul of Jesus Christ. When the students enter the chapel each day, they are in the presence of Christ in a real way. This would be removed by the archdiocese.
“It is a disconcerting and disheartening situation for all of us. As you know, the Catholic identity of the Academy of the Holy Rosary has been assessed and approved by the Cardinal Newman Society since 2004 ; by our accreditation body, the National Association of Catholic and Independent Private Schools, for over 15 years; and the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education. After a long prayerful reflection, the board is now seeking further understanding and clarification from the Archbishop, “the board wrote.
If the school is no longer recognized by the Catholic Church, however, the school’s accreditation, program or regular academic operations will remain unchanged.
“Our mission, identity and commitment to serving Catholic families and training Catholic students will remain unchanged. We have not researched this conflict and do not know why the current Archbishop would consider not extending the same privileges HRA enjoyed under three previous Ordinaries while still allowing us to continue to control our own hiring and employment affairs. teaching, legal and business, ”the school wrote.
“Please be assured that the school board and management team will strive to preserve HRA’s distinct mission and identity in all possible ways, including appeals under canon law, if necessary. We’ll have more information to share with the community as the situation unfolds, but we wanted to make sure you all knew the gist of this most unfortunate turn of events. We invite you to join us for the regular devotions of the Friday Rosary where we will ask Our Lady to preserve the sacramental presence of Her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the campus of the Academy of the Holy Rosary and to give us the continuous grace to celebrate Mass. here, ”the school wrote.
The timeline of the impending separation, according to the school:
1. On March 24, 2021, meeting with Father Patrick Travers, Vicar General of the Archdiocese, who asks to have control of the self-governance of HRA, in accordance with his understanding of canon law. The concerns of board members about self-governance were dismissed by Father Travers, on his assertion that board members are not canonists like him.
2. On April 20, 2021, Archbishop Bellisario sends a letter to HRA, demanding control of HRA autonomy and accusing HRA of incomplete requests for an audit of the secure environment.
3. From April to June 2021, HRA consults with canonists, all of whom claim that the jurisdiction of a local ordinary does not extend to health, hygiene, personnel and curriculum in an association. autonomous and unprofessional.
4. June 30, 2021: HRA sends a letter to Archbishop Bellisario, with the opinions of the canonists and requesting a meeting with His Excellency.
5. After several actions by the HRA board and staff that pushed us towards the archbishop’s position, on July 1, we were granted the temporary right to continue the public use of the term “Catholic” in our presentations on the condition that we agree to the rest of the terms.
6. July 16, 2021: Bishop Bellisario demands compliance with the Safe Environment Guidelines before “scheduling a meeting regarding” self-governance issues; HRA does this easily.
7. On August 6, 2021, HRA schedules a meeting with the Archbishop for August 16, 2021. HRA tells Kim Bakic, Archbishop’s Executive Assistant, that a canonist will be attending.
8. On August 15, 2021, the HRA canonist flew to Anchorage.
9. On August 16, 2021, Father Travers sends an email to HRA six hours before the meeting, refusing to allow our canonist to be present, but specifying that he, Father Travers, will be present. HRA responds, stating that 1) the canonist is here; 2) the request of a canonist was opportune (10 days before); 3) Father Travers is a canonist; 4) all the issues of the authority of Bishop Bellisario stem from the interpretation of canon law by Father Travers. Father Travers sends emails three hours before the meeting, now indicating that he will not be present. The HRA board meets with Archbishop Bellisario for 90 minutes, and our canonist is forced to wait outside. Archbishop Bellisario makes it clear that he believes he can and should control health, hygiene, program and hiring at the Academy of the Holy Rosary.
10. September 20, 2021, HRA sends a letter to Archbishop Bellisario, thanking him for meeting him and offering him a Memorandum of Understanding which clearly defines, according to canon law, the scope of the Archbishop’s authority Bellisario and HRA’s willingness – historically and in the future – to cooperate within the framework of applicable canons.
11. On October 4, 2021, Archbishop Bellisario sends a letter, demanding compliance with his letter of April 20, 2021 or he will revoke the name “Catholic”, remove the Holy Eucharist and prohibit the celebration of the sacraments on campus for any reason. – emergency circumstance if we had not returned the signed letter before October 25th.
The National Association of Independent Catholic Private Schools is the accreditation body of the Academy of the Holy Rosary.