Alumni, parents lead campaign to save Redemptorist _lowres

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- Diocese of Baton Rouge Bishop Robert Muench, center, speaks at a press conference Friday morning, announcing that low enrollment will cause the closing of Redemptorist Junior and Senior High Schools at the end of the current school year (June 30, 2015), but that Redemptorist Elementary will remain open. Melanie Verges, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools, is at right, and Geraldine Bordelon, a member of the Catholic Diocesan Schools Advisory Board, is at left at the announcement, held at the Catholic Life Center.

Alumni, parents and students say the crusade to save Redemptorist High School has just begun, despite a firm stance from the Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge that the school is closing no matter what.

Upset Redemptorist supporters have flooded social media over the past couple of weeks to convey shock at the loss of their school, which Bishop Robert Muench said will close at the end of the year. Despite the school’s plunging enrollment, supporters say they will do whatever it takes to keep Redemptorist open.

In addition to launching a social media campaign, alumni and parents sent a letter to the diocese late last week requesting enrollment and financial information. Julian Bourgeois, one of the leaders of the Save Redemptorist movement, said they will use the information from the diocese to put the finishing touches on a plan to save the school.

Diocese officials confirmed they received the letter, and said the Catholic Schools Office, the diocesan School Board and the Bishop’s Office will review it “in a timely manner.” Bourgeois said the letter requests the information be released by Jan. 2.

But the slew of Facebook posts and tweets, green and white T-shirts, and school supporters have not swayed the bishop’s decision to close the school, said diocese spokeswoman Donna Carville. She reiterated that the decision to close Redemptorist took several years and is final.

Bourgeois, a 1997 Redemptorist alumnus, said he hopes the bishop will meet with him and other alumni once they finalize ideas to keep the school open. He said he wants to nail down an estimate of how many students it would take to keep Redemptorist operating in north Baton Rouge. The most recent enrollment projections estimate the school would have fewer than 150 students next year.

“What we’re hoping for is for the diocese to come back and say we want Redemptorist open, we want to work with you guys to keep Redemptorist open, and we want the alumni to help support the school,” Bourgeois said. “That’s a perfect world.”

If the diocese does not see such a scenario, Bourgeois said, a backup exists, but he kept details vague. “There’s a lot of people that are gonna do something with or without the diocese’s help,” he said.

Bourgeois runs the Save Redemptorist Facebook page, which has garnered more than 3,000 likes. He said he started the page as a town hall to keep people updated and as a place where supporters can ask questions and share their thoughts on the closure.

Posts range from people sharing photos and videos of their favorite Redemptorist memories to others trying to pinpoint how the school’s decline began.

The Redemptorist Alumni Association, which is separate from the Save Redemptorist group, will support plans to keep the school open, President Lawrence Robillard said. He added, though, that his group is more focused on planning upcoming events for current students, like convocations, banquets and more.

In the past several years, the alumni association was disbanded and alumni contact information was lost. Robillard said he was starting from scratch when he took the association’s helm in August, and the association is now trying to recruit the many vocal “Save Redemptorist” supporters.

The Save Redemptorist group is also hosting a prayer rally at 6 p.m. Jan. 8 at St. Gerard Majella Catholic Church.

“Not one person I spoke to has given up,” Bourgeois said.