Tioga County’s Only Catholic School Closes


St. Patrick students perform at the school's closing celebration.

Catholic schools are struggling. The National Catholic Educational Association reports that enrollment across the country has declined over the past ten years. Last week, St. Patrick, the only Catholic school in Tioga County, New York, closed its doors.

Tom Doty graduated from St. Patrick in 1947. “We had the largest class in St. Patrick’s history at the time,” he says. “There were 18 of us. Four rooms. Two grades in each room. Four nuns, each nun had two grades in the same room – so we survived.”

The Owego school struggled to survive, though. Enrollment fell, and this year financial troubles forced it to close. Doty and a packed house of alumni and friends gathered Friday for a closing ceremony.

Principal Paula Smith says the church couldn’t continue shoring up St. Patrick’s finances.

“A group of parents tried to raise $500,000 to keep us open,” she says. “They couldn’t do that in the short amount of time, and so the bishop did say that we would close.”

Smith says some of the 58 students have enrolled in other Catholic schools, although they have to leave the county to find one.