Immaculata Academy in Hamburg NY Immaculata Academy

Immaculata Academy in Hamburg, N.Y.

Catholic high school for girls in suburban Buffalo will close after 88 years

Declining enrollment and financial difficulties seal the fate of Immaculata Academy in Hamburg, N.Y.

A Catholic high school in the suburbs of Buffalo, N.Y., that has educated girls for 88 years will shut down at the end of the school year.

The Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, pointing to declining enrollment, financial strains and "discouraging demographic data," say they are closing Immaculata Academy in Hamburg, N.Y.

About 60 years ago, the religious order had more than 500 nuns; now, that number has dwindled to 60, and the median age of those sisters is 80 years old. In 1954, Immaculata had 292 students and 14 nuns on staff; this year, enrollment is 180 students, and only one nun is on staff--Sister Jean Cherry, president of the academy as well as assistant principal.

“In spite of our heavy hearts, the [Immaculata] community must now come together to help the young women to whom we currently minister continue to grow and settle into a new school where they can enjoy an enriching high school experience,” Sister Cherry says.

About 45 full- and part-time faculty and staff will be displaced by the school's demise.

The Franciscan Sisters order says it has kept the school afloat with more than $7 million in subsidies over the last 13 years. A recent capital campaign to improve Immaculata's financial condition proved disappointing.

“We were faced with the same difficult questions that all too many institutions like Immaculata have been faced with in recent years,” says Patti Michalek, chairperson of the Immaculata Academy Board of Trustees.

“In the end, we determined that the conclusion of the Sisters’ ministry, combined with enormous financial challenges, would make it no longer possible to provide a quality, effective academic experience for the young women in our community.”

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