LEMONT – Mount Assisi Academy students, families and alumnae braved the cold to attend a candlelight vigil Monday night for the closing all-girls Catholic high school.
Mount Assisi, located at 13860 Main St. in Lemont, announced last Wednesday it will close at the end of the school year, citing low enrollment, an increasing deficit and the small number of Sisters available to serve the academy.
Students took turns talking about the family they had formed at the school and how they would continue to fight for it, so future students would have the opportunity to attend.
Sophomore Ally Armato, who organized the vigil, said she transferred to Mount Assisi this year.
"I just felt so welcomed by (Mount Assisi) that I thought it would be a shame to see it go," she said.
She added that, with all the intelligent women who have graduated from the school, she thought they could identify solutions to keep the school going.
Maureen Cronan, a 2008 graduate, said the teachers and sisters helped her face personal struggles, even after she left the academy.
"I know it's not logical for Mount Assisi to stay open another six years," she said. "But at least let the freshman class call themselves Mount Assisi graduates."
Provincial Superior Sister Therese Ann Quigney said she is happy to see the support for the school, but there is more to the closing than money.
"The issue is both financial and enrollment," she said. "There's an urge to help us financially, but that won't help us with enrollment."
The academy set a target of 55 incoming freshmen for the 2014-15 school year, but 41 students took the school's Freshman Placement Test, according to Mount Assisi's website.
Quigney said the school is exploring the option of staying open for next year's senior class. She said the decision would partially depend on student interest.
But even if they could raise enough money to keep the entire academy open another year, she said, that would delay the school's closing and prevent some of the students from moving on.
"The other thing I cannot do to the students is just one more year and have them back in the same situation again," she said.
Quigney said she understands why the parents and students are anxious to keep the school open.
"When a death happens, we fight it for a while," she said. "That's normal and in some sense it's good. It tells us what you valued."
Quigney said the School Sisters of St. Francis of Christ the King, who own the property, will continue their presence in the Lemont community. They also own the Provincial Center of the Sisters, Alvernia Manor Retirement Community and Our Lady of the Angels House of Prayer.